Kemp defends comments about minority voter registration in court

Georgia governor says he was urging Republicans to match Democrats

Credit: Branden Camp

Credit: Branden Camp

In videotaped testimony, Gov. Brian Kemp explained his past concerns about Democrats’ minority voter turnout efforts, saying during a federal voting rights trial that he wanted Republicans to replicate those efforts.

Kemp’s video deposition was played Friday in the trial over whether Georgia’s voting policies created illegal hurdles that prevent voters, especially Black voters, from participating in elections.

Kemp, who was secretary of state at the time, had told Republican groups during the 2014 and 2018 election years that they needed to mobilize in response to Democrats’ focus on minority registration and absentee voting.

“From a political perspective, I was concerned about the work that the other side was doing to turn their voters out, and I was making that point to urge our folks to do exactly the same,” Kemp said in the deposition.

Plaintiffs in the case, including the voting rights group Fair Fight Action, used Kemp’s comments to build their case alleging a history of racial discrimination in Georgia elections that they say continues today.

During a 2014 meeting with Gwinnett County Republicans, Kemp had said Democrats were “registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines” before telling the crowd “we’ve got to do the exact same thing.”

Then at a 2018 campaign event at the Blind Pig Parlour Bar in north Atlanta, Kemp said he was concerned that a large number of absentee ballot requests “continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote, which they absolutely can.”

Kemp said in the court deposition, which was recorded in January 2020 but only made public in court Friday, that his goal was to motivate Republican voters.

“It didn’t matter what demographic they were. I mean, we knew that there was extensive get-out-the-vote efforts on the other side at the time,” Kemp said. “I knew how hard the other side was working, and we had to do the same, which is what my comments, both of them, speak to.”

The ongoing voting rights case targets Georgia’s “exact match” voter registration rules, absentee ballot cancellation practices and voter registration errors.

Attorneys for the defendants in the case, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and the State Election Board, say Georgia’s election procedures follow the law and provide easy access to voting.