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Stacey Abrams campaign demands GOP's Kemp resign as Georgia secretary of state amid voter registration uproar

Updated 10:33 AM ET, Fri October 12, 2018

Atlanta (CNN) - Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams' campaign is calling on Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp to resign following a report his office is using a controversial verification law to effectively suppress the minority vote in their race to become the state's next governor.

The demand from the Abrams campaign comes in response to an Associated Press report on records it obtained showing Georgia has put a hold on more than 53,000 voter registration applications -- nearly seven-in-ten of them belonging to African Americans -- because they failed to clear the state's "exact match" standard.

Under the policy, even the most minor discrepancy -- like a typo or missing letter -- between a voter's registration and their drivers license, social security or state ID cards can be flagged.

"As he has done for years, Brian Kemp is maliciously wielding the power of his office to suppress the vote for political gain and silence the voices of thousands of eligible voters -- the majority of them people of color," Abrams spokeswoman Abigail Collazo said in a statement.

Collazo pushed for Kemp to step down "so that Georgia voters can have confidence that their Secretary of State competently and impartially oversee this election." Georgia Democrats were rebuffed when they made a similar request earlier in the year.

Kemp's campaign maintains voters whose names were tied up in the system would still be able to either sort out the documentation at elections sites or, if not, cast provisional ballots. It also touted the state's growing rolls, saying they were likely to surpass 7 million once the final numbers came in following Tuesday's registration deadline.

"While outside agitators disparage this office and falsely attack us, we have kept our head down and remained focused on ensuring secure, accessible, and fair elections for all voters," Kemp said in a statement. "The fact is that it has never been easier to register to vote and get engaged in the electoral process in Georgia, and we are incredibly proud to report this new record."

Abrams, who became a national Democratic star during her primary campaign, is vying to become the first black woman elected governor in any state. She is running neck-and-neck with Kemp, with most recent polling and analysis predicting a toss-up on Election Day. Republicans have held the governor's mansion in Georgia since 2003.

The current occupant, Gov. Nathan Deal, will leave office next year after serving the maximum two terms.

Kemp also placed blame on the New Georgia Project, which was founded by Abrams when she was the Georgia House minority leader, and ahead of the 2014 elections set out to sign up 800,000 new young and minority voters.

Kemp responded to the influx of new applications that year by launching an investigation into its practices. No allegations of wrongdoing were ever brought directly against the group and Abrams, her campaign said, is no longer involved in its activities.

In a tweet on Wednesday night, Kemp again sought to place the onus for the flagged registrations on the New Georgia Project, saying it had "submitted sloppy forms."

"Now, (the Abrams campaign is) faking outrage for political gain," he wrote, insisting that the "53,000 Georgians on our 'pending' list can vote in the Nov. 6th election."

Throughout the day on Wednesday and into Thursday, Georgia Democrats ramped up efforts via social media and other channels to promote their "Voter Protection Hotline." The state party in February became the first in the nation to hire a full-time internal elections watchdog.

Kemp has also come under fire from voting rights advocates for canceling more than a million "inactive" voters from Georgia's rolls since becoming the state's chief elections officer in 2010. The practice was upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling in June. The state purged a total of 1.5 million voters between the 2012 and 2016 elections, according to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice.

The "exact match" system was used by Kemp's office from 2013 to 2016, during which nearly 35,000 applications were rejected, with minorities disproportionately affected, according to a lawsuit that was settled in 2017. That agreement seemed to put an end to the practice, but the GOP-held legislature quickly embedded it in new legislation.

Update: The headline and story have been updated to reflect that the Abrams for Governor Campaign told CNN after publication that the campaign was calling for Brian Kemp's resignation as Secretary of State, not the candidate herself.


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