Emory students and faculty registered to vote in Georgia will have another chance to make their voices heard at the ballot box on Dec. 4: this time, in the runoff election for secretary of state. Brian Kemp’s rocky tenure in this position demonstrated the statewide office’s significance. To avoid more flagrant acts of voter suppression, it’s imperative that Emory community members show up to oppose Republican Brad Raffensperger and vote for Democrat John Barrow.
Raffensperger has already pledged to continue Kemp’s most controversial elections policies — both strengthening voter ID laws and “keep[ing] our voter lists clean and updated.” While these sound nice to the ear, both are blatant voter suppression tactics.
If elected, Raffensperger would only perpetuate Kemp’s legacy of rejecting absentee ballots, purging voters and disproportionately denying minorities the ability to vote. Raffensperger’s proposed strengthening of voter ID laws would suppress turnout and disproportionately impact low-income and minority voters. After Shelby County v. Holder ended the Voting Rights Act’s doctrine of federal preclearance that prevented certain states from changing their voting laws without federal approval, there has been a surge in strict voter ID laws in those places, including Georgia. Conservative lawmakers’ own words on voter ID laws suggest the racist intentions behind their tactics. These laws are often justified by complaints about illegal voting by undocumented immigrants, but federal investigations found no evidence to support these claims; Trump’s complaints about widespread illegal voting were met with charges filed against only 19 foreign nationals. Worse, Raffensperger’s own website says he supports voter ID laws because he “strongly believes that only legal American citizens should vote.” While a concern about “illegal citizens” seems oxymoronic, Raffensperger is presumably referring to voting done by the same undocumented non-citizens that Trump’s voter fraud commission could not find evidence to support.
Raffensperger’s last point is the most harrowing. What could he mean by cleaning and updating Georgia’s voter lists beyond purging them again? Kemp infamously purged over half a million voters in July 2017, part of a broader spike in voter roll cleansing during his tenure as secretary of state.
In contrast, Barrow opposes legislation to remove previously inactive voter from registration rolls, a practice that he identifies as discriminatory and as going against citizens’ constitutionally protected right to vote. He also supports leniency in voter ID laws, and notes that difficulty presenting certain forms of ID or lapses in an individual’s voting history should not prevent them from voting in an election.
As residents of Georgia, members of the Emory community must express their concern for free and fair elections at next Tuesday’s run-off. Instead of wallowing in frustration over Abrams’ loss, the Emory community must show up at the ballot box.
The Editorial Board is composed of Zach Ball, Jacob Busch, Ryan Fan, Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Boris Niyonzima, Omar Obregon-Cuebas, Shreya Pabbaraju, Isaiah Sirois, Madison Stephens and Kimia Tabatabaei.