The Republican gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, Brian Kemp, told attending donors during a ticketed campaign event that he was worried that the people of his state might try and exercise their right to vote, according to an audio leak obtained by Rolling Stone.
Kemp, who is also Georgia’s Secretary of State, is running for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams. During the event, he lamented her efforts aimed at increasing her voter turnout, saying that it “continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote.”
Kemp said that ahead of the gubernatorial race, he was worried about early voting and “the literally tens of millions of dollars that they [the Abrams camp] are putting behind the get-out-the-vote effort to their base.” He elucidated that he was particularly concerned with Abrams’ efforts, mostly focused on absentee ballot requests.
“They have just an unprecedented number of that… which is something that continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote — which they absolutely can — and mail those ballots in, we gotta have heavy turnout to offset that.”
While it might not be altogether uncommon for candidates to express concerns at their rival’s attempts to increase voter turnout, Kemp’s comments are particularly alarming because of his penchant to purge voter rolls. Recently he decided to suspend more than 53,000 voter applications, 70 percent of which were filed by black Georgians. His grounds for doing so were controversial, based on his understanding of Georgia’s “exact match verification standard” — a standard which is restrictive and has led to large purges of the voter rolls. Last year, Kemp was accused of having purged an estimated 107,000 voters simply because they didn’t vote in the prior election, according to American Public Media.
Kemp also faces lawsuits for leaving for than 6 million Georgia voting records open to hacking, as well as accusations that he deliberately rejected nearly 600 absentee ballot applications in the state’s most racially diverse county of Gwinnett.
Kemp’s campaign refused comment on the leaked audio, while his rival, Stacey Abrams, called it “disgraceful” and “outrageous” through a spokesperson.
“Brian Kemp is barely trying to hide the shameful fact that his strategy is to win through voter suppression,” her spokesperson told the Rolling Stone. “The idea that he, as Secretary of State, would be ‘concerned’ that hardworking Georgians are exercising their right to vote is disgraceful and outrageous.”
Current polls collected by RealClearPolitics suggest that Kemp has a negligible lead over Abrams at this point in the electoral race.