By E.J. Dionne Jr.
By engaging in voter suppression, Stacey Abrams’s opponents are paying her the highest possible compliment.
The former Democratic minority leader of the state House of Representatives, Yale Law School grad and the first African American woman to be nominated by a major party for governor is so close to winning that Republicans seem to think the only way to stop her is to keep thousands from casting ballots.
And it happens that her GOP opponent, Brian Kemp, is the secretary of state, the man overseeing this election. He made clear to his supporters that the thing worrying him most is . . . a lot of people voting.
Kemp’s recent comments on the subject were recorded at a ticketed campaign event and leaked to Rolling Stone. He expressed alarm at the success of Abrams’s campaign in generating “an unprecedented number” of absentee ballots, and that this was “something that continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote — which they absolutely can — and mail those ballots in. We gotta have a heavy turnout to offset that.”
Rarely have citizens received such a direct lesson in the power of democracy.
Abrams, who has spearheaded efforts over the years to mobilize new voters in a state undergoing rapid demographic changes, is not surprised. “I think they’re shocked to find that this is a dead heat,” Abrams told me in an interview. “If we turn out unlikely voters, if we turn out those who aren’t typically seen as part of the midterm electorate, then I will win this election.”
She criticized Kemp at a debate on Tuesday for leaving 53,000 voter registration applications “pending,” in most cases because of a law requiring that the names on applications exactly match those on other government documents. “The reality is, voter suppression is not simply about being told no,” Abrams said. “It’s about being told it’s going to be hard to cast a ballot.”
This article originally appeared in The Florida Star.