A federal judge has ordered Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to answer questions about his statements on minority voter registration and his oversight of election investigations.
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ruled that Kemp must submit to two hours of questioning in a lawsuit over problems in last year’s election for governor. As secretary of state, Kemp was Georgia’s chief elections official until he resigned after Election Day.
The lawsuit is asking the courts to intervene in Georgia’s elections following voter purges, absentee ballot cancellations, precinct closures and other allegations of obstacles to voting. The lawsuit was filed by Fair Fight Action, a group founded by allies of Kemp’s general election opponent last year, Democrat Stacey Abrams.
“Only then-Secretary Kemp can explain what he actually meant” when he expressed concerns about Democrats’ efforts to register more minority voters, Jones ruled Thursday.
Kemp’s comments about minority voters came during remarks to a group of Gwinnett County Republicans in 2014.
“You know the Democrats are working hard, and all these stories about them, you know, registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines, if they can do that, they can win these elections in November. But we’ve got to do the exact same thing,” Kemp said.
Kemp called on those in attendance to register more Republican voters.
Jones wrote that Kemp can also provide information about whether state election officials quickly investigated and addressed complaints.
In his job as secretary of state, Kemp was the chairman of the State Election Board with the power to schedule meetings and agendas. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are questioning why some county election officials weren’t sanctioned for violations of voting laws, and how it investigated complaints about voting irregularities.
Jones ruled against several other efforts to question Kemp about Georgia’s voter registration cancellations, “exact match” registration policy, polling place closures and training of local election officials. Those inquiries can be addressed by other election officials in the secretary of state’s office, Jones said.
Kemp’s deposition must be completed by Jan. 10 in a location of his choosing, according to Jones’ order.
Abrams has already been deposed, along with several state election officials, Jones wrote.
Attorneys for Kemp declined to comment on the pending litigation. Fair Fight also didn’t comment on the judge’s ruling.
The depositions are part of the evidence discovery process in the lawsuit.
Then the case could move toward a trial, which was originally scheduled to begin March 23, one day before the Georgia presidential primary. Jones’ order put the lawsuit’s schedule on hold for now.
— Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article
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