Commentary: Here’s how Brian Kemp is stealing the Georgia election

Half a million Georgia voters were purged with no notice — and their provisional ballots likely won't be counted

Published November 9, 2018 2:05PM (EST)

Brian Kemp (AP/Getty/Salon)
Brian Kemp (AP/Getty/Salon)

Brian Kemp, who until this week was Georgia’s secretary of state, is stealing the gubernatorial election from Stacey Abrams. Here’s how.

We can begin with 92-year-old Christine Jordan, who blocked from voting. Watch this 59-second video of Jordan, who is Martin Luther King Jr.’s cousin, booted from the polls with her granddaughter in tears.

Jordan was just one victim of Kemp’s mass cancellation of voter registrations -— more than half a million Georgians purged in the night, stealthily, hidden from the public eye.

I’m not guessing. I had to sue Kemp in federal court to pry out of him the names and addresses of each voter whose rights he cancelled.  

Until Thursday, Kemp was Georgia’s secretary of state, running the election and running for governor.  If you don’t like gross conflicts of interest, stay out of Georgia.

Kemp’s “placebo ballots” could win the election

When those half million voters showed up to vote, they were denied regular ballots –- and most were given something called a “provisional ballot.”  

When some GOP voting chieftain takes away your vote, they don’t want you to raise hell. So they give you this “provisional” ballot. That way, you feel like you voted, but you haven’t. Not in Georgia.

Guess who set the rules on whether to count your ballot?  Answer: Candidate Kemp.

Voting rights activist Stacey Hopkins’ son was purged – despite a court order Stacey obtained, with the help of the ACLU, to put him back on the rolls -- along with 159,000 other Georgians Kemp wrongfully purged. Kemp apparently decided to ignore the courts. Again.

The result, says Hopkins: “They were handing out provisional ballots like Chiclets. In our precinct, which normally hands out 11 in an election, they handed out over 60.”  

My team went to the campus of Emory University on Tuesday night, where nearly all the students who showed up to vote were black (although Emory is not a historically or predominantly black institution). Long lines kept the polls open until 10 p.m., and they ran out of provisional ballots by 4. When Kemp’s office sent over a stack, students filled out more than 100 provisionals in this precinct alone. And that was just one of thousands in the state.

As Salon has previously reported, the Palast Investigative Fund hired experts at CohereOne to identify 340,134 voters whom they will swear in court Brian Kemp illegally removed from the rolls. And CohereOne is far from done going through Kemp’s voter-registration dumpster.

Those voters got no notice they were purged. When, like Atlanta filmmaker Rahiem Shabazz, they showed up to vote, they were ambushed with the “placebo ballot.”

I went with Shabazz to his precinct on Tuesday morning. He was not happy: "They put my ballot in a red bag, like it was biological hazard,” he said. “They might throw it away. Kemp or his chosen successor gets to decide whether to count my ballot! The suppressor-in-chief working for the racist-in-chief, Donald Trump.”  

How many provisional ballots were cast in this election? Given the number of purged voters, given the arcane rule of “exact match” of driver’s license data and voter forms, given Georgia’s racially targeted voter ID laws –- I could go on -– it’s reasonable to project provisional ballots reaching 50,000.

Then there are voters like Yasmin Bakhtiari of Atlanta, who tried to vote and was flatly denied even a provisional ballot — she asked three times within two hours — in direct violation of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

They tried to do that to Ashlee Jones in DeKalb County.  She had registered to vote twice on Kemp’s website and got no confirmation. Jones was told she could not even get a provisional ballot. (I admit I got a little heavy with the precinct officials, and turned on the cameras. Jones got her provisional ballot. But that tiny victory was Pyrrhic: She knows Kemp or his replacement is likely to shred it.)

Our researcher Rachel Garbus called several rural counties whose supervisors told her that no purged voter would get a provisional ballot, only those who “deserved” it. Having witnessed the scary Kemp-Trump rally last Sunday, I can tell you the color of “deserving” voters.

So far, it appears that most provisional ballots, and stacks of absentee ballots, have simply been rejected. Yet there is zero evidence that even one of these voters who signed their ballot envelopes under penalty of perjury is not a qualified voter.

As I write this, Kemp has already declared himself the next governor — and, under pressure from a federal judge, has resigned as secretary of state. Of course, his voter-roll slashing is done, and he can safely step aside as Georgia’s Purgin’ General.

So there you have it. You could say the real winner of the election in Georgia appears to be Jim Crow — now Dr. James Crow, clad in respectable language and armed with databases.

By Greg Palast

Salon contributor Greg Palast is author of several New York Times bestsellers, including "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy," now a documentary feature.

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