Congress

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp brushes off House investigation of voter suppression

Voter purges, suspended registration applications, and long Election Day lines led to accusations of voter suppression

Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., have sent a letter to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp requesting documents about alleged voter suppression in the 2018 elections. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday brushed off a new House investigation into allegations that he attempted to suppress votes in Georgia in the 2018 elections as Democrats "playing politics."

Chairman Elijah Cummings and Rep. Jamie Raskin of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent a letter to Kemp on earlier in the day requesting that he produce a wide-ranging schedule of documents pertaining to the allegations of voter suppression.

"They need to quit playing politics up there," Kemp said at a press conference, responding to a question about the House Democrats' probe.

He then pivoted to natural disaster aid for farmers in Georgia affected by Hurricane Michael — and suggested that "our own farmers" in Georgia need natural disaster aid that's being held up as Democrats try to secure more aid for Puerto Rico.

"Elijah Cummings and his colleagues in the House are hung up on giving more money to Puerto Rico when we have our own farmers who are fixing to lose their farm," Kemp said, specifying that people in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama were affected by the Michael.

"I would urge them to do the real work of this country. Take care of the people who need relief," Kemp said.

Kemp, who won the race for governor in 2018 while he was the secretary of state, canceled voter registrations for more than 1.4 million people in Georgia. Scores of media outlets reported a lack of resources and long lines on Election Day at polling places in minority communities, causing civil rights groups to accuse Kemp and the GOP of intentionally suppressing votes.

Maryland Democrats Cummings and Raskin requested that Kemp and the current secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, hand over a trove of documents related to voting rights issues, including the decision to purge voter rolls and place the registration applications of 53,000 Georgians on hold.

The committee is “particularly concerned by reports that Georgians faced unprecedented challenges with registering to vote and significant barriers to casting their votes” while Kemp was in office, including in the 2018 midterms, Cummings and Raskin wrote.

House Democrats asked Kemp and Raffensperger to produce a wide range of communications and documents on Kemp’s decisions leading up to his midterm matchup with Democrat Stacey Abrams. The request included information regarding a voter roll purge in July 2017 that wiped 500,000 voter registrants from state records, holds his office placed on voter registration applications over “exact match” policy concerns, and moving and closing polling locations.

The Oversight Committee has broad authority to conduct an investigation into “any matter ... at any time,” according to House Rule X.

Cummings and Raskin apparently plan to cast a wide net, requesting documents from scores of Georgia elections officials — from Kemp at the very top down to county workers — on multiple issues, not just one isolated allegation.

The Georgia investigation into voter suppression is the first probe announced in the Oversight Committee this Congress that does not directly go after President Donald Trump or his administration.

The White House has indicated in a letter to Cummings that it will not cooperate with the committee’s probe into the administration’s security clearance policy. Multiple news outlets have reported that the president played a major role in paving the way for his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to receive permanent top clearance — despite previously issuing public statements to the contrary.

Other Democratic chairs in the House Judiciary, Intelligence and Financial Services Committees have kick-started their own broad investigations into Trump’s finances and moves as president.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler on Monday sent letters and document requests to 81 people and groups involved in Trump’s 2016 campaign, inauguration committee, administration and personal business dealings. The committee is investigating possible obstruction of justice and corruption by Trump and his associates.

Trump and his Republican allies in the House have called such efforts a “fishing expedition” intended to smear the president.

“Instead of doing infrastructure, instead of doing healthcare,” Trump said of Democrats on Tuesday, “they want to play games.”

Democrats have said they can work on policy solutions and conduct their constitutionally sanctioned oversight responsibility simultaneously.

Correction, 6:24 p.m. | A previous version of this story incorrectly characterized Kemp's comments about natural disaster aid to Puerto Rico.

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