On Nov. 6, 2018, midterm elections will take place and voters will decide who to elect as governor of their state. As the election draws closer, all eyes have been on the state of Georgia, where current Secretary of State Brian Kemp has been accused of suppressing black voters from voting in the upcoming election. So many potential voters are being held from voting in this midterm election, and it is just plain wrong. The allegations, according to the Associated Press, are that “at least 53,000 voter registration applications, the large majority of them from black voters, are being held for additional screening in the state of Georgia, potentially removing the ability for a significant number of people to vote in the November election.” Voter applications are required to go through the “exact match” process where all of the information on each voter application must match the information on file with the state. The Associated Press reports that Kemp’s office has been holding these applications for further screening because they were flagged during this matching process. There have been many issues with this process because it “creates confusion for voters who don’t know that they’ve been flagged in the system, or those who think a pending registration means they shouldn’t even bother going to the polls.” If there are issues like these with a process as important as checking voting registration forms, then it really should be addressed so that the majority of people who want to vote are able to. There really should be no excuses because voting is a serious element of our country, and Kemp is taking that right away from people while blaming it on some confusing matching process. It has also been said that these allegations are very timely, in the case of suppression of black votes, considering Kemp’s competition is Stacey Abrams, an African American woman who could make history as the first female African American governor in our country’s history. Could Kemp really be trying to suppress the votes of his rival’s potential major support system, just so he can keep his political status? If so, that is a very bold yet immature move, and even though I am not a resident of Georgia, he is still a representative of our country. These actions of suppressing the votes of African American people are just wrong, whether or not it is a problem with the matching system, because everyone eligible to vote should be able to. No confusing system or possibly discriminating secretary of state should stand in the way of Americans exercising their right to vote.
On Oct. 18 there was an incident at the Georgia Institute of Technology between a student member of the on-campus Young Democratic Socialists of America group, who remains unnamed, and Georgia Senator David Perdue. Perdue was at Georgia Tech campaigning for Kemp when said student approached him with his phone, which was recording the incident. The student began to ask Perdue about the suppression of voters but was cut off by Perdue saying: “I’m not doing that,” and then appearing to grab the student’s phone from him and asking “You wanted a picture?” multiple times, to which the student replied: “You stole my property.” The student asks for his phone back multiple times, and Perdue finally returns it before walking away to avoid further interaction with the student. Reported by Newsweek, in reaction to the incident, “a spokesperson for Perdue said that the incident had been a misunderstanding” and that “the senator clearly thought he was being asked to take a picture and he went to take a selfie as he often does.” This is clearly just an excuse that Perdue is using to cover up a scandal he probably does not need in this tense pre-election time. The student never outright asked Perdue for a picture, he asked him a relevant question, or at least tried to. In a situation like this, even if the accusations hurt Kemp’s campaign and Perdue was there to strengthen it, the senator should have acted in a more mature manner by either giving the student a prompt response or simply saying he had no comment at this time. The YDSA released a Twitter statement saying “It’s abhorrent that when our members ask their senators about the purging of voters within their state, they respond by stealing their phones, dismissing dissent, and ultimately prove that curbing of democracy is how they make capital stay in power,” and I couldn’t agree more.
Kemp’s actions really put the moral qualities of people in political positions into perspective and brings into question if Kemp is really dedicated to the state of Georgia, and to America as a whole. It is a civic duty of American citizens to vote. Laws barring African Americans from being able to vote have been abolished for a long time now, so it should not be an issue anymore. Abrams’ spokesperson, Abigail Collazo, spoke to CNN about Kemp’s accusations, saying he is “maliciously wielding the power of his office to suppress the vote for political gain and silence the voices of thousands of eligible voters — the majority of them people of color.” This is a cruel thing to do on Kemp’s part, and I agree with Collazo that it is malicious. Every American citizen of age and with the correct qualifications is allowed to vote, and any issues regarding people’s registrations should be tended to in order to make sure that as many people can vote as possible. Voting is how we can use our voice to be represented in this country, and it helps define our democracy and government of the people. Kemp is stripping this civic right away from many of the African American people of Georgia, and he should not have the power to strip it from anyone.