Brian Kemp’s lead for Georgia governor may be smaller than the number of voters he suppressed

When you're the official in charge of your own election, you can tilt the playing field toward yourself. Did Kemp pull it off?

Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp attends an election night event on Tuesday.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp attends an election night event on Tuesday. CREDIT: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R), his party’s nominee for governor, clung to a narrow lead in his race against former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) as of early Wednesday morning. With nearly all of the vote counted, the unofficial total showed Kemp’s lead was less than 68,000 votes out of more than 3.9 million cast. If Kemp’s final percentage is less than an outright majority, the race would go to a run-off.

But thanks to heavy-handed voter suppression tactics (and possibly some pure ineptitude) in his current job overseeing the state’s elections, Kemp’s margin of victory may well be smaller than the number of eligible citizens he prevented from exercising their right to vote.

Credit: Georgia Secretary of State's unofficial results.
Credit: Georgia Secretary of State's unofficial results.

On Tuesday, ThinkProgress watched voters in Gwinnett County endure four-and-a-half hour lines at polling places due to broken voting machines.

The majority-minority county strongly favored Democratic candidates on Tuesday, but not even a court-ordered extension of voting hours could make up for the reality that many of the citizens who tried to cast their votes during the morning did not have time to wait or return. Similar issues were reported in Fulton County as well.

Elsewhere, large numbers of black voters at Georgia State University told ThinkProgress they were forced to cast provisional ballots — which may or may not be counted — with little or no explanation as to why they were not allowed to vote normally or how to have their votes counted.

Ironically, even Kemp himself had trouble casting his ballot.

Even more concerning than day-of chaos and confusion were the systematic attempts by Kemp to reject eligible voters through suppression tactics. While presiding over the election he ran in, he was caught admitting to his supporters that if all Georgians voted, he would lose. To ensure that would not happen, he oversaw the purging of more than one million “inactive” voters from the voting rolls and attempted to implement an illegal scheme to reject tens of thousands of absentee ballot requests that he said did not have an “exact” signature match. One Emory University professor compared the election administration to one the U.S. State Department would call illegitimate in a foreign country.


There is no way to know how many votes Abrams and Kemp would have garnered in a fairly run election. But it seems likely that should Kemp win, his victory will carry a stench of illegitimacy.