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Stacey Abrams won’t concede to Brian Kemp because his voter suppression was ‘truly appalling’

"The state failed its voters."

Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp shake hands before a debate in Atlanta, Georgia on October 23, 2018. (John Bazemore-Pool/Getty Images)
Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp shake hands before a debate in Atlanta, Georgia on October 23, 2018. (John Bazemore-Pool/Getty Images)

Stacey Abrams (D) acknowledged on Friday that she will not be the next governor of Georgia.

But the state’s former House Minority Leader, who was aiming to become the first Black woman governor in U.S. history, made it very clear in a speech to supporters in Atlanta that she was not conceding to Brian Kemp (R), the ex-Georgia secretary of state whose conduct in the campaign could be described as shady at best.

After remarking that her Republican opponent, who was endorsed by President Donald Trump many times, will be certified as the winner of the gubernatorial election, Abrams explained why she would not be delivering an official concession speech.

“[T]o watch an elected official who claims to represent the people in the state baldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling. So let’s be clear: This is not a speech of concession. Because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true, or proper. As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that.”

“The state failed its voters,” added Abrams, who is expected to finish around 18,000 votes short of forcing a runoff in the close race. “We live in a nation where four federal judges were necessary to force the counting of the ballots cast in the face of Brian Kemp’s opposition to and disregard for their lawful consideration.”

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The Democrat also announced her campaign would be filing a lawsuit against Kemp “for the gross mismanagement of this election” that he oversaw as secretary of state.

Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race was defined by the most blatant voter suppression in recent memory.

Kemp waited until declaring victory to resign from his role in which he was in charge of the state’s elections.

He  was sued last month for blocking 53,000 voter registrations. Nearly 70 percent of those blocked registrations belonged to Black people even though only 32 percent of Georgia’s population is Black.

However, that was just the tip of the iceberg, as WABE explained.

[T]hrough a process that Kemp calls voter roll maintenance and his opponents call voter roll purges, Kemp’s office has canceled over 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012. Nearly 670,000 registrations were cancelled in 2017 alone.

ThinkProgress has reported Kemp’s office used an “exact match” voter registration system that flags supposed irregularities if an individual’s information does not perfectly match the information on file with the Department of Driver Services or Social Security Administration.

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Mother Jones’ Ari Berman, an expert on voting rights, also cited the closing of 214 polling locations across the state since 2012. One-third of Georgia counties have reduced their number of voting precincts over the past six years. As Berman notes, “Though the decisions were made by individual counties, Kemp’s office advised them on how to close polling locations.”

Kemp also announced he was opening an investigation of Abrams’ campaign for possible “cyber crimes” in the days before the election without providing any proof of his claims.

“Brian Kemp has been an exquisite architect of voter suppression for the last decade,” Abrams told MSNBC last month.

ThinkProgress watched voters in the majority-minority Gwinnett County endure four-and-a-half hour lines at polling places on Election Day due to broken voting machines. Similar problems were reported in Fulton County, the second-largest county in the state. The broken machines resulted in a court-ordered extension of voting hours.

ThinkProgress also spoke with dozens of Black students in Atlanta who were forced to cast provisional ballots without understanding why their votes might not be counted.

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An election official was fired in August over his plan to close almost all of the polling locations in Randolph County, which is 61 percent Black.

Former President Barack Obama mentioned Kemp’s history of voter suppression while campaigning with Abrams shortly before the midterms.

“If you are aspiring to the highest office in the state in which you pledge to look out for the people of your state, then how can you actively try to prevent the citizens of your state from exercising their most basic right?”

Kemp, the apparent next governor of Georgia whose margin of victory is likely less than the number of voters that he suppressed, was caught on tape admitting he would likely lose the election if everyone voted.