Republican message to minority voters: You don’t count, we will make sure of it.
In addition to the voter registrations from predominantly African American voters that Republican Brian Kemp, who is running against an African American Stacey Abrams, is engaging in an effort to game the election for himself and other Republicans, there’s another scam in town.
This one is called ‘reject the mail-in ballot’ in the majority minority county of Gwinnett, where 62% of the residents are not white. Gwinnett County, Georgia is responsible for 40% of mail-in ballot rejections statewide, and rejection rates for Asians and African-Americans are much higher than whites.
In an exclusive by Who What Why, they found a high rate of absentee ballot rejection in Gwinnett county, Georgia which they say reeks of voter suppression. Gwinnett leads in rejecting mail-in ballots, they report, “with 398 turned away as of Thursday, according to numbers reported by the secretary of state’s office. Despite having only 12 percent of the state’s overall mail-in ballots, the county is responsible for 40 percent of statewide rejections so far.”
Why are the ballots rejected? Oh, someone decides your signature doesn’t match your voter’s registration card and boom. Your vote is tossed.
Ballots are rejected for small errors. For example, people often put the current date rather than their date of birth, as requested on the absentee envelope. And ballots are also rejected for subjective reasons: In hundreds of cases, a ballot is rejected because an election official thinks a signature does not match the one on the voter’s registration card.”
“The rejections show a pattern: Asian or Pacific Islander voters are rejected at four times the rate of white voters, while black voters are rejected at nearly three times the rate of white voters.
This man, Brian Kemp, running for Governor and purging minority voters throughout the state, is the person who decides what criteria to use to toss out mail-in ballots. But, his office doesn’t “supervise or review ballot rejections at the county level.” Which means that people are not being notified that their mail-in ballot was rejected.
Accountable for deciding criteria for tossing people, but not accountable for supervising tossed ballots. Isn’t that fun.
Pearlie Williams, an elderly black woman who lives in Gwinnett, Georgia, had no idea her mail-in ballot had been rejected. She told Who What Why, “There’s been so many problems for so long, it’s like, why vote? They’re going to do whatever they want to do anyway. And now you’re here telling me my ballot was rejected?”
Yes, that is exactly the reaction Republicans are going for. This reaction is another piece of the puzzle regarding how attacks on voting rights work to whittle down turnout and engagement, both of which are wins for Republicans. The less people paying attention, the better. The less people voting, the better it is for Republicans.
Brian Kemp knows exactly what he’s doing with his statewide purge of minority voters, according to expert Kristen Clarke. “Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has been a driving force behind multiple voter suppression efforts throughout the years in Georgia,” said Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “If there is one person in Georgia who knows that the ‘Exact Match’ scheme has a discriminatory impact on minority voters, it’s Brian Kemp because we successfully sued him over a mirror policy in 2016.
Michael McDonald of Elect Project flagged this story, pointing out a piece of good news.
A bit of good news. The number of rejected ballots in Gwinnett County declined from 398 yesterday to 387 today. Election officials may be working to fix errors that caused some rejected ballots. Still, the rejection rate is a troublesome 9.9%, with clear racial disparities pic.twitter.com/AS3Ui75ar9
— Michael McDonald (@ElectProject) October 13, 2018
A frequent logged reason for a ballot rejection is a problem with birth year on the return envelope. This suggests to me a language issue or poorly designed return envelope. I've spoken with lawyers who will inspect the envelopes to understand this better https://t.co/YNelcy0QJ1
— Michael McDonald (@ElectProject) October 13, 2018
No matter what Republicans tell you about how we don’t need the Voting Rights Act, their actions say otherwise. All of these tricks add up to a stolen election. That is why they go to the effort to do these things.
I spent a year registering voters in Georgia, and often, that is with regularity, witnessed African-American voters being intimidated by law enforcement and others not to even register. I also witnessed law enforcement showing up to the polls, which has the effect of intimidating some voters.
What’s going on is Georgia is un-American and despicable. Anyone who can’t win a campaign without stealing rights from citizens doesn’t deserve to even run for office. Republicans are engaging in these tactics for the same reason Donald Trump asked the Russians for help in 2016 to hack Hillary Clinton. They are afraid they can’t win on the issues or if you pay attention to what they’re doing or not doing for you.
The Voting Rights Act needs to be restored completely and actually strengthened so that all of our citizens can engage in the most American right of voting.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.