North Fulton residents participate in early voting on the first day the procedure is available at the North Fulton Annex in Atlanta on Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. David Tulis / AJC Special

Liberal group issues report hitting Georgia over voting issues

The liberal group Allied Progress, a new nonprofit led by Democratic strategist Karl Frisch, has joined a chorus of progressives trying to keep Georgia in the political spotlight over voting issues ahead of the November presidential election.

In a report out Tuesday, the group took aim at Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Gov. Nathan Deal and other state and local leaders over accusations of voter suppression, saying Georgia does a poor job of protecting citizens’ rights and hurts minority communities by making registration and voting more difficult.

Kemp hit back, however, saying “this is just another liberal group making blind accusations to drive voter turnout in an election year. Our office is committed to making it easy to vote but hard to cheat.”

The report, released on National Voter Registration Day, comes as the state’s handling of voter records has already been subject to three federal lawsuits this year. In one suit, Georgia agreed this week to temporarily allow thousands of voters whose registration applications have been rejected since Oct. 1, 2014, to potentially cast a ballot on Nov. 8 as the suit moves forward.

Kemp has strongly denied any allegations about voter suppression, traveling the state to tout the accessibility of Georgia’s elections this year.

At the same time, he has also backed the use of measures including a requirement for voters to show photo identification at their polling location. Georgia won court approval to implement the law in 2007. While critics said it would suppress voting particularly in minority communities, an analysis done by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2012 showed that turnout among black and Hispanic voters increased, outpacing population growth for those groups in the law’s first five years of effect.

The voter ID law still has strong backing among the state’s Republican leaders, and includes a provision providing a free ID to any voter who needs one.

The report, however, says the process to get a free ID is burdensome. It also includes a run-down of other statewide and local issues Georgia voters have faced over the past four years, including being served legal summonses to prove where they lived and being purged from the rolls.

Kemp, however, was having none of it.

“Because of my efforts as Secretary of State, voters can now register to vote 24 hours a day, seven days a week using the online voter registration system, the free ‘GA SOS’ smartphone app, or by texting ‘GA’ to ‘2vote,’” Kemp said. “I have implemented many technological improvements since taking office like creating the MVP webpage where a voter can view their sample ballot, find their polling place, link to their elected officials and request an absentee ballot to participate in the electoral process.”

Kemp is scheduled Wednesday to testify before a congressional panel in Washington, D.C, about cyber-security and elections.

The report comes as polls have shown the potential for a tight presidential race in Georgia, although two of the latest — both released last week — showed Republican hopeful Donald Trump outpacing Democrat Hillary Clinton.

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