ATLANTA (CN) — A new analysis of voter data reveals that Georgia officials removed an estimated 107,000 people from voter rolls because they did not vote in prior elections.
An investigation by American Public Media found that the state removed the voters during its massive 2017 purge under the "use it or lose it" law, which eliminates voters from registration lists if they fail to vote, don't make contact with election officials, or neglect to respond to a notice after a three-year period has elapsed.
Anyone who doesn't vote in two subsequent elections or make contact with election officials risks being purged from the voter rolls. Voters who cast ballots in the 2008 election but didn't turn out between 2010 and 2016 were removed in 2017.
Many dropped voters may not know they are no longer eligible to vote.
In March 2017, Georgia's Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced his intention to run for governor.
The July 2017 purge resulted in the removal of over half a million voters in a single day – including those cut for ‘inactivity’ – reducing Georgia’s registered voters by 8 percent, according to APM's analysis.
The report adds further weight to mounting accusations of voter suppression against Kemp's office.
A poll released Wednesday showed Kemp and his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams in an extraordinarily tight race. With Kemp leading Abrams by just one point, the election could be decided by a small margin of votes.
The APM analysis points out that only 77,744 votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania decided the the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.
If Abrams wins the race, she will become the first black woman to serve as a United States governor.
Abrams, who has focused on turning out minority voters throughout her campaign, has accused Kemp of actively working to suppress minority voters in Georgia. According to the APM investigation, in six out of 10 Georgia counties black voters were canceled in the 2017 purge at a higher rate than white voters for inactivity.
Kemp says that his office is merely following Georgia law and working to keep voter registration lists accurate to prevent voter fraud.
"We're following the process," Kemp said in a recent interview with Atlanta public radio station WABE. "I'm very proud of my record on making sure we have secure, accessible and fair elections."
It's not unusual for voters to be removed from registration lists when they move to a different state, die or go to prison, but Georgia's "use it or lose it" policy removes voters who haven't moved or committed a crime, and who are otherwise in good standing simply because they infrequently turn up at the polls.
State elections officials assume that people who don't vote in two or more election cycles or return confirmation notices have moved to a different state. Proponents of "use it or lose it" laws claim a risk of voters casting ballots in two separate states if they are not quickly removed from registration lists after they move.
According to conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, Georgia has pursued just 19 election fraud cases in the last two decades. Seven of those cases resulted in a criminal conviction.
But the state has a recent history of exceptionally large purges. According to APM's analysis, nearly 379,000 people were removed from voter registration lists during the 2010 election cycle under Kemp. By 2014, 517,000 voters had been cancelled.
Data provided by Georgia to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission shows that over the past decade, the state removed more than 1.6 million people from the rolls.
And accusations of voter suppression against Kemp grow as the November 6 election nears. On October 11, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a lawsuit in Atlanta federal court attempting to prevent Kemp's office from holding back 53,000 voter registration applications.
The applications are on hold under Georgia's "exact match" law, which requires information on voter registration forms to exactly match government records. An extra space in a name, a typo, or a misplaced hyphen can result in a rejected application.
According to the Associated Press, 70 percent of the applications on hold belong to African-American voters.
Alaska, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and West Virginia also have “use it or lose it” voter registration laws on the books, the APM report found.
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