In 2018, my vote was purged.
Seeking to cast the first vote of my life in Georgia’s governor race that year, I drove to my home district in Acworth from Savannah (about four hours) to wait in line (two-plus more hours). I passed the time catching up with an old friend in front of me, remarking on what could possibly take so long and why more local schools weren’t being used for polling places in our county.
When I finally approached Shelton Elementary’s gymnasium, I could not cast my vote. I was deregistered.
To put it simply, I had listed my college address in Savannah on an online government form at some point, and this came up when they swiped my ID, which lists a different address: my home in Acworth. To this day I don’t get why this prevented me from voting in a statewide election. The poll worker politely informed me that I could submit a complaint to the Secretary of State’s office, and handed me an envelope.
My annoyance evolved to anger as I scanned the first line: Brian P. Kemp.
Kemp went on to win the 2018 election by less than two points, and he did so by making voting as difficult as possible for people, an abuse of power not uncommon in the affairs of Georgia elections.
Georgia election officials have made a habit of purging registered voters, citing ‘change in address.’ According to a 2020 Report for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia (ACLU), nearly two-thirds of recently purged voters have, in fact, not moved at all.
During the 2018 governor’s contest, voting in Georgia was already a politically intense issue. Aside from long lines, faulty voting machines and the refusal of federal assistance for election security, Georgia's voting process is rooted in a long history of disenfranchising Black and other minority voters. Despite Kemp's denials, these voting rights issues, evident in 2018, were brought into the spotlight in the 2020 presidential election and complicated by Donald Trump convincing many that election fraud abounded. All of this led us to the “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” or “Jim Crow 2.0,” depending on who you ask.
Known in the Georgia Senate as Senate Bill 202 and signed into law on March 25, it is a 98-page omnibus that, amongst other things, replaces the ‘jungle’ primary (e.g. the 20-candidate, both-parties fiasco that the Rev. Sen. Raphael Warnock led), codified weekend voting hours and absentee drop boxes and, as you’ve probably heard, criminalizes passing out food and drink to queued voters — yes, really.
While not every single piece of the bill is a voracious attack on civil rights (thanks to the most egregious line-items being expunged by party leadership after backlash, such as eliminating no-excuse mail-in voting and even Sunday voting), the ACLU’s concerns about the suppression of “young voters, low-income, urban and voters of color” are not solved by any of these measures, and there’s plenty to critique in what passed. Three parts stick out to me as blatant abuses of power:
Among the crises facing our state and communities, this is what our representatives choose to work on. Why address concerns for expanding healthcare, or our dead-last vaccine rollout when “too many people” are voting by mail or with drop boxes? You might as well not address jobs either, since big businesses have spoken out against 202 (though notably only after the bill became law) and even departed the state, as baseball fans know too well.
Those in the film industry have also begun to take action — Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua pulled their upcoming film “Emancipation” out of Georgia, citing S.B. 202 for their exit.
Next time I wait in a needlessly long line to vote and someone offers me as much as a water bottle, they could be committing a crime. Voter ID laws are even stricter now than when my vote was purged in 2018. Gov. Kemp, weren’t you stopping enough people at the polls with the laws already on the books?
“There’s no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the  election was handled,” Kemp said after signing S.B. 202, three years after he directly oversaw an election in which he ran. I agree, Governor. We’ve got some serious issues.