Protesters swarmed the Georgia state capitol on Monday, with a group of eight demonstrators refusing to leave Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R)’s office until he offered an explanation for why some 40,000 voter registrations have reportedly disappeared from the state’s database.
Think Progress reported that Kemp never emerged from his inner office and had the eight protesters taken away in handcuffs, charged with disrupting government business.
“Nobody here wants to go to jail,” said activist Tim Franzen of the American Friends Service Committee. “We’d rather just go home. But we have to do something to answer this egregious act of voter suppression. When 40,000 Georgians show up to vote, they’re going to find their names missing from their polling places. It’s unacceptable.”
On hand at the event were representatives of the New Georgia Project (NGP), the voter registration group targeted by Kemp in a purported vote fraud scandal. The 40,000 missing registrations represent approximately half of the 86,000 state residents — many of whom are African-American — registered to vote by New Georgia since the spring.
NGP has sued the secretary of state’s office, saying that three of the counties where it collected registrants are missing names. However, county clerks in the affected jurisdictions claim that they have processed all eligible voter registration requests.
Kemp and his allies, recognizing the power of an organized African-American voting bloc in the state, set up a system by which New Georgia Project workers were punished for following the law. The voter advocacy group was required by Georgia law to submit all registrations, even ones they believed might be fraudulent.
Kemp’s office then launched a probe of the group, accusing them of knowingly attempting to register phony voters. In July, Kemp spoke to a group of supporters and assured them that NGP would go the way of now-defunct advocacy group ACORN.
“Everybody remembers ACORN, right?” Kemp said. “Well, when ACORN was out registering people to vote, they were filling out applications, they were sending stuff in, you don’t know who these people are, where they’re from, the people that are registered, and the people that are filling those out.”
Just like the charges against NGP, the charges against ACORN were ultimately debunked.
Dr. Francys Johnson, the president of the Georgia NAACP, said that Kemp’s office is resorting to the same old conservative tactics to keep black voters and other traditionally Democratic constituencies away from the polls.
“What the Secretary of State is doing is nothing new for Georgia,” Johnson said. “It goes back through a long line of efforts to deny some people access to the ballot. Today, the people have had enough. We have caught the Secretary of State with his hands in the cookie jar. Georgia deserves better.”
In the state, incumbent Republican Gov. Nathan Deal is running neck-in-neck with Democratic challenger Jason Carter. Democratic Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn is in a statistical dead heat against Republican David Perdue to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
The missing tens of thousands of voters, Johnson told Think Progress, could spell victory for either side.
“We are here to stop an election from being stolen,” he said.