brian kemp
Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp. Credit: Kemp for Governor/YouTube

For a while now, Rev. William Barber has been talking about the power of fusion politics. He notes that in southern states where people of color make up around 30 percent of the population, developing a coalition with white people who are willing to vote their future instead of their fears is how to usher in a “third reconstruction.”

In 1868 we see this moral … fusion … language … and it formed the framework for reconstruction. Here’s what they fought for with this fusion movement: voting rights, public education, labor, health care, equal protection, fair tax policy, good of the whole and that kind of agenda reshaped the south and it reshaped the country. It reshaped the world.

What we are witnessing from Republicans in Georgia is an affirmation that Barber is right, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing everything possible to stop people of color in that state from voting. Here’s their latest move:

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s (R) office is blocking 53,000 people from registering to vote, according to records obtained by the Associated Press, a huge number that could sway his gubernatorial race against Democrat Stacey Abrams…

According to the AP, fully 70 percent of the voter applications that are being held up by Kemp’s office are from black people.

It’s unclear how many of these voters will be able to get on the rolls by Election Day.

Breaking with precedent, Kemp has refused to step down from his position as Secretary of State while he runs for governor, and appears to be using his office to give himself an edge in a race that is a statistical tie, according to polls.

But Republicans in Georgia, often led by Kemp, have been engaged in voter suppression efforts targeted primarily at African Americans for years now. From a report by Cameron Joseph, here is a summary:

* 2005 – passed one of the first, and strictest, voting identification laws in the country.

* 2010 – arrested black activists in Quitman, Georgia who undertook an absentee ballot push to boost black turnout.By 2014 the investigation ended without a single guilty verdict.

* 2012 – prosecuted a local black official in Douglas County for having violated the law by showing a new voter how to use the county’s electronic voting machine. She was acquitted in 2018.

* 2012 – targeted an Asian-American voter registration group with a three-year investigation that turned up almost nothing and yielded no charges.

* 2013 – shut down 214 polling place statewide; 8 percent of all polling places in Georgia. They’ve been disproportionately in rural, poorer, and blacker counties.

* 2014 – launched a fraud investigation into the New Georgia Project (Stacey Abram’s effort to register voters). The case was dropped in 2017 and the group was not charged with any wrongdoing. But 85,000 people who had been registered by the effort didn’t show up on the rolls.

Since Brian Kemp became Secretary of State in 2010, most of these efforts were led by the Republican who is currently running for governor. The AP reports that since 2012, Kemp’s office has cancelled over 1.4 million voter registrations, nearly 670,000 registrations were cancelled in 2017 alone.

It is no mystery why Georgia Republicans are so intent on harassing activists, investigating voter registration drives, closing down polling places and purging the voter rolls. Gov. Nathan Deal was elected in 2014 with just a 200,000 vote margin and now Stacey Abrams is in a dead heat with Brian Kemp. They know what some Democrats still haven’t figured out yet—fusion politics would produce a blue wave in the south that would remove them from power. They’ll do anything to stop that from happening.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.