Release: Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Seemingly Oblivious to His Own Record, GA Secretary of State Brian Kemp Pulls a Trump
Atlanta, GA – Donald Trump isn’t the only Republican unraveling on social media. Following Trump’s bizarre Twitter meltdown over what he calls a “rigged election” and his dangerous refusal to say he will accept the election results, Georgia’s Chief apparently felt the need to get in on the fear-mongering action by issuing his own baseless tweets railing against individuals who are trying to expand voting access. And yesterday, he took to Facebook to double down on his contempt for those who have shed a light on his appalling record.
“In the past month alone, Georgia voters have had to deal with Kemp’s dysfunctional website that harmed their ability to register to vote, and his stubborn refusal to extend registration deadlines after a massive natural disaster. Sadly this is par for the course. Georgians need a Secretary of State who is able to fulfill the basic functions of his job – not someone who defensively takes to social media to point his finger at others every time he fails to protect the integrity of our voting system. But most of all, Georgia needs a full reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act so that all citizens, regardless of the competence of our chief elections officer, have the ability to exercise their most basic constitutional right by casting a vote.” – Michael Smith, Communications Director.
Under Brian Kemp’s watch, barrier after barrier has been erected to make it harder for Georgians to register and cast their vote. His record speaks for itself:
Brian Kemp has been Georgia’s Secretary of State since January 2010. Among the office’s wide-ranging responsibilities, the Secretary of State is charged with conducting efficient and secure elections, the registration of corporations, and the regulation of securities and professional license holders. The office also oversees the Georgia Archives. [Georgia Secretary of State’s Website, 2/15/2013]
ILLEGAL VOTER PURGES AND “STRICT MATCHING”
Brian Kemp Sued For Blocking Thousands Of Minority Voters From Rolls
In September of 2016, The Georgia NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda and the legal nonprofit Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta filed a federal lawsuit against Brian Kemp for disenfranchising thousands of minorities ahead of the presidential election, alleging that the state’s “strict matching” requirement for information on registration forms blocked them from voter rolls. According to the suit, the state denied 34,874 registration applications from 2013 to 2016 due to mismatched information. Of those, black applicants were eight times more likely to fail the state’s verification process than white applicants, and Latinos and Asian-Americans were six times more likely to fail, according to the suit. [The Atlanta Journal Constitution 9/14/2016]
Brian Kemp’s Spokeswoman Accuses Civil Rights Plaintiffs of Trying to Disrupt Voter Registration
Brian Kemp’s spokeswoman stated that the September 2016 lawsuit challenging the practice of “strict matching” was “an effort by liberal groups to disrupt voter registration just weeks before an important election.” The lawsuit was filed by a coalition of civil and voting rights groups. [The Daily Report, 9/26/16]
After Being Sued, Brian Kemp Agrees to Restore Tens of Thousands of Blocked Voters To Rolls
Tens of thousands of voters whose registrations were canceled will be restored to the voter rolls before the November election after Brian Kemp agreed to suspend a longtime practice of canceling registrations that the state NAACP, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, and others had filed suit to stop on September 14th. Kemp concession came the same day that a judge in Ohio ruled the practice of purging voters from the rolls who had not voted in four years was a violation of federal voting laws. Kemp faces a similar pending lawsuit in Georgia. [The Daily Report, 9/26/16]
Brian Kemp’s Office Sued By NAACP and Common Cause For Illegal Purge of Thousands from Georgia’s Voters Rolls.
The National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”) specifically prohibits states from initiating voter registration purges against individuals for failure to vote; however, Georgia initiates such purging programs precisely after identifying individuals who have failed to vote for the previous three years. Due to the state’s practice, as of June 2015, over 800,000 Georgians have been placed on an inactive list – due to voting inactivity – and await being removed permanently unless they either respond to a notice or appear to vote within the following two election cycles. [Common Cause, 11/24/2015]
United States Department of Justice Filed “Statement of Interest” Regarding Brian Kemp’s Voter Purge.
On May 4 2016, The United State Department of Justice filed a “Statement of Interest” with the Federal Court in a pending lawsuit probing Kemp’s purges of voters from Georgia’s voter rolls. The Department of Justice argued that Kemp’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit should be denied and pointed to specific violations of the National Voter Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act. The NVRA governs voter registration and the maintenance of voter lists used in federal elections. HAVA establishes minimum standards to be used in federal elections. [Statement of Interest of the United States, 5/4/2016]
Brian Kemp’s Election Director Resigned After Kemp’s Office Illegally Purged Nearly 8,000 Voters From Rolls.
The Georgia Secretary of State’s election director resigned after illegally purging nearly 8,000 voters in the run-up to 2014’s May 20 primaries. [The Atlanta Journal Constitution, 4/3/2015]
INTIMIDATING ORGANIZERS REGISTERING AND MOBILIZING VOTERS OF COLOR WITH PROSECUTION
Brian Kemp’s Office Launched Investigation into Twelve Organizers in Quitman County.
After an investigation by the Secretary of State’s office, state agents arrested a dozen African American voting organizers, three of whom had been elected to the county school board. With the charges pending, Georgia’s governor, Nathan Deal, issued an executive order temporarily removing the three newly elected school members from their posts, and reinstating the county’s white-majority school board. Four years after the election in question, the state dropped all charges against the group. [The New Republic, 5/5/2015]
Quitman Resident Lula Smart Faced 32 Felony Counts For Mailing Absentee Ballots.
A Quitman resident named Lula Smart faced 32 felony counts that could have carried more than a hundred years in prison, largely for charges of carrying envelopes containing completed absentee ballots to the mailbox for voters. Four years later, after three trials, a jury in Quitman cleared Lula Smart on every count against her. [The New Republic, 5/5/2015]
Quitman Resident Debra Dennard Faced Two Felony Voter Fraud Charges For Assisting Blind Father With Absentee Ballot.
Quitman resident, Debra Dennard, faced two felony charges of voter fraud for helping her father fill out his absentee ballot. Her father, David Dennard, is missing both legs and is partially blind. Mr. Dennard says that with his daughter’s assistance he voted for just who he wanted to without any coercion or meddling. “All she did was help me—just as she helps me with almost everything… I knew who I wanted to vote for, and I signed the ballot myself.” [The New Republic, 5/5/2015]
Quitman Resident Bessie Hamilton Intimidated In to Signing Statement Against Lula Smart.
Bessie Hamilton testified that one of Kemp’s investigators came to the doctor’s office where she worked, took her into an unused break room, and intimidated her into signing a statement against [Lula] Smart. “I was scared,” she said on the stand. “This man came to my job with a gun, and on top of that, he told me I could have went to jail.” [The New Republic, 5/5/2015]
Quitman Resident Sandra Cody Removed From Her Job Due To Fraud Charges.
Quitman resident Sandra Cody was removed from her longtime Head Start teaching jobs because of the pending voting charges. “They said were not supposed to be around children,” Cody said, “because we have this on our record.” Although the charges were dropped weeks after their removal, bureaucratic red tape delayed their return to those jobs until February. Cody fell behind on her rent and utility bills because of the loss of work. [The New Republic, 5/5/2015]
Brian Kemp’s Office Targets the New Georgia Project.
In September of 2014 Brian Kemp announced an investigation against the New Georgia Project, an organization with the goal of registering 120,000 voters of color prior to the 2014 election. The Secretary of State confirmed only 50 potential “forgeries” among the tens of thousands the registration forms that the group had submitted, amounting to roughly 0.001 percent of the New Georgia Project’s submissions. [The New Republic, 5/5/2015]
“We have not detected from anything that [the group’s leaders] have said or done that it is a goal of the New Georgia Project to go out and commit voter registration fraud,” Kemp’s lead investigator said on September 17th, according to an opinion blog of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. [The New Republic, 5/5/2015]
Brian Kemp’s Office Fails To Add 40,000 Voters Of Color To Rolls in 2014.
In October of 2014, The New Georgia Project engaged in a legal battle with the Secretary of State to ascertain the whereabouts of 40,000 voter registration applications that were submitted prior to the registration deadline, but had yet to appear on the voter rolls. [NPR, 10/22/2014]
Brian Kemp’s Office Claimed 40,000 Missing Voter Registrations Did Not Exist.
After accusations that 40,000 voter registrations submitted by the New Georgia Project and other nonprofit organizations, did not appear on the rolls, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office claimed that the voter registrations did not exist. “The claim that there are over 40,000 unprocessed voter registration applications is absolutely false,” he said. “The counties have processed all the voter registration applications that they have received for the general election.” [NPR, 10/22/2014]
Brian Kemp’s Office Delays Adding Thousands Of Voters To The Rolls Until After Election Day.
Despite Claiming that no such voter registration forms existed, 18,000 of the voter registration forms submitted by The New Georgia Project by the registration deadline were added to the rolls three to nine months after Election Day 2014. [The Atlanta Journal Constitution, 2/11/2016]
While Kemp said that “the counties have processed all of the voter registration applications that they received for the general election,” new voters were not found on the voter rolls. Diamond Walton registered to vote with the New Georgia Project in August of 2014. She finally received a registration card in October. On Election Day, when she arrived at her polling place she was not on the rolls and was told to fill out a provisional ballot. Instead, Ms. Walton called a lawyer from the New Georgia Project who, after numerous calls to officials, found her name on a supplemental list. [The New York Times, 11/4/2016]
Newly Naturalized Citizen Voters Turned Away From Polls In 2012.
In the weeks prior to the 2012 General Election, Helen Ho, Executive Director of Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, discovered that newly naturalized citizens her organization had worked to register were not on the voter rolls. Early voting had begun and polling places were challenging and turning away new citizens seeking to vote for the first time. [The New Republic, 5/5/2015]
Asian American Legal Advocacy Center Denounces Brian Kemp’s Office For Failure To Add Newly Naturalized Citizen Voters To Rolls.
After the Secretary of State’s office failed to provide adequate answers regarding their failure to add new citizen voters to the rolls, AALAC issued an open letter on October 31 demanding that Georgia take immediate action to ensure the new citizens could vote. [The New Republic, 5/5/2015]
Brian Kemp’s Office Launches Criminal Investigation Against Asian American Legal Advocacy Center.
Two days after the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center issued an open letter denouncing Brian Kemp’s office for their failure to add newly naturalized citizen voters to the rolls in a timely manner, Brian Kemp’s office launched an investigation into their voter registration efforts. [The New Republic, 5/5/2015]
Kemp’s office asked that AALAC turn over certain records of its registration efforts, citing “potential legal concerns surrounding AALAC’s photocopying and public disclosure of voter registration applications.” The investigation targeted her group not for any voter fraud, per se, but for more technical issues, such as whether canvassers had people’s explicit, written consent to photocopy their registration forms before mailing the originals to the elections office. [The New Republic, 5/5/2015]
Brian Kemp’s Investigation In To AALAC Lasts Two And A Half Years, Finds No Violations.
Brian Kemp’s investigation of Asian American Legal Advocacy Center lasted two and a half years and ended with no finding of violations. [The New Republic, 5/5/2015]
PARTISAN ACTION AGAINST DEMOCRATS AND REPEATED MISHALNDING OF VOTER FILE DATA IMPACTS ELECTION RESULTS
Data From Kemp’s Office Leads Residency Challenge Against African American Democratic Candidate for Georgia House District 151.
In March of 2016, James Williams qualified to run for office in House District 151, where he had been living and voting for several years. After the qualifying period had closed, elections officials re-categorized Williams’ street of residence as belonging to House District 154, resulting in a residency challenge. The Secretary of State has declined to re-open the qualifying period to allow another Democratic candidate to run, and has declined to let Williams run in 151. House District 151 is the only majority-minority House district in Georgia currently represented by a Republican. [The New Republic, 4/5/2016]
Republicans and Democrats Treated Differently During The Qualifying Process.
In House District 3, three of the four candidates running for the May 24 Primary were initially disqualified because the Georgia Republican Party failed to provide the elections office with the proper paperwork on time. However, Catoosa County Republican Party Chair Denise Burns said that candidates seeking the House District 3 seat can fill out paperwork to qualify again. An official from the state party informed her that the GOP Executive Committee voted to re-open the qualifying process. Two disqualified Republican candidates were allowed to appear on the May Primary Election ballot. [Times Free Press 4/14/2016] [SOS Website 9/15/16]
Data from Brian Kemp’s Office Leads To Incorrect Ballot Distribution in House Primary
During the 2016 Primary Election, data from Brian Kemp’s office led to at least 30 and potentially 60 voters in House Districts 59 and 60 to cast ballots in the wrong district. The top two vote getting candidates in HD 59 were forty votes apart. [Creative Loafing, 9/9/2016]
Brian Kemp Warns Republican Allies That Democrats Are Registering Minority Voters.
At a July 12th, 2014 event with Republicans in Gwinnett County, Georgia, Brian Kemp advocated that Republicans register voters, and also stated, “…Democrats are working hard, and all these stories about them, you know, registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines, if they can do that, they can win these elections in November.” [Think Progress 9/11/2014]
Brian Kemp’s Office Released the Personal Information, Including Social Security Number, of Registered Georgia Voters – 6 million Individuals.
The October 2015 voter file distributed to news organizations and other entities that purchase the information included private data such as voters’ social security numbers and driver license numbers. Third parties can legally buy the voter lists from the state, but the lists should only include a voter’s name, residential or mailing address, race, gender, registration date and date of last vote cast. Georgia’s data release was one of the larger disseminations of private data for a U.S. state. [The Atlanta Journal Constitution, 11/18/2015]
REDUCING ACCESS TO VOTING FOR COMMUNITIES OF COLOR
The Macon-Bibb Board of Registration and Elections Moved a Precinct from Memorial Gym to the Sheriff’s Office. In early 2016 The Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections decided to move the Memorial Gym polling place to a sheriff’s building near Second Street and Houston Avenue because of ongoing construction at the gym. That plan drew fire from various civil rights groups, including the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, which alleged that the proposed location could alienate some minorities. [The Macon Telegraph, 4/21/2016]
Upson County Polling Closures Leads to Heavy Traffic on Election Day.
In March of 2016, polling places in Upson County experienced heavy traffic during Georgia’s presidential primary vote. “I’d never seen anything like it,” said Kay King, a member of the local board of elections who worked the polls that day. “It was just unreal.” Although King doesn’t believe the precinct consolidation was designed to discriminate against minority voters, she said she voted against the plan because it eliminated the sole polling site in her district, which she said has a high population of minority residents. “Some of those people don’t have transportation so they have a hard time getting back and forth to other precincts,” King said. “We lost that precinct, so now those people will have to travel a little further.” [VICE, 4/16/2016]
Georgia Is One of Only Three States to Check Citizenship on the Front End of Voter Registration.
Georgia is only one of three states to check citizenship on the front end of voter registration. In late January 2016, the Election Assistance Commission’s Executive Director Brian Newby, granted the requests of three states — Kansas, Georgia and Alabama — to include the proof-of-citizenship requirement for state elections as a state-specific add-on to the federal form, against prior policy. Before joining the commission, Mr. Newby was a county elections official in Kansas, where he was a close ally of Kris Kobach, one of the nation’s most ardent supporters of restrictive voting laws. [New York Times, 4/10/2016]
State Board of Elections Encouraged Precinct Closures.
Sandi Fallin, Tift County Elections supervisor, spoke to Tift County commissioners during a workshop, telling them that the state’s Board of Elections has encouraged the local office to consolidate its precincts. [Tifton Gazette, 9/11/2015]
Tift County Plans to Consolidate Precincts from 12 to 1.
In September of 2015 the five-member, majority-conservative Tift County Board of Elections led by its supervisor– Republican Sandi Fallin — planned on consolidating all twelve current voting locations and directing approximately 20,000 registered voters to cast a ballot at Tifton’s UGA Conference Center. [The Examiner, 9/10/2015]
Macon- Bibb County Attempts To Eliminate 14 Polling Precincts.
In January 2015, the Macon-Bibb Board of Elections proposed a plan to reduce or consolidate the County’s 40 precincts down to 26, allegedly as a cost saving device. Most of the proposed precinct reductions and consolidations in the original plan targeted majority Black precincts. Under that plan, some of the majority Black precincts had over 5000 and 6000 voters. By contrast, no majority white precincts had more than 5,000 voters and, in most cases, had thousands fewer voters than the proposed consolidated precincts in the majority Black communities. In response to organized opposition by community organizations, the BOE reduced the number of precinct closures, but the majority of these closures disproportionately impact Black precincts. The County has failed to explain how it will staff and equip the larger consolidated Black precincts and we will be monitoring the impact of these closures on voters when they attempt to cast ballots in the 2016 elections. [The Lawyers Committee, 5/7/2016] [Macon Telegraph, 5/28/2015]
Upson County Reduces Number of Polling Precincts from 9 to 4 As Cost Cutting Measure.
In July 2015, Upson County’s Board of Elections voted to reduce the number of precincts from nine to four as a cost cutting measure. [The Thomaston Times, 10/19/2015]
Hancock County Precinct Consolidations Create Travel Burdens for Black Rural Voters.
Hancock’s Board of Elections (BOE) planned to close all but one precinct located in downtown Sparta, despite the relatively high voter turnout in the County in 2008 and 2012. While cost-savings was given as a rationale, the BOE did not release data justifying this harsh plan. Precincts proposed for closure were 10.9-16.9 miles from the one remaining precinct, presenting a travel burden for voters living in the majority Black precincts in the mostly poor and rural areas of the County who don’t have access to regularly scheduled transportation. After organized opposition led by the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda and the Lawyers’ Committee, the BOE decided to close only one of the ten precincts in the district. [The Lawyers Committee, 5/7/2016]
Hancock County Voter Purges Targets Black Voters.
On November 3, 2015, the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda and five black Hancock County voters represented by the Lawyers’ Committee, along with local pro bono co-counsel, filed a voting rights lawsuit against the Hancock County election officials that challenges the purging of black voters from the Hancock County voter registration lists in advance of the November 2015 City of Sparta municipal election. Plaintiffs contend that the actions were intended to suppress the African American vote. According to the suit, almost 17 percent of eligible Sparta voters were challenged and nearly all of the 53 voters purged were Black voters. Since the lawsuit was filed, following a U.S. District Court order, Hancock officials have reinstated 15 of the 53 voters. [The Lawyers Committee, 5/7/2016]
Police Commanded Black Voters in Hancock County To Prove Validity of Their Registration
As a “courtesy,” court papers state, county sheriff’s deputies served summonses on African American voters targeted for removal from the rolls, commanding them to defend themselves at election board meetings. Some did, and were restored to the rolls.
“A lot of voters are actually calling to say they no longer wish to be on the list, so now we have people coming off the list who no longer want to vote,” Tiffany Medlock, the elections supervisor for the Hancock County elections board, told a Macon television reporter in late September. “It’ll probably affect the City of Sparta’s election in a major way.” [The New York Times 7/31/2016]
SUPER TUESDAY 2016 PRECINCT IRREGULARITIES
Fulton County Precinct Changes Occurred Without Proper Voter Notification.
In March of 2016, voter complaints flooded into Fulton County and the state when residents found out they hadn’t been notified that their voting locations had changed. The county blamed the postal service for not delivering mailers before the March 1 election. Now, the postal service and the secretary of state’s office are investigating. It’s not the first time there have been problems related to voting in Fulton County. [The Atlanta Journal Constitution, 4/16/2016] and [The Atlanta Journal Constitution, 4/11/2016]
Faulty Voting Machines in Fulton County Delay and Deter Voters on Super Tuesday.
Roughly 100 voters in northeast Atlanta’s Virginia-Highland neighborhood learned that the electronic voting machines were not working the morning of Super Tuesday. According to the precinct manager, the machines were programmed for the wrong precinct. Voters were given the choice of voting on paper or coming back later. Voters learned they would have to wait 30 minutes to cast their ballot on paper. About an hour-and-a-half into the voting, an IT professional from the Fulton County Elections office came and re-programmed the machines. The precinct manager said only 46 of the early morning voters chose to cast paper ballots. Every else chose to try to return before the polls close at 7 p.m. [WMTV, 3/1/16]
2016 GENERAL ELECTION ISSUES
Glitch in Online System Prevents Georgians From Registering To Vote Online
Less than two weeks prior to the voter registration deadline, a failure of the online registration system resulted in error messages, prompting the Secretary of State to urge voters who tried to register online over a period of approximately five days to check their status. [WTVC, 10/5/2016]
After Lawsuit, Judge Orders Brian Kemp to Extend Voter Registration Deadline After a failed request to extend the voter registration deadline in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, The Georgia Coalition for People’s Agenda, Georgia State Conference of the NAACP and the nonprofit Third Sector corporation successfully sued the Secretary of State’s office to extend the voter registration deadline in Chatham County. Over 40 percent of Chatham County residents are black or Latino.
[CBS 46, 10/12/2016] [Lawyers’ Committee Press Release 10/13/2016]
Brian Kemp Approves of Donald Trump’s Call For Poll Watchers
2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump warned supporters that the election may be “rigged” in favor of his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, and urged supporters to monitor the polls, stating “I hope you people can sort of not just vote on the eighth [but] go around and look and watch other polling places and make sure that it’s 100 percent fine.” Brian Kemp said a surge of Trump-inspired poll watchers would be welcome, so long as they undergo training after the state receives their names. [The Washington Post 8/13/16]
Brian Kemp’s Office Rejects Federal Assistance To Protect Against Hackers
Less than a year after Brain Kemp’s office released the personal data of an unprecedented 6 million Georgia voters, Kemp rejected an offer from the federal government to protect Georgia election systems from the threat of hacking. [The Atlanta Journal Constitution 8/29/16] [The Atlanta Journal Constitution, 11/18/2015].