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The New Jim Crow

Democratic candidate for Georgia Governor Stacey Abrams speaks during an election-night watch party Tuesday, May 22, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The always invaluable Michelle Goldberg summarizes the attempts of Georgia to rig the 2018 election with a diverse array of vote suppression tactics:

That, however, would depend on Abrams’s supporters being permitted to vote. Kemp knows this as well as anyone; four years ago, he warned a meeting of Republicans about the New Georgia Project, a voter-registration initiative that Abrams founded while serving as Democratic minority leader in the Georgia House. “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,” he said.

As secretary of state, Kemp oversees voting and voter registration rules for his own election. (He’s refused to recuse himself.) He appears to be using his position to try shape Georgia’s electorate to his advantage. According to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kemp allowed 214 voting locations — nearly 8 percent of the state’s total — to be closed in the last six years.

Worse, The Associated Press recently reported that, under the guise of “voter roll maintenance,” Kemp’s office has canceled more than 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012, and nearly 670,000 registrations in 2017 alone, ostensibly to guard against voter fraud. Further, 53,000 new voter registration applications are “on hold” at Kemp’s office.

In part, this is because of an “exact match” voter verification program that Georgia’s Republican-controlled government enacted last year, which flags registrations that have even minor discrepancies with official records, like a dropped hyphen in a last name. The A.P. reported that almost 70 percent of the registrations that are now on hold are for African-American voters. (Kemp has blamed sloppy work by the New Georgia Project for the holds. His office told The A.P. that voters whose registrations are in limbo can cast provisional ballots.)

Kemp’s apparent attempt to rig the Georgia election shows in microcosm how democracy in America is failing. Part of the reason this country is sliding into minority rule is structural — the Senate and the Electoral College both give disproportionate power to white rural voters. But the right is also gaming the system to try to stop changing demographics from changing the country’s balance of political power.

Before anything else, the next Democratic Congress and president have to pass the most ambitious national voter rights legislation they can.

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