ATLANTA — Just one week away from the start of early voting, at least 42,000 residents who registered to vote still haven’t been given that right.
Some applied as far back as April.
“The Secretary of State is supposed to represent all the people — Democrats, Republicans, Independents, registered and unregistered voters alike,” Congressman John Lewis said Monday, during a press conference hosted by the New Georgia Project in Atlanta. “But it seems like the Secretary of State of Georgia has picked sides in this election. It seems he is not on the side of the people of this state.”
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic party leader in the state House of Representatives, leads the New Georgia Project, an initiative that aims to register minority groups to vote. The initiative was successful in registering 86,000 new voters — but Abrams said the group can’t understand why half those new voters haven’t shown up on Georgia’s official list of registered voters, yet.
Abrams and Lewis joined Congressman Sanford Bishop, the NAACP, religious leaders and others in demanding an answer to the problem from Secretary of State Brian Kemp — the man who is ultimately in charge of voting in Georgia.
“The New Georgia Project submitted 86,000 voting applications in April,” Lewis said. “Why is it, Mr. Secretary, that less than half of these voters have made it onto the voting roll almost six months later? These people were barred from voting in the primary in May and we’re here today because we believe they may be barred from voting next month in the General Election.”
State and religious officials were also joined by Diamond Walton, a first-year student at Columbus State University who registered to vote in Columbus through the New Georgia Project back in August. The 18-year-old said she was looking forward to voting in her first election.
“Every vote counts and I would like to be counted,” she said.
But Walton still has not received her voting registration card.
“My situation is not unique and that is why it is so troubling,” she said.
Abrams said voter registration information in Georgia is either submitted directly to the Secretary of State’s office or to whatever county the voter lives in. Kemp’s office sends applications submitted there to the appropriate counties for processing.
“The county evaluates and verifies the forms and if information is missing, those applicants are notified and they’re put on the pending list, meaning they’re going to be registered pending verification of their eligibility,” Abrams said.
When the county verifies all the information, the applications are sent back to Kemp’s office for a process called “matching.”
“That is the citizenship match that Georgia requires that has come under grave scrutiny in the past and this year is the first time we’re doing it with a major election,” Abrams said.
Abrams said she couldn’t say for sure where registration was stalling — just that almost half of the voters New Georgia Project helped register don’t show up on either the voting roll or the pending list.
“We cannot find our people — 40,000 of them,” she said. “We cannot find them on either list. We don’t know where they are.”
Abrams and her supporters fear these disenfranchised residents will be unable to vote in the early elections in the coming week. They’re even wondering if Kemp’s office will find the missing voters by the November elections.
It was unclear as of press time how many of these lost voters may be from Henry County.
“We are in a state of emergency here in Georgia,” Lewis said. “It’s looking like we are having an ongoing problem — a problem that the Voting Rights Act helped rectify for 50 short years, but a problem that can run rampant today if we do not speak out or speak up and make a little noise.”
Concerned voters should contact Election Protection at 866-687-8683, according to a New Georgia Project press release.