Voting rights in Georgia remain in doubt

Republican Brian Kemp didn’t resign his position as secretary of state until two days after the election in which he ultimately defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams.

The secretary of state has authority over elections and voter registration, and Kemp made national news by operating as both a referee and a competitor in the race. The run-up to the election was marred by allegations of voter suppression including aggressive purging of voter rolls and “exact match” voter ID laws that disproportionately affected African Americans.

A few weeks later Georgia voters selected Kemp’s successor in a runoff, electing Republican Brad Raffensperger over Democrat John Barrow in a race that will have major implications for voter rights in Georgia.

Video edited by Patrice Howard.

Raffensperger, who was endorsed by President Donald Trump, has expressed support for the “exact match” law, which a federal judge ruled was a “severe burden” for voters.

Voters who showed up for the secretary of state runoff on Dec. 4 had strong opinions about the state of voting in Georgia.

“Voting should be easy for every eligible voter and I hate the tactics that I’m reading about that are really intended to disenfranchise people for political gain and for no other reason,” said Monique Shields at an Atlanta polling place.

Tamieka Atkins is the executive director of ProGeorgia, a nonprofit whose mission seeks to “increase the vote share of historically underrepresented and socially responsible voters in Georgia.”

ProGeorgia was a plaintiff on the successful “exact match” lawsuit against Kemp.

“Georgia is one of the few states that has an ‘exact match’ law,” Atkins said. “And I think we’ve shown over and over again via lawsuits that it is discriminatory, that it actually reduces access for eligible voters, people who have signed their name one way and may sign it a little differently another way are denied the right to vote. Seven out of ten people who were denied the right to vote on the ‘exact match’ were African American.”

The racial dynamic in the governor’s race was unmistakable, as Abrams ran to become the state’s first African American woman governor in U.S. history in a state that is approximately 30 percent African American.

And the outcome of the governor’s race remains contested in the minds of many voters, even after Abrams conceded the race last month with a promise to keep voting for voting rights and an admonishment that, “Under the watch of the now former secretary of state, democracy failed Georgia.”

“You can’t say what the result would’ve been if we had a secretary of state who wasn’t running for governor,” said Van Jensen, casting a ballot in the runoff on Dec. 4. “What I’m concerned about is 2020 and is that election going to be fair, and can we guarantee that election is going to be unbiased?”