'Right to Vote is Still Precariously Endangered': 50k Young, Minority Voters Disappear from Georgia Rolls


Georgia is widely considered open season for a political power shift this election season, and the fate of the state may rest in the hands of 90,000 newly registered voters, many of whom are minorities and people under the age of 25.  Registered in all 159 of Georgia’s counties by the New Georgia Project, the addition of these residents to the rolls could change the face of Georgia politics for decades and lead to representation more reflective of Georgia’s increasingly diverse population.  Sadly, the efficacy of the organizing drive may be left up to the legal system.

The New Georgia Project and the NAACP have taken the state to court after noticing that nearly 50,000 of the 90,000 registrations, predominantly from Democratic leaning regions, simply vanished.

Think Progress provides background for the legal case that could determine the state’s close senate and gubernatorial races. They explain how the state refused to meet with the groups once they discovered the discrepancy:

Georgia’s state minority leader Stacy Abrams (D), whose group The New Georgia Project led the massive registration drive in March and April, told ThinkProgress what happened next was “deeply disturbing.”

“We asked the Secretary of State to meet with us. We wanted to understand if we were doing something wrong, or if there was another database we didn’t have access to. But he refused to meet with us,” she said.

Joined by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Georgia NAACP, the organizers asked twice more for a meeting about the missing registrations. When early voting began across the state and they still had not heard from the Secretary of State, the New Georgia Project took them to court. In arguments on Friday, Francys Johnson, president of the Georgia NAACP, asked Fulton County Superior Court Judge Christopher Brasher to compel the state to process every valid registration.

“In 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, we were only able to know there were problems when it was too late, when people started showing up to the polls and they were not on the voter rolls, and folks were already disenfranchised,” Johnson explained to ThinkProgress over the phone. “We must catch that disenfranchisement before it takes place.”

In response to the accusations, Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp said that voters could still cast provisional ballots. However, without registration cards many new voters may not know where to vote. Francys Johnson, President of the Georgia NAACP, argues that provisional ballots are not an acceptable compromise in an election with so much at stake. “I cannot tell you what little return we actually see in terms of provisional ballots,” she told Think Progress. “The election is decided the night of the election. It’s not really a ballot at all.”

It is difficult to side with the state when the Secretary of State himself has accused the New Georgia Project and the NAACP of fraud despite an investigation which found that of 85,000 registrations only 25 were confirmed forgeries. Johnson argues that these accusations will not have the “chilling effect” on the group’s efforts that may have been intended.

“If you accuse people of fraud, the public will believe there is fraud, just like if you yell ‘fire,’ people run,” she said. “The problem is, if there is no fire, you’re causing damage, and if there is no fraud, you’ve damaged reputations.

If they thought it would have a chilling effect on voter registration efforts, they were mistaken. It has emboldened our efforts. It has awakened the consciousness of people that the right to vote is still precariously endangered.

House Minority leader Stacy Abrams, head of the New Georgia Project, says with such limited time before the election there is little chance the legal process can play out appropriately.  Abrams argues that the establishment’s voter-stifling efforts could have horrific long-term effects:

“Fast-forward ten years, and you’ll have a majority-minority population that has even less power than it has right now, because they’ll have become so disengaged, ” she warned. “And the people with power will solidify that power and put up barriers to any possible change.”

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