While 2016 may have been the year of Russian election interference, it appears as if the theme for this year’s midterm elections is perhaps an even more undemocratic fiasco called voter suppression. This particularly appears to be the case in the state of Georgia, as Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state runs for governor.
There have been multiple reports of thousands of Georgia residents, particularly those in the young, poor, African American demographic of the state, being removed from the state’s voter rolls. This weekend, thanks to journalist Greg Palast, we are able to quantify some of this mess.
According to Palest, who has been investigating Georgia and Brian Kemp’s voter suppression attempts for well over a year, Georgia has incorrectly removed at least 340,134 voters as a result of a tactic they use which falsely identifies voters as having moved. The problem is that these voters, who Palast has identified, haven’t moved an inch.
Palast’s team first identified 530,510 voters that Georgia said had moved. They then ran the names through an “advanced address hygiene process,” which basically cross checks the data with dozens of dynamically updated databases, such as tax bills, utility bills, phone bills, etc. What they found was almost sickening.
Palast and his team came up with “a list of 340,134 voters who never moved an inch. Kemp has sent them no notice — none — but they have lost their right to vote.”
Kemp used a process to remove these voters that Palast calls “Purge by Postcard”.
“It works like this,” he explained. “If you miss an election, Kemp sends you a postcard. It looks like junk mail. But if you read the block of print carefully, it asks you to return the card to Kemp after you’ve filled in the address that’s already on the front of the card. If you don’t return the card, and you miss an election, Kemp takes out his eraser and cancels you off the registration rolls.”
While the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 prohibits any secretary of state from removing voters off of rolls for simply not voting, last June the United States Supreme Court stated that voters could be removed from rolls if they did not vote in the last election and their failure to return a postcard was viewed as a “reasonable indication” that the voter moved.
In this case, however, the failure to return a thin post card that is easily mistaken for junk mail, would not appear to be a “reasonable indication” that someone has moved, especially given the fact that Georgia and Kemp had clearly not taken steps to easily verify if those residents did in fact move. If Palast was able to so easily cross-check over half a million Georgians against as many as 200 dynamically updated databases, and quickly find that hundreds of thousands of them were still at their same addresses, why couldn’t the much better funded state of Georgia do the same?
Palest and his foundation, the Palast Investigative Fund, didn’t only find that Kemp purged these 340,134 voters, who did not move, but they also found that Kemp purged thousands of voters who moved within the same county, which would not require a voter to re-register.