Instead of issues like health care, education, jobs, or the economy, voting rights is turning out to be the biggest topic in the upcoming Georgia gubernatorial race. This is because current secretary of state and Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp has overseen a massive purge in voting records, totaling more than 700,000, during the past year. And while reporters and advocates are watching closely, Kemp shows no signs of stopping his attempts to keep mostly voters of color from accessing the ballot.
One growing demographic that could make a difference in the election is the Latino population. The state’s number of Latino residents has tripled since 2004. And according to Mother Jones, those voters tend to behave like independents, with a tendency to be more liberal when it comes to immigration and education and more conservative when it comes to other issues. This means the Latino vote could be up for grabs in Georgia. And while Democrat Stacey Abrams is reaching out to Latino business owners, community leaders, and individuals and asking for their vote, Kemp has doubled down on his anti-immigrant rhetoric. Remember this campaign ad where Kemp threatened to “round up illegals” in his pickup truck and deport them himself?
It’s a despicable ad and should be enough to disqualify him from public office. But Kemp is also behind the passage of a law in 2016 that requires Georgians to show proof of citizenship in order to register to vote—something that an appeals court blocked. Still, as per the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), a number of Latino immigrants “were being flagged [improperly] as noncitizens.” As a work-around, GALEO attends every naturalization ceremony to encourage newly naturalized citizens to register to vote on the spot.
Tuesday, Oct. 9, was the last day to register to vote before next month’s general election. One would think that the secretary of state would be working to quickly process registrations to make sure that all eligible voters who wish to do so are able to vote. But not in Georgia under Brian Kemp’s watch. Right now, there are approximately 53,000 applications that are on hold with Kemp’s office. An incredible 70 percent of those applicants are black. Kemp’s office claims that “the law applies equally across all demographics.” But with a list of tens of thousands of voting applications on hold from Georgians who are predominantly black as well as hundreds of thousands of voters purged from the rolls who are also mainly black, the evidence shows a different story.