Politics

House Oversight Committee Opens Investigation Into Alleged Georgia Voter Suppression

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
  • The House Oversight Committee announced it is launching an investigation into voter suppression claims in the state of Georgia. 
  • Since losing her gubernatorial election by over 54,700 votes in November, Abrams has repeatedly blamed her loss on voter suppression at the hands of then-Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. 
  • Republicans have framed the investigation as partisan and only intended to elevate Abrams’s political ambitions. 

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform announced Wednesday it is launching an investigation into allegations of voter suppression in Georgia during the 2018 elections.

“The Committee on Oversight and Reform is investigating recent reports of serious problems with voter registration, voter access, and other matters affecting the ability of people in Georgia to exercise their right to vote,” read the letter, which was sent to Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s office.

“[T]he Secretary of State’s Office reportedly cancelled voter registrations for more than 1.4 million Georgians, including 670,000 in 2017 alone. In 2018, 53,000 Georgians, most of them minorities, who tried to register had their applications placed on hold by your office,” the letter continued. “In addition, county and state officials have closed more than 200 polling places across Georgia since 2012.”

A separate letter was also sent to Republican Brad Raffensperger, who took over Kemp’s position as Georgia secretary of state following the midterm elections.

The issues brought up by the Oversight Committee — which is chaired by Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings — closely mirror complaints made by Stacey Abrams since her election loss to Kemp in November.

Abrams lost her gubernatorial bid to Kemp by over 54,700 votes. However, the former state representative and romance novelist has repeatedly accused Kemp of suppressing Democratic and minority voters to sway the election in his favor. Abrams has gone on to form a voting rights group to change the state’s election laws, and she has used her activism to remain in the national spotlight as she mulls a possible 2020 campaign for the Senate.

Much like Abrams’s accusations, the Oversight letter appears to blame Kemp for developments that are outside of the Georgia secretary of state’s authority.

The decision whether to open, close or consolidate polling stations in Georgia is completely determined by county boards and superintendents — not by the secretary of state’s office.

The Oversight letter specifically cited an instance where officials “reportedly considered closing nearly all polling sites in one majority African American county, although they ultimately relented after public scrutiny.” This was in reference to Randolph County, a Democratic-leaning and sparely populated county where less than 3,000 people voted in the last election.

Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams speaks to supporters during a midterm election night party in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., Nov. 7, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams speaks to supporters during a midterm election night party in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., Nov. 7, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

A consultant had suggested before the midterms that the county eliminate seven of its nine polling sites in an effort to save money. Not only does the secretary of state’s (SOS) office not have authority in that decision process, but an official from the SOS office wrote a letter to the county’s board of elections and recommended they vote against the idea — which they ultimately chose not to do.

The Oversight Committee also raised alarms by the number of voters taken off the rolls and voter registration applications that have been put on hold. However, Georgia Republicans have countered that voters are taken off the rolls in accordance with the state’s “use it or lose it” laws, and voter registrations are always put on hold if information is insufficient or does not match. An expert with Georgia’s election laws pointed out to The Daily Caller News Foundation that any individual deemed to have an “unverified status” only needs to show up to a polling station with proper ID in order to vote.

Coincidently, Abrams led a voter registration drive that targeted minority communities. Her initiative, the New Georgia Project, was responsible for submitting a large number of registrations that included incorrect or unmatching information, leading to an outsized number of minority voters to be placed on “unverified status.”

Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, the ranking member of the Oversight Committee, took a swipe at Democrats’s attempt to elevate Abrams’s voter suppression claims.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp attends the Election Night event at the Classic Center on November 6, 2018 in Athens, Georgia. Kemp is in a close race with Democrat Stacey Abrams. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp attends the Election Night event at the Classic Center on Nov. 6, 2018 in Athens, Georgia. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

“It’s highly unusual for a Congressional Committee to involve itself in a state’s election. This is squarely in the purview of the state of Georgia, not the House Oversight Committee. We can’t help but think that attempts by the Democrats to insert the Committee into the state’s business is an attempt to relitigate an election result that they do not like,” Jordan said in a statement to TheDCNF. (RELATED: Hillary Clinton Claimed Stacey Abrams ‘Should Be Governor’ During Bloody Sunday Speech)

A Republican aide familiar with the matter added that it was “rich” for Democrats to investigate voter suppression claims by someone who is content with illegal immigrants participating in elections. GOP sources also accused Cummings and other Democrats on the committee of opening the investigation solely to give Abrams a platform as she considers a 2020 challenge against Georgia GOP Sen. David Perdue. Abrams says she will make a final decision regarding a campaign later this month.

“One-hundred percent chance they did this to prop [Abrams] up to run for something big,” a Georgia Republican strategist claimed.

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