Amid close elections and accusations of corruption in recent years, Georgia’s protection of voting rights have been controversial due to acts of voter suppression by election officials. One important part of the voter rights issue are the purges which have largely contributed to voter suppression in Georgia. Georgia officials must end unnecessary voter purges because the process is unethical and hinders a citizen’s fundamental right to vote.
Georgia’s government plans to remove about 300,000 people from its list of eligible voters, a shocking 4 percent of all citizens registered to vote in the state. While some of the people are scheduled to be removed from the list due to legitimate reasons, such as moving out of state, some are simply voters who have not been active in the last two election cycles. Voters should not be punished simply because they have chosen not to exercise their right to vote in recent elections; they should still be given the opportunity to vote if they choose to do so. While these voters would be given the opportunity to re-register if they confirm via mail, this still places an unnecessary burden on voters to put in extra effort if they want to vote.
It is vital to curb any act of voter suppression due to the high stakes of future elections in Georgia. With Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) retiring and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) up for re-election, two Senate seats in Georgia are up for grabs, making the upcoming election especially contentious. Especially considering that citizens usually elect two candidates of the same party during double-barrel Senate elections, elections in which both Senate seats are up for grabs, this upcoming election is vital to the future of Georgia. Any eligible voter should not be unfairly removed from voter registries.
Voter purges, sometimes the deciding factor in elections, have disproportionately affected minority voters. Given the growth of minority populations, Georgia has seen an increasing shift left in recent years. However, repression of minority interests have prevented Democratic candidates from gaining ground in Georgia, such as in the 2018 gubernatorial election, when Gov. Brian Kemp narrowly overtook Democrat Stacey Abrams by 1.4 percentage points. Advocacy groups for voters’ rights argued that Kemp unfairly won, as he presided as Georgia’s secretary of state at the time and allegedly took measures to undermine voters’ rights. His position of power as an elections official while running for Senate clearly gave him a substantial advantage in the election. Voter purges must be eliminated to give Democratic candidates a fair chance in elections and to ensure that minorities retain their right to vote.
The “exact match” process by which voters are removed is extremely unethical. The Associated Press indicated that of the 53,000 voters who were removed from the registry during last year’s gubernatorial election, 70 percent were black. The reasoning behind these voters’ removal was failure to comply to the “exact match” process. Within this process, state officials have the power to remove voters simply because of a missed hyphen or a typo, meaning voters were being purged simply for trivial mistakes. Clearly, this process is biased and removes voters for insufficient reasons.
Some would argue that voter purges are necessary to prevent fraud or remove ineligible voters. However, voter fraud is extremely uncommon as incident rates are between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. To put this into perspective, an American has a greater chance of being struck by lightning than committing voter fraud. In fact, most cases of so-called voter fraud simply result from clerical errors or mistakes by election officials. In addition, voter purges have been riddled with mistakes. Ohio was set to purge about 235,000 voters this September; however, advocacy groups found that about 40,000 people, roughly a fifth of the total number of people set to be removed from the rolls, were on the list due to administrative error and not for legitimate reasons. Extreme and unwarranted voter purges such as these must come to an end.
Since her defeat in the election, Abrams has taken strong measures to fight voter suppression nationwide. Abrams has founded an initiative called Fair Fight 2020, an organization that plans to help ensure that 20 battleground states will protect voters’ rights and prevent suppression through voter purges in upcoming elections. It is imperative that we support anti-voter suppression efforts like Abrams’ group to ensure that our elections remain fair and every person has the chance to vote.
Abrams was right in her assertion that this is about more than a single election or mishap. “It’s about whether citizens are allowed to be voters,” she said during Code Conference 2019
If you are registered to vote in Georgia and want to check if your registration was cancelled, you can do so here.
Brammhi Balarajan (23C) is from Las Vegas.