Shame on Governor Kemp

Shutterstock (Rena Schild)

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Last week Governor Kemp made an appearance on Fox News to defend his state’s decision to reduce voting rights throughout Georgia while comparing his actions to my state of Colorado. While listening to Governor Kemp speak, I was disgusted although not surprised. Kemp’s spin was misleading, lacking real context and in areas, blatant lies. Equally important, Kemp and his conservative Georgia lawmakers seem to have missed the entire point to the backlash surrounding the new voting rights law. On the heels of Covid and mail-in demand, Georgia had a tremendous opportunity to become a leader in the South and make the increase in voting rights permanent but instead they decided to declare all our war on our democracy. 

After listening to Governor Kemp repeatedly condone the MLB on his right-wing media circus tour for their decision to move the Allstar game to Denver, I’ve yet to hear him boast about what Georgia’s new law offers their residents. Policies like reducing the window to request a mail-in ballot, from 6 to 3 months. Nor does he seem to brag that he and his sycophants are massively reducing the number of drop boxes for Georgia constituents. In Colorado, we have one dropbox for every 9,400 active registered voters and under Georgia’s ‘new’ law, where like Colorado, there are plenty of rural areas and a handful of large cities, they have one for every 100,000 voters. 

On Nov 3, 2020, Atlanta had 94 drop boxes and under the new law, that number will drop to 23. Why does Mr. Kemp not share this with the national media? Nor does he give a shoutout about GA’s requirement that drop boxes be in government buildings, with 7 a.m. to 7 P.M. hours. Or the absolutely insane provision that would make it a crime to hand out food and water to those waiting in the long voting lines, as if handing out water to your fellow American would somehow convince them to vote for your candidate. Contrast that again with Colorado, where drop boxes are out in the open, available 24/7 and constantly monitored by surveillance. Waiting in lines, taking personal days or vacation leave to find the time to vote, and ID requirements are all extremely restrictive and bad for the health of our democracy. 

Comparing Georgia’s democracy to Colorado is no easy matter since Colorado has the 2nd highest turn-out in the U.S., making us one of the leading examples for voting rights in the country. Kemp boasts that Georgia now has 2 additional days of voting, at 17, compared to Colorado’s 15. This is a laughable and mostly moot point since few Colorado voters bother voting in person. In Colorado, every eligible voter is mailed a ballot 22 days before the election, regardless of whether they requested it or not. 

Regardless of what the right-wing media is spinning, mail-in ballots are not a conservative or liberal issue. The burning red state of Utah has used mail-in ballots prior to Covid and 90% of Utah voters, the majority republican, opt to vote by mail. In Colorado, 95% of us vote by mail – libertarians, conservatives and progressives alike. Governor Kemp spread more lies about Colorado’s voter ID laws and mail-in-ballot system on his media tour, claiming voter fraud runs rampant due to the lack of ID laws. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Colorado accepts 1 of 13 IDs, compared to Georgia’s 6, including a student ID, paycheck or Medicare/Medicaid card. I’d like to hear Kemp defend Georgia’s new law requiring all residents, including the sick, poor, and elderly that need an easy option to vote, to request a mail-in ballot and in addition, verify their ID via their mail-in ballot. This is an unnecessary barrier to voting that doesn’t add any layer of security and only serves to restrict voter access.

Major League Baseball and the many CEOs speaking out against these restrictive laws understand why they’re so destructive. They see right through the tried and true conservative strategy, throw out (pun intended) false information while bashing on the ground activists like Ms. Abrams, to distract from their real issue and purpose – limiting voter access for their opponents. It reminds me of the words of Paul Weyrich, the evangelical conservative who still influences the Republican Party of Georgia to this day. Before I had a change of heart, I was a supporter of Weyrich. And when I attended the Reagan/Quayle/Bush convention in 1988 in New Orleans, I trusted and believed what Mr. Weyrich promoted, when he said, “I don’t want everybody to vote. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Make no mistake that this mentality is still the driving force behind the Republican Party of Georgia and the national party as well. 

Last year, on election day, I was one of 198 out of state volunteers in Georgia, there to help protect democracy in a state well known for voter suppression. When I woke at 4:40 EST on election day, Nov 3, 2.6 million Coloradans had already voted. Less than 100,000 Coloradans would cast a ballot on election day because one-third of Coloradans voted 14 days prior to election day. A far cry from what America and the world saw on TV, where some Georgians waited in lines for as long as 12 hours. Whatever we hear today, do not forget why so many volunteers were in Georgia on election day. 

Over the past five years, Kemp’s office purged thousands of voters (Over 70% of them being voters of color). Plus, the Brennan Center’s data, showing Kemp’s office purged roughly 1.5 million registered voters between the 2012 and 2016 elections. And the recent report from American Public Media that found around 107,000 of the purged voters was due to a controversial “use it or lose it” law that removes voters from the rolls if they don’t vote within a certain amount of time. Georgia’s political stunts rig elections and disgrace American Democracy – just as it is a disgrace that Kemp, in 2018, refused to recuse himself from his then-position as Secretary of State, while running for governor.

Governor Kemp can cry all day long on Fox News if he wants to, but he can’t distract from the fact that his state is facing consequences for their anti-democratic actions. Shame on Governor Kemp and his support of Georgia’s new election laws. Americans deserve far better.

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