The State of Georgia is once again targeting people for helping Black voters exercise their freedom to vote. Secretary of State Brian Kemp recommended that Attorney General Christopher Carr charge fourteen canvassers with a felony facing up to ten years in prison and a one-hundred thousand dollar fine, for incorrect voter registration forms.1 There were just 53 allegedly false voter registration applications out of the more than 86,000 submitted by the New Georgia Project that year — just 0.06% errors.
It is clear that Brian Kemp is using his office to score political points in his quest to become the next Governor of Georgia and attacking his potential opponent, Democratic gubernatorial candidate, and House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, who founded the New Georgia Project and launched its voter registration efforts in 2014, in the process. This recommendation of charges represents a returning national trend of using the criminal justice system to intimidate Black voters from exercising our political voice and registering to vote. Attorney General Carr is up for election in 2018 and he needs to know that we’ll be watching if he uses his office to prosecute people working to help Black voters get to the polls.
The New Georgia Project registered 86,000 new voters in 2014 alone. The reason the New Georgia Project has been targeted by Brian Kemp since its inception is because they are expanding the electorate increasing the number of Black voters, young voters and voters from other communities of colors in Georgia.2 Kemp is attacking these canvassers for taking on a role his office intentionally fails to do: register new voters. If Kemp’s office were actually interested in expanding the electorate and ensuring Black people, young people and communities of color were registered to vote, there would be no need for the New Georgia Project to run complicated and labor intensive voter registration drives for tens of thousands of new voters each year.
Brian Kemp and Republican support for the Pence-Kobach Commission, voter ID laws, racially biased gerrymandering and the proposal to reduce polling places in Black communities all point to a concerted effort to reduce our electoral power.3 We have seen the results of this national effort in the election of Donald Trump and House Republicans holding a majority despite receiving fewer votes during the election. We must now demand that the State of Georgia honor our freedom to vote and reject Brian Kemp’s recommendation to prosecute canvassers for expanding access to the ballot.
The decision to move forward with charges is now in the hands of Attorney General Christopher Carr. We are calling on Attorney General Carr not to use the courts to suppress our votes and decline to pursue any charges against these canvassers. We must make him know that we will no longer allow our freedom to vote to remain under attack. Will you sign the petition?
The fight for our access to the ballot has been fought since Reconstruction. We have won the fight to outlaw literacy tests and poll taxes but we still have to fight against the use of the law to keep us away from the ballot. Olivia Pearson, a grandmother and Douglas County Commissioner is scheduled to stand trial in Georgia soon for assisting Black voters.4 In Indiana, Mike Pence’s home state, canvassers are facing similar charges after State Police raided their headquarters this past fall. Republicans are using prosecution rather than persuasion as their primary tool to win elections.
The people of Georgia have fought long and hard to give everyone access to the ballot and we cannot allow Republicans like Brian Kemp to chip away at that with frivolous charges and racist policy. Instead of using his office to boost his political profile and target Black communities we need Election Officials who are serious about increasing civic participation. Instead of looking to publicize and prosecute canvassers 0.06% rate of applications with problems, Brian Kemp should focus on improving a voter turnout rate that sits at an average of 52.60% of voting age population, near the bottom nationwide.5
We have an opportunity to stop the criminalization of Black voting today! We can demand that Attorney General Carr not go along with this plot to target Black voters. We must make our voices heard now to protect our electoral power. Folks who are working to make sure we all have the power to exercise our freedom to vote should be protected. Attorney General Carr must not bring charges against these canvassers.
Until justice is real,
— Brandi, Rashad, Arisha, Johnny, Kristen, Chad, and the Color Of Change team
1. “Georgia AG gets 53 forms in fraud probe of Stacey Abrams’ voter registration group,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 09-20-2017
2. “Concern Over New-Voter Registration In Georgia Ahead Of Election,” WABE, 7-14-17
3. “Fulton Voting Precincts Might Close In Black Neighborhoods,”New York Post, 09-16-2017
4. “Racist Voter Suppression Revealed in a Small-Town Voter Fraud Trial,” yes! magazine, 10-13-2017