Stacey Abrams is sticking to her playbook. Yes, she is continuing to call on her Republican opponent Brian Kemp — who also is Georgia’s secretary of state — to resign his post as guardian of the state electoral system.
But whether he does or not, Abrams says her goal remains unchanged: to focus on turning out the very voters Kemp is trying to scare away from the polls.
Two voting rights groups filed a lawsuit on Thursday accusing Kemp (R) of unlawfully blocking 53,000 voter registrations ahead of the November election — a revelation that prompted Abrams’ calls for Kemp to step aside.
As ThinkProgress’ Kira Lerner reported this week, Kemp’s office, using an “exact match” voter registration system, flagged voter registration forms if an individual’s information did not perfectly match the information on file in the Department of Driver Services or Social Security Administration databases.
Abrams (D) told MSNBC that with the Georgia gubernatorial race all tied up, she likes her odds against Kemp.
A recent poll by the Atlanta Journal Constitution gave Kemp 47.7 percent of the vote and Abrams 46.3 percent, a result which Abrams feels undercounts her support because it does fully take into account long-marginalized minority and impoverished voters who have been a focus of her get-out-the-vote efforts.
“To be in a dead heat is a great thing for a Democrat, a great place for a Democrat to be, because we’re not just counting on likely voters. We’re also counting on unlikely voters, those who don’t normally show up in midterm elections,” Abrams told The Rachel Maddow Show.
“Our campaign has been working since June of 2017 to engage and turn these voters and we’ve seen extraordinary numbers,” Abrams, former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, said Friday night.
“Early voting by absentee ballots are up dramatically, and they are including a lot of people of color who’ve never voted absentee before or participated in midterms. So we’re very bullish on our ability to win,” added Abrams, who would be the first black woman governor in the United States if she wins.
In some cases, the error resulting in a flagged voter registration was minuscule, such as a missing hyphen. And the Associated Press reported this week that 70 percent of the registrations placed in a “pending” status belonged to African American voters. Many of the others have been Hispanic or Asian American.
Meanwhile, Kemp in a statement released Friday dismissed his critics, whom he brushed aside as “outside agitators.”
But Abrams said her Republican opponent has had a long history of using the levers of government to try to keep government in Georgia in the hands of white, Republican men.
“Brian Kemp has been an exquisite architect of voter suppression for the last decade, and the outside agitators he so blithely dismisses include Asian American groups based in the state of Georgia, Latino groups based in the state of Georgia, African American community organizations based in the state of Georgia who have been doing this work for decades,” Abrams told MSNBC.
“He’s wrong. He’s wrong in how he approaches the right to vote. He is wrong in his aggressive attempts to dissuade people from voting because voter suppression works in two ways. One is how he does it, which is to stop you from actually being able to cast a ballot. But the second is by creating this miasma of fear,” she said.
The lawsuit against Kemp, which was filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and the Campaign Legal Center, alleges that the exact match system violates the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act, and the U.S. Constitution.
Legal groups sued Kemp over the same issue before the 2016 presidential election, and a court ordered Kemp to restore the more than 40,000 registrations he put on hold that year.
Kemp has returned to a similar strategy this year, but Abrams said it won’t work. Empowering voters trumps disenfranchising them, she said.
“We’ve won before and we will win again, but we beat him first by making sure that the 53,000 have all the good information they need,” Abrams said.
The key to winning, she said, is getting people to take advantage of early voting, which gets underway on Monday in Georgia, and encouraging people not to allow themselves to be intimidated from casting their ballots if officials challenge their registration.
“Our campaign is grounded in the belief if we tell people they have power and show them how to use it, they will use it and we will win this election.”