By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
In Georgia, close to three times the number of people who voted early during the last midterm election have voted early. The numbers went up over the first week of early voting in a state featuring one of the biggest races for governor in the U.S: Democrat Stacey Abrams vs. Republican Brian Kemp.
Abrams would be the first African American female governor elected in history if she wins.
Over 482,000 people have voted in Georgia in advance which included 92,000 on October 19 alone. According to the New York Times, “vote totals have increased almost 200 percent at the same point since the last gubernatorial election.” Typically high turnout favors the Democratic Party.
The news regarding record turnout predictions have collided with the news of voter suppression.
Election officials in Kansas closed the only polling place in Dodge City. Latinos currently make up 60 percent of Dodge City’s population. Dodge City has only one polling site for 27,000 residents.
Some of the concerns reflect longstanding complaints, such as reduced polling locations, confusion among election workers, and outdated voting machines which may soon be deemed illegal. Since 2012, more than 200 local voting precincts have been closed across the state of Georgia, which amount to about 8 percent of the state’s total polling places.
But there are also allegations of intentional voter suppression, which has become a central issue in the governor’s race. A recent report by The Associated Press detailed how Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is also the Republican nominee for governor, had stalled more than 50,000 voter registrations of disproportionately black voters because of alleged problems with their voting registration information.
Mr. Kemp has denied allegations of intentional voter suppression and said that all persons on that list can still vote on Election Day, if they have the proper identification. Still, the back-and-forth has ignited nervousness and confusion among supporters of Stacey Abrams, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, who is seeking to become the first black female governor.
Lines at one Cobb County polling place Wednesday had ballooned into a three-hour wait for early voting. On a canvassing trip in Lilburn, Ga., targeting unlikely midterm voters, a group of domestic care workers who have been volunteering six days a week talked to multiple residents who worried about their registration status.
And on Monday, news that about 40 black seniors were barred from early voting at the behest of county officials in eastern Georgia’s Jefferson County enraged voting rights advocates, who say such actions could have a chilling effect. An October 9th Associated Press report found around 53,000 people — nearly 70% of them African-Americans — had their registrations placed in limbo because of some kind of mismatch with driver’s license or social security information.
Tellingly, Abrams is running against an opponent who has had a hand in the details in making voting more difficult in the state.
Greg Palast, a voter suppression expert who runs the Palast Investigative Fund, asserts that Kemp is responsible for removing over 300,000 voters from Georgia’s voter rolls over two years. Palast’s team of experts includes statisticians and lawyers analyzing changes and removals from voter rolls across America.
“What’s happening #GaGovRace right now might be a defining moment in the brief history of our Democracy – it will be the 1st publicized, well understood and quantifiable rigged and stolen election in the deluge. They will point here and say this was the moment and it happened with little fanfare,” tweeted pollster Cornell Belcher about the Georgia race.
A coalition of advocacy groups has launched a lawsuit to block Georgia from enforcing the “exact match” requirement that could block over 50,000 votes in the state.
The Campaign Legal Center and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law argued in the suit, which was filed in a federal district court on Thursday, that the state’s “exact match” requirement violates the Voting Rights Act and the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
The question a little over two weeks from Election Day is: Will high turnout be able to erase attempts at voter suppression.