Democrat Stacey Abrams says democracy failed in Georgia: "It was not a free and fair election"

Abrams argued that Brian Kemp oversaw "systematic" voter suppression in the state during an interview with MSNBC

Published November 20, 2018 12:28PM (EST)

Stacey Abrams (Getty/Jessica McGowan)
Stacey Abrams (Getty/Jessica McGowan)

Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams may have ended her nationally-watched campaign to become the next governor of Georgia last week, which extended far beyond the Nov. 6 midterms. However, she argues that the election was neither free or fair.

In an interview Monday night with MSNBC's Chris Hayes, Abrams claimed that her opponent, Republican Brian Kemp, who only resigned his post as Georgia's secretary of state after he oversaw his own election, had overseen "systematic and systemic" voter suppression in Georgia.

"It was not a free and fair election," Abrams said. "We had thousands of Georgians who were purged from the rolls wrongly, including a 92-year-old woman who had voted in the same area since 1968 ― a civil rights leader."

"It was not fair to the thousands who were forced to wait in long lines, because their polling places were under-resourced or – worse – they had no polling places to go to, because more than 300 had been closed," she continued. "It was not fair to the thousands that were put on hold with their registrations. And it was not fair to those who filled out absentee ballots, and depending on the county you sent it to, it either was counted or not counted – assuming you received it in time."

In October, the Associated Press first reported that 53,000 voter registrations had been placed on hold by Kemp's office, because of the state's "exact match" law, which disproportionately impacts non-white voters. Seventy percent of the voter registration applications that were stalled were reportedly from African-Americans. Further, Kemp's office had wrongly purged more than 300,000 voters from the voting rolls, journalist Greg Palast told Salon.

"Brian Kemp oversaw for eight years the systematic and systemic dismantling of our democracy – and that means there could not be free and fair elections in Georgia this year," Abrams said on MSNBC.

It is a point Abrams also echoed to Rolling Stone. "What was very clear, and very evident, is that this was gross mismanagement of our elections process in Georgia," she told the outlet on Sunday. "And, as someone who has always pursued public service for exactly that reason – to serve the public — my recourse in my mind was best served by making sure no one else had to do this. That no one else had to try to strike back against someone who was the architect of the suppression but was also the judge of whether the suppression happened. That is inexcusable and indefensible, but it also illuminated how fragile our system can be when we do not hold people to account every time."

In the wake of such rampant voter suppression, Abrams is preparing a federal lawsuit that "alleges mismanagement of the election and the larger voter system," according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "My belief is that we have built a solid case that will yield real change and substantive reforms to our elections in the state of Georgia through the administration of this case," she said, adding that the lawsuit will build on information and experiences from voters.

Abrams told CNN on Sunday that she also plans to run for office again. "I'm going to spend the next year as a private citizen, but I do indeed intend to run for office again," she said. "I'm not sure for what, and I am not exactly certain when. I need to take a nap. But, once I do, I'm planning to get back into the ring."

By Rachel Leah

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Brian Kemp Georgia Midterms 2018 Race Stacey Abrams Voter Suppression