One evening in July 2017, computers at the Georgia Secretary of State’s office were set to a monumental task. Through the night, they would sift through a list of 6.6 million registered voters, seeking out those who didn’t belong.
By dawn, more than 500,000 people were registered no more. This purge, according to election-law experts, may represent the largest mass disenfranchisement in U.S. history. It also underscores how Georgia – where people once died for the right to vote – has systematically enacted some of the strictest voting laws in the nation over the past two decades. While officials say the laws are aimed at preventing election fraud, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says no state has done more than Georgia in recent years to make voting difficult, especially for minorities. These efforts went relatively unnoticed before this year’s campaign for governor. That has changed amid what appears to be a historically tight race and, perhaps more important, claims that Republicans are engaging in voter suppression.
The focus on who gets to vote may have been inevitable in this election. Republican candidate Brian Kemp, the secretary of state since 2010, has avidly enforced and advocated for strict voting laws. Democrat Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator, is a long-time voting-rights activist. She also could become the first African-American woman elected governor of any state.
The points of conflict are many: An “exact match” law that put 50,000 would-be voters into electoral purgatory over even slight inconsistencies in their registration applications. The closing of voting precincts in areas with substantial African-American populations. The diversion of a busload of black senior citizens headed to the polls for early voting.
Nothing, however, generated more controversy than Georgia’s massive purge, authorized by a 20-year-old law whose advocates distilled the right to vote to a pithy phrase: Use it or lose it.
Full Article: Georgia voters purge may be largest in U.S. history.