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Feud Over Georgia Voter Registration   10/21 06:44

   ATLANTA (AP) -- Amid a scramble for political supremacy in rapidly changing 
Georgia, Democrats and Republicans are pointing fingers over the handling of as 
many 50,000 voter registration forms as the Nov. 4 election looms.

   The dispute pits one of the state's highest ranking Democrats and the 
minister of the church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was once the 
pastor against the Republican secretary of state, with the two sides headed to 
court this week.

   Leaders of the New Georgia Project say the group gathered about 86,000 voter 
registration forms, focusing on minority, younger and otherwise disengaged 
citizens. Those would-be voters are likely to lean Democratic, though the 
organization is technically nonpartisan.

   But now the group's leaders say they cannot find about 40,000 of those names 
on official voter lists maintained by Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a 
Republican, with 10,000 more names listed as "pending."

   With help from national civil rights lawyers, the organization has sued Kemp 
and several Georgia counties in state court.

   "We want them to process forms as the law requires, and then document a 
reason for any applicant being denied registration, with that person being 
informed in writing as to why they aren't eligible," said state House Minority 
Leader Stacey Abrams, an Atlanta Democrat who leads the group.

   A hearing is scheduled for Friday morning in Atlanta.

   The lawsuit comes after Kemp publicly launched an investigation of Abrams' 
group, alleging it submitted forged applications. State officials later said 
they confirmed 25 forgeries, about 3/100ths of 1 percent of those Abrams and 
her allies say they collected.

   Abrams' efforts are at the heart of Democrats' strategy to capitalize on 
demographic shifts --- the state has become more urban, younger and less white 
--- and make GOP-run Georgia a Southern presidential battleground alongside 
North Carolina and Virginia.

   The test runs ahead of 2016 are pending Senate matchups between Democrat 
Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue, along with the governor's race 
between Republican incumbent Nathan Deal and Democratic state Sen. Jason 
Carter, former President Jimmy Carter's grandson.

   Kemp calls the lawsuit "frivolous." He maintains that all applications have 
been processed and that all eligible voters will have access to ballots for the 
Nov. 4 election.

   "It is time for the New Georgia Project and others to stop throwing out 
random numbers and baseless accusations and let the counties continue to do 
their jobs," Kemp said last week.

   But Kemp has not said how many of the 86,000 would-be voters will actually 
be on the Nov. 4 voter list. Kemp said after reviewing the list of supposedly 
missing names, officials found 513 names that match deceased voters; 1,637 that 
match ineligible felons; and 4,300 whose forms were incomplete or had invalid 
addresses.

   The Democratic lawmaker said she does not question Kemp's motives and wants 
only to ensure that no one who is eligible is denied a ballot.

   But one of Abrams' fellow organizers, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock of 
Ebenezer Baptist Church, has said Kemp's effort smacks of voter suppression. 
Kemp denied that charge, noting he has launched online voter registration that 
drew 70,000 new applicants for this election cycle.

   "It has truly never been easier to register to vote in Georgia," Kemp said.


(KA)


 
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