VALDOSTA — Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Republican gubernatorial candidate, shot back Sunday at critics who say he and his office are suppressing minority voter turnout.
The Associated Press reported recently that more than 53,000 Georgia voters, most of whom are black, have had their registrations placed on hold because of some kind of mismatch with a driver's license or Social Security information.
Kemp stopped by Valdosta Sunday afternoon and called the story a "manufactured headline."
He said his office is only following a state law passed in 2017 known as the "exact match" law. It requires information on a voter's registration application to exactly match information on file with the Georgia driver's license agency or the Social Security Administration.
Voters whose registration is on hold can still vote in the Nov. 6 mid-term election.
"You know the only thing those people have to do to go vote? They just have to show up, show their photo ID and go vote," Kemp said. "That's what every other Georgian has to do. That's state law, and for them to blame me is outrageous."
Stacey Abrams, Democratic gubernatorial candidate, called for Kemp to resign as chief elections officer on CNN and said he is "eroding the public trust."
"This is simply a redux of a failed system that is both designed to scare people out of voting and ... for those who are willing to push through, make it harder for them to vote," Abrams told CNN's Jake Tapper.
A coalition of civil rights groups also jumped into the fray last week by filing a lawsuit to stop the state from enforcing the "exact match" law.
The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Campaign Legal Center sent Kemp's office a letter stating the state law violates the National Voter Registration Act. The letter states the matching protocol has an extraordinarily high error rate, resulting in the disenfranchisement of legitimate, eligible Georgians.
Kemp redirected the blame back on Abrams' canvassers, who go door to door registering people to vote.
He said her canvassers are not filling out the paperwork correctly, making it impossible for election officials to verify who they are, he said.
"She's blaming me for a problem that she created," Kemp said. "We had a record number of people on our voter rolls. I don't think they mentioned that in their lawsuit."
Kemp credits the record number to policies his office has pushed to put in place such as online registration, which allows for people to register to vote anytime with an app on their phone.
"This is a politically motivated, manufactured story, and we will prevail in court," he said.
Thomas Lynn is a government and education reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be reached at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256