FACT CHECK: Stacey Abrams Claimed ‘Voter Suppression Is Real’

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams claimed in the Democrat response to President Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday that “voter suppression is real.”

Abrams claimed, without evidence, that voter suppression is taking place in three specific ways.

“Let’s be clear: voter suppression is real. From [1] making it harder to register and stay on the rolls, [2] to moving and closing polling places, [3] to rejecting lawful ballots, we can no longer ignore these threats to democracy,” Abrams asserted.

Abrams also made a straw man argument that, “We must reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counted is a power grab.”

No one, however, has said that “allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counted is a power grab.”

Supporters of election integrity focus on preventing ineligible voters from illegally casting ballots.

As for her three specific, unsubstantiated assertions, here are the facts:

Claim #1: Making it harder to register and stay on the rolls.

“Journalists have credulously repeated unsupported, patronizing claims that in Georgia and other states, voter registration and absentee ballot laws somehow suppress minority votes,” John Fund, Senior Fellow and Director of Government Finance Programs at the Heritage Foundation and Hans von Spakovsky, Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow at Heritage, wrote in an October commentary:

For example, to improve the accuracy of Georgia’s records, state legislators last year required that information on a voter registration application match a “driver’s license, state ID card or Social Security record.” Inconsistencies can cause a voter’s registration to be flagged as “pending” while the discrepancy is investigated.

Brian Kemp, the GOP candidate for governor and current secretary of state in Georgia, is being accused of “voter suppression” because of this law. But a “pending” status does not prevent anyone from voting as long as he or she has a government ID that substantially matches the registration application. In any event, every voter can cast a provisional ballot that will be counted once the registration information is verified.

As the secretary of state told radio host Erick Erickson, there are 75,000 pending voters among a record total of 7 million registered in the state. Of these, 9,224 are minors under 18; 2,935 used a fake address; 3,393 are not citizens, and 5,842 were already registered.

Of the remaining applications, 75 percent submitted erroneous Social Security information. Almost a quarter of those “sloppy forms” came from a registration effort by the New Georgia Project, a group founded in 2014 by Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor.

That a number of potentially ineligible voters are currently kept on the voter registration rolls was driven home in a recent settlement agreement between defendants Los Angeles County and the state of California and plaintiffs Judicial Watch and the Election Integrity Project of California, as Breitbart News reported last month:

Judicial Watch won a significant victory for election integrity last week when it signed a settlement agreement with the State of California and Los Angeles County that could potentially remove as many as 1.5 million voters–all of whom are listed as inactive but still registered as of April 27,2018–from the rolls in Los Angeles County.

According to the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder County Clerk’s website, there were 5.2 million registered voters in the county eligible to vote in the November 2018 general election, of which 3.7 million, or 71 percent, were classified as active and 1.5 million, or 29 percent, were classified as inactive but still registered and eligible to vote.

A total of 2.9 million votes, or about 57 percent of all registered voters, were cast in the highest turnout race on the ballot in the November 2018 general election, the gubernatorial contest between Gavin Newsom and John Cox.

More than three million ballots were distributed to registered voters–1,673,104 were distributed at the ballot box at official polling locations, while 1,350,313 were distributed as vote-by-mail.

Los Angeles County and the State of California “will begin the process of removing from their voter registration rolls as many as 1.5 million inactive registered names that may be invalid,” Judicial Watch said in its statement announcing the settlement agreement.

Claim #2: Moving and closing polling places

During her failed gubernatorial campaign, Abrams often claimed that recent changes in Georgia law were disenfranchising voters because rural polling places were being closed.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported in August:

County election officials have closed 214 precincts across the state since 2012, according to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That figure means nearly 8 percent of the state’s polling places, from fire stations to schools, have shut their doors over the past six years.

But the closing of those precincts were non-partisan, as the Journal Constitution noted:

Precinct closures in Jackson, a mostly Republican county that overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election, show that election officials aren’t politically motivated, said Houston Gaines, a Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives.

“We need to recognize that this was not some plot from Republicans to suppress the vote,” said Gaines, who lost a special election to Democratic state Rep. Deborah Gonzalez last year. “That narrative being pressed by Stacey Abrams and the Democrats is not true. … This is something that’s happening all across the state, and it’s not something that’s good for voters.”

Claim #3: Rejecting lawful ballots.

There is no evidence that lawful ballots by eligible voters are being rejected by election authorities in the United States.

There is, however, evidence that Abrams herself has advocated for the inclusion of unlawful ballots by ineligible voters.

At a speech on Jonesboro, Georgia on October 12, Abrams said that “those who are documented and undocumented” would be part of a blue wave coming in November, as Real Clear Politics reported at the time:

The thing of it is, the blue wave is African American. It’s white, it’s Latino, it’s Asian-Pacific Islander, it is disabled, it is differently-abled, it is LGBTQ, it is law enforcement, it is veterans,” Abrams told the crowd. It is made up of those who’ve been told that they are not worthy of being here. It is comprised of those who are documented and undocumented

You can watch the video here.

Curiously, Abrams went on to make her claims of voter suppression more about her own political future than Democrats nationally.

“While I acknowledge the results of the 2018 election here in Georgia, I did not — and we cannot — accept efforts to undermine our right to vote. That’s why I started a non-partisan organization called Fair Fight, to advocate for voting rights,” Abrams continued.

“This is the next battle for our democracy, one where all eligible citizens can have their say about the vision we want for our country,” she concluded on the topic of voter suppression, adding:

We must reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counted is a power grab. Americans understand that these are the values our brave men and women in uniform and our veterans risked their lives to defend. The foundation of our moral leadership around the globe is free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders, not where politicians pick their voters.

Abrams used the opportunity to deliver the Democrat response to the State of the Union to highlight and publicize the claims of voter suppression made by the group she started, Fair Fight, in a lawsuit filed in November against the current Georgia Secretary of State.

Former Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp defeated Abrams by a margin of 1.4 percent, or more than 54,000 votes, in the November 6 election for Governor of Georgia.

Abrams admitted her defeat in the election on November 16, but did not use the language of “concession” in doing so, as Breitbart News reported:

Democrat Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams admitted Friday that she cannot win against Republican opponent Brian Kemp and vowed to file a federal lawsuit challenging the “gross mismanagement” of the state’s elections.

Abrams made her announcement shortly after 5 p.m., the earliest state officials could certify the results after a court-ordered review of absentee, provisional and other uncounted ballots. Abrams’ campaign had contended there were potentially enough uncounted votes to force a runoff.

Abrams told supporters that Kemp placed “his hopes for election on the suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote.”

“Concession means to acknowledge an act is right, true or proper…I cannot concede that,” she added.

Reportedly, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) selected Abrams to deliver the Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address in order to raise her national profile and increase the visibility of her anticipated 2020 campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) quickly hit back at Abrams.

“With extreme policies and an anti-free market agenda, Stacey Abrams was rejected by her home state of Georgia last November. Tonight, Abrams’ speech for a national audience replayed the same broken ideas that capsized her failed campaign. While President Trump outlined a unifying agenda to advance America’s progress, Democrats are still living in the past, mourning Abrams’ loss,” RNC spokesperson Ellie Hockenbury said in a statement.


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