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Southern-Fried Kobach

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Mark Joseph Stern has puts the particularly egregious vote suppression measures being proposed in Georgia in the context of Brian Kemp being the Peach State’s Kris Kobach:

Because of its history of racist voting laws, Randolph County was once required to seek federal permission before altering its election procedures. But after the Supreme Court gutted this oversight in 2013, the county was freed to crack down on the franchise. It is no coincidence that its election board chose this moment to shutter most of its polls: In November, the popular Democrat Stacey Abrams will compete for the governorship against Republican Brian Kemp, the current Georgia secretary of state. Kemp, who has devoted his time in office to a ruthless campaign of voter suppression, called upon Randolph County to abandon the plan when it spurred widespread outrage. That being said, the key figure in the Randolph County controversy is a Kemp ally who was handpicked by the secretary of state to close polls throughout Georgia.

To understand the brazen attack on black suffrage now occurring in Randolph County, it’s important to remember that Georgia is in the midst of a seismic demographic shift. As whites cease to be the majority in more and more counties, Republicans have clung to power by disenfranchising minority voters. Kemp’s opposition to the Randolph County plan marks the first time that he has adopted an affirmatively pro-suffrage stance. During his nearly eight years as secretary of state, Kemp engaged in mass voter purges, removing hundreds of thousands of voters from the rolls. State officials appear to have singled out black voters in targeted purges.

Kemp also canceled or suspended 35,000 voter registrations using Exact Match, a version of Kris Kobach’s notorious Crosscheck program that compares registrants’ information with motor vehicle and Social Security databases. If a single letter, space, or hyphen did not match the database information, the voter application was rejected. Black voters were eight times more likely than whites to have their registrations halted due to Exact Match.

Perhaps most egregiously, Kemp launched an investigation into Abrams’ efforts to register more minority voters despite no evidence of fraud. He used the probe to harass and intimidate voting rights advocates. Later, he refused to register 40,000 would-be voters who had signed up through the drive. Speaking to Republicans behind closed doors, Kemp explained the stakes: “Registering all these minority voters that are out there … if they can do that, they can win these elections.” During Kemp’s tenure, Georgia’s population has increased substantially—yet the number of registered voters has actually gone down.

Congress, of course, foresaw such attacks on democracy and enacted major legislation to prevent it, only to be thwarted repeatedly by a bare Supreme Court majority that fully shares Kemp’s Jim Crow goals.

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