Only weeks out from Georgia’s contentious gubernatorial race, Republican Brian Kemp is sending a flier to potential voters falsely claiming his opponent, Democrat Stacey Abrams, plans to allow undocumented immigrants the right to vote.
The two-sided mailer plays on some voters’ basest fears around race, immigration, and safety. The front features photos of Kemp posing with police officers and his family while extolling his promises to fight street gangs, sex trafficking, and opioid abuse.
The back side of the mailer features an image of Abrams and says she’s “too extreme for Georgia.” His proof: Kemp says Abrams intends to turn Georgia into a “sanctuary state” and would “allow illegal immigrants to vote.”
It’s a sly political maneuver on Kemp’s part, but it’s also false. The claim apparently dates back to Abrams’ time as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, when she voted against a law that would have required potential voters to provide proof of citizenship while registering to vote. Georgia passed its law in 2009, followed by Alabama in 2011 and Kansas in 2013, as my colleague Ari Berman has reported. But in 2016, a federal appeals court blocked all three states from implementing proof of citizenship laws for people who use the federal voter registration form, because under the National Voter Registration Act, it would be unfair to require proof of citizenship for some registrants and not others.
Proof of citizenship laws have been a key strategy in what some observers call voter suppression, particularly in communities of color. As Georgia’s secretary of state, Kemp has been the subject of several lawsuits alleging his office failed to process voter registrations in communities of color. As my colleague Pema Levy has reported, in 2017 Kemp settled a federal lawsuit in which his office was accused of rejecting thousands of voter registration forms from people of color because their names didn’t exactly match what was listed in state databases.
The ad is in line with the Kemp campaign’s previous tactics. During the primary, he released a series of incendiary TV ads—in one, he promised to “round up criminal illegals and take ’em home myself.”
Perhaps more than any other election this year, Kemp and Abrams represent two opposite ends of the political spectrum. Kemp proudly touts an endorsement from Donald Trump, while Abrams has gotten nods from the likes of Sens. Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders and, if elected, would be the first black woman governor in the United States.