The incoming chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings, has his sights set on Brian Kemp, the Republican governor-elect of Georgia.
Before using widespread voter suppression tactics to cheat in his race against Democrat Stacey Abrams, Kemp was the Georgia Secretary of State. This position put him in charge of the elections for the entire state. And he used this position well — for his own advantage.
Most observers believe that if Kemp had not used every trick in the book to suppress minority votes throughout Georgia that Abrams would have won, and become the country’s first African-American female governor.
So now Cummings says he wants Kemp to testify before his Congressional committee about all of the voter suppression charges against him.
“I want to be able to bring people in, like the new governor-to-be of Georgia, to explain … why is it fair for wanting to be secretary of state and be running [for governor],” Cummings told HuffPost in an article published Monday.
Kemp’s hard-fought and controversial contest against Abrams was brought many calls by independent observers for him to resign. They said it was not fair for him to keep his post overseeing the state’s elections while he ran for governor at the same time.
After the November 6 election was over, Abrams, through a group she founded, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Georgia. The goal of the lawsuit is not to overturn the election results but to overhaul the state’s election procedures and processes to make them more fair.
“It was not a free and fair election,” Abrams said after conceding the election to Kemp on November 20.
The lawsuit maintains that all of the current Georgia election processes are discriminatory. Abrams said often during her unsuccessful campaign, and afterwards, that elections in Georgia are very unfair and have the effect of disenfranchising Democrats and minorities.
One example cited was the reports that several months before the election it was discovered that a hugely disproportionate number of Georgia’s many thousands of stalled voter applications were from African Americans.
Rep. Cummings told HuffPost that he has definite plans to investigate the issue of voter suppression when Democrats are the majority in the 116th Congress and he assumes the chairmanship.
Cummings said he also wants to call on election officials from other states, such as Kansas and North Carolina, who have been accused of suppressing Latino and African-American votes.
He specifically mentioned county clerk Debbie Cox from Ford County, Kansas. She has been criticized, and is facing more scrutiny over her decision to move the only polling location in a city with a 50 percent Latino population outside the city limits. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued over the move, saying it had the intent and the effect of limiting the voting power of Latinos and other minorities.
Democrats coming into power in the new Congress in January have promised that they will take on voting rights as a key part of their agenda next year.
In fact, probable new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said she will push propose a comprehensive package of reforms targeting campaign finance, ethics and voting rights laws as Democrats’ first order of business after they take charge of the House.
The new legislation will include a fix to the Voting Rights Act that would reinstate the federal oversight for changes to voting laws that was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013. The bill would also make it harder for states to engage in mass voter purges as Kemp did. Holding hearings on what happened in Georgia will help Democrats build an evidentiary case in support of their legislative agenda, according to Cummings.
“One of the things about my committee, you know, it’s called Oversight and Government Reform,” the senior Congressman from Maryland said. “Oversight, you know, you gotta research and find out what the hell is going on and then, if it is appropriate, to do those things to reform the system.”
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.