Election Day in Georgia was marred by long lines and technical difficulties. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has refused to concede, and veteran journalist Greg Palast recently explained to Salon why she's right to keep fighting for every vote to be counted.
"The hidden story here in Georgia is the fight over the provisional ballots, something that didn't even exist until after the election was stolen in Florida in 2000," Palast told Salon on Election Day. "The provisional ballots are, if your name is missing from the voter rolls or there is an ID problem or something else that doesn't meet Georgia or any of Mr. Kemp's 'Chutes and Ladders' requirements to vote, you get this provisional ballot. You voted provisionally. Now what you fill out that provisional ballot, it's stuck in an envelope, and it looks like it's put in this orange envelope that looks like it's from 'Bio-Hazard.' They decide where that vote will be counted."
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for Georgia governor, is not conceding to her Republican opponent, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, instead calling for every vote in the state to been counted and promising her supporters a recount.
One month ago, journalist Greg Palast spoke to Salon about the rampant voter suppression in Georgia — in particular, how he had created a website that would help Georgia voters who had been purged from the rolls without their knowledge discover that this had happened. Later, Palast explained how he had learned that 340,134 voters had been wrongly removed from the rolls by Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is also the Republican candidate for governor.
On Tuesday, Palast discussed his own experiences helping purged Georgians exercise their constitutional rights, as well as the hidden battle over provisional ballots in the state.
"We have already been told that has Brian Kemp has laid down the law to all the counties, 'You are not to count provisional ballots of anyone who has been purged, even if they have been purged wrongly.' Now we have, as we know, 340,134 people purged for moving who didn't move. We don't know how many will vote, but if they show up, they have been given no notice, and when they show up a lot of them will be shocked to find that they have been removed from the voter rolls."
Palast then told Salon that Americans have a right to provisional ballot but that, under Kemp's rules, it is effectively a "placebo ballot," since Kemp has already worked hard to make sure those votes won't be counted.
— Greg Palast (@Greg_Palast) November 6, 2018
The journalist speculated that the fate of Georgia's elections may come down to a legal battle over whether the provisional ballots can be counted for people who have been purged. He also noted that a federal judge may tell Kemp that he can't order public officials not to count his opponent's ballots because of his obvious conflict of interest.
Then Palast fleshed out the issue by telling the stories of two voters he had spoken with on Tuesday.
"We were just at two polling stations with two voters. Both had been purged," Palast explained. "One is Rahiem Shabazz. And he didn't vote in a couple of elections... He's a filmmaker in Atlanta, a successful filmmaker here. And he didn't vote in a couple of elections, but under the United States Voter Registration Act of 1993, it says specifically you can't lose your vote for not voting. You can't lose your registration for not voting. Voting is a fundamental right. So how does Kemp get away with it? He and other GOP officials have been saying, 'Well, if you don't vote a couple times, that is evidence that you have moved either out of your county or even out of the state.' In the case of Rahiem he did move, so they sent him a postcard which they are required to do and say that they do. He wouldn't have gotten that card to save his vote. But he moved down the street within the city of Atlanta, with the county of Fulton. So he never should have been purged in the first place."
Palast added that no one has received a notice saying they had lost their right to vote, and that Shabazz only learned about it by going to Greg Palast's website. Unfortunately for Shabazz, he was told by Fulton County that they would need three weeks to verify his new address, which was a week past Election Day. Fulton County gave him a provisional ballot but told him that his vote will not be counted as a result of the rules of Brian Kemp.
Then Palast told the story of Ashlee Jones.
"She brought her daughter, Madilyn, who is 10-years-old, to show her American democracy at work," Palast recalled. "Ashlee Jones is an American mixture of African American, Latina and white. And she wanted to register, heard that she'd been purged and so she registered on Oct. 6, three days before the deadline. She got no notice back confirming her registration and so she does it online. She tried, made her concerns on the last day of registration, said 'I'm just gonna try again.' And again she got back no confirmation. A couple weeks later, she got a letter from Brian Kemp's office saying 'You must contact DeKalb County in Atlanta about your vote,' and all she got from DeKalb County was, 'Well you're not registered. You've been purged for not voting twice and now you can't vote here.'"
As Palast explained, many people who have been purged have not been told that they can get provisional ballots... and some are even told, wrongly, that they can't get provisional ballots.
"I walked in with Ashlee and our camera crews, which are allowed," Palast said. "They try to stop us but we have the lawyers behind us too. So we have camera crews and lawyers. And we are filming. And they told Ashlee 'Your name is not on the registration rolls here anymore, and therefore they found her old registration, but they told her, 'You can't vote now and you cannot get a provisional ballot even.' At which point I point out that that was a violation of federal law. We insist on it. They called DeKalb County. There was a lot of palaver but eventually got her provisional ballot.
Yet as Palast observed, Jones' provisional ballot most likely won't be counted anyway because of Kemp's rules.