Voting-rights advocates are running out of time in Georgia, where civil-rights groups say more than 50,000 new voter registrations have gone missing since they submitted them to state and local officials earlier this year. But with Election Day less than a week away, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brian Kemp, is insisting that every voter-registration application submitted by Georgians before the registration deadline has been processed. The missing potential voters? He says there aren’t any. On Tuesday, a county judge sided with Kemp and rejected a request by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, the NAACP, and the New Georgia Project to intervene in the dispute, on which the two sides disagree on nearly every detail, including whether there is a problem at all. “This decision guarantees that there are going to be significant numbers of people who will be disenfranchised and not be put onto the voter-registration rolls even though they are eligible to vote,” said Julie Houk, senior counsel for the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, after the judge’s ruling, which the groups will likely appeal. “What good is early voting if people’s names aren’t on the rolls to vote?”
At stake are the Georgia governor’s mansion and an open U.S. Senate seat, two neck-and-neck brawls in which Democrats have defied national expectations by keeping the races within striking distance. But Democrats in the still-red state can only win if a coalition of new residents, young voters, and minorities turns out for them, exactly the ones advocates say remain at large more than 10 days into early voting.
And at the center of the fight are two young, sometimes brash, diametrically opposed state politicians—Stacey Abrams, the African-American Georgia House minority leader who is seen by Democrats as a fast-rising star, and Kemp, the aggressive young secretary of state who is on most short lists as a future GOP governor contender.