Georgia's “exact match” law requires voter information to be identical to other state records, or else the voter is moved to a pending list. An analysis from the Associated Press shows 70 percent of those voters with pending status are black.
Thousands of Georgia Voter Registrations Pending Amid Accusations of Voter Suppression
JOSÉ DÍAZ-BALART, anchor:
With just 17 days until the midterm elections, there is a huge push to get people to go out and vote. But that could be difficult for tens of thousands of people, especially in Georgia where more than 50,000 voters are in limbo. NBC's Rehema Ellis explains how it happened and why some are claiming voter suppression.
REHEMA ELLIS, reporting:
Marsha Appling-Nunez was showing her college students how to register to vote online when she got a rude awakening. After casting ballots in elections since she was 18, she discovered she was no longer registered. You were in disbelief.
MARSHA APPLING-NUNEZ: Yeah, yeah, and a little-- you know, definitely embarrassed.
ELLIS: How did this happen? Georgia has an Exact Match law requiring voter information be identical to other state records. If a single letter, a hyphen and abbreviation or anything is out of place, the registration goes on a pending list. In Marsha's case, the A in Appling was missing. Even more surprising, the Exact Match law seems to be discriminating by race. An Associated Press analysis shows nearly 70% of voters with pending status are black in a state that's only 32% black.
STACEY ABRAMS: We are Georgia.
ELLIS: Democrat Stacey Abrams is running for Georgia governor against Republican Brian Kemp, secretary of state, who's also in charge of voter registration.
ABRAMS: I have an opponent who has been an architect of voter suppression.
ELLIS: Kemp refused our request for an interview but on Fox News denies Abrams' claims.
BRIAN KEMP: Oh, that's a smoke screen trying to hide her radical views. Those folks that are on the pending list, all they have to do is go to the polls, show their photo ID and they can vote.
ABRAMS: The problem is he's not even allowing those legally permitted to vote to cast a ballot in the state without fear of being blocked and being suppressed.
ELLIS: Civil rights groups have now sued the secretary of state's office and Kemp alleging the Exact Match law has a discriminatory impact on African-Americans, Latino and Asian-American applicants.
JEANNE DUFONT: Why is it being implemented differently?
ELLIS: And in another lawsuit in Gwinnett County, where more than 60% of residents are minorities, 9.6% or nearly one in ten ballots are being rejected according to the lawsuit. By one analysis that's twelve times the reject rate of the rest of the state. But he says they're just following the letter of the state law.
DUFONT: But the law is the same in 159 counties. So why is it being implemented differently in Gwinnett County compared to all other counties?
ELLIS: After weeks and numerous attempts to correct her registration status, Marsha was cleared. What would you advise other people to do?
APPLING-NUNEZ: Stay diligent, stay active, check your voter registration status.
ELLIS: A lesson in democracy, this college professor never thought she'd have to teach. Rehema Ellis, NBC News, Atlanta.
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