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How Georgia’s registration laws put a thumb on the scales for Republican candidates




Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp are competing to become the next governor of Georgia. (John Amis / AP)

The deadline for registration of the voters of Georgia came this week , closing the electorate for the mid-term elections next month. A large number of non-federal races are being voted in the state, none more closely supervised by the governor's competition. This race is becoming a microcosm of the widest political rift at the national level, with a democrat who would become the first black woman to rule a state in front of a white man who embraced Donald Trump during the Republican presidential primaries. The black woman against Trump's acolyte is 2018 in short.

That date to register for voting has not passed without controversy. On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that about 53,000 applications for registration were held by the Secretary of State of Georgia because they had been marked by the state's "exact meeting" system. That system, introduced by the state legislature last year, imposes a stricter process for the validation of registrations as part of an effort to reduce illegal voting. The illegal or fraudulent vote, it is important to reiterate, is by no means a significant problem in the United States.

How strict are the new rules? If someone with the surname of Jones-Smith were to register to vote, but excluded the hyphen, they could be diverted to that "pending" registration list. It is a process that has proven to have an outsized effect on black, Hispanic and Asian voters in the state. Of the 53,000 candidacies of the secretary of state, 70% are for black voters.

The secretary of state, by the way, is Brian Kemp, the white Republican who faces Stacey Abrams, the woman who would be the first black female governor of the country.

How significant are suspended applications? The latest state voter registration data show that there are just under 6.4 million active voters in Georgia. Without the 53,000 registrations in place, black voters represent around 30 percent of the total. If those 53,000 votes are added to the pool, the density of black voters rises to 30.5% – that is, an additional black voter recorded on 200 recordings.

The Kemp office is not only implementing the "exact match" policy. It also has the task of determining which recordings are active and which are not. Since last October, registration numbers have increased at all levels between ethnic and racial groups. But the rate of increase varies according to race and gender.

Monthly data from the secretary of state's office show that the increase in registered Hispanic voters has been more acute than black or white voters. This is an important warning: about 10 percent of all registrations are for people of unknown race or ethnicity. But, compared to October 2017, here's how the registration totals have changed.

Notice that blue box, which marks the transition from July to August 2018 among black men. The registration data provided by the state for July 1 indicated that 782,840 black men were active voters. For the 1st of August, that number left to 780.059. Despite the increases that may have been made by the new voters registering, the state had moved enough records into the inactive category that there were fewer black men identified as registered at the end of the month than at the beginning.

It is the only group shown on the graph above where the totals went down between July and August.

July was also the month when Kemp won the primary Republican government. (His victory was obvious on in the middle of the month after Trump's approval moved the electorate to his favor.) You will notice in that first chart, however, that there were similar cuts at the end of the summer of 2017, as well, with the number of registered voters of various groups falling.

These overlaps between the official role of Kemp with the state and the disadvantages faced by an electorate who expected to prefer his opponent were noted by his critics. Georgia Public Broadcasting had an interesting interview with a former Secretary of State of Georgia, noting that having an official elected to run the election would necessarily raise doubts about objectivity. The stakes of this competition and the division of the political moment have only accentuated that tension.

There is no evidence that Kemp is intentionally putting his thumb on the scale to his advantage. There is a lot of evidence, however, that the system that handles itself puts the thumb on the scale in a way that benefits Republican candidates like him. The system of "exact correspondence" tends to influence disproportionately the people who vote the most strongly democratic. The process of moving voters into inactivity also affects the poorest and blackest voters at a higher rate.

Kemp does not hesitate to embrace that system.

"This ruling states that common sense measures such as the election list of Georgia The statutes on maintenance, which prevent fraud at electoral ballots, are appropriate and necessary to ensure safe, accessible and fair elections," he said after the Supreme Court approved the same process of selecting Ohio voters.

Again: There is no evidence of significant or widespread fraud in the US elections. That voter identification laws and measures such as "exact correspondence" help republicans by reducing the number of democratic voters is an obvious reason why many Republicans support those laws.

At the moment, Kemp has a narrow lead over Abrams of around 1.4 points, according to the RealClearPolitics survey average. In a race that closes, those 37,000 records blocked by black voters could make the difference.


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