Gov. Deal Asked to Ensure Voters Are Free From Intimidation at the Polls

by R. Robin McDonald, The Daily Report

A national voting rights organization that secured a court order last month directing Georgia’s Secretary of State to turn over records associated with the rejection of more than a half-million voter registration applications has sent a letter to Gov. Nathan Deal asking him to “take steps to reassure Georgia voters that they can expect a safe voting environment where they will be able to cast their ballot and have it counted.”

The letter, signed by Project Vote President Michael Slater, also asked the governor to work with Georgia’s attorney general and Secretary of State Brian Kemp to develop protocols to respond to election officials or voters who may encounter acts of intimidation at the polls next week.

“By most accounts, this election year has fallen far outside the norms of American political behavior,” Slater said in his letter. “One norm we do not want to see fall by the wayside is our history of nonviolent political succession.”

Slater said the Oct. 28 letter was prompted by “certain candidate statements and news stories” that he said “have created an atmosphere of intimidation and violence.” He cited a Washington Post report on a USA Today/Suffolk University poll that found half of all likely voters were somewhat fearful there would be violence either on or after Election Day, and that nearly 1 in 5 likely voters were “very concerned” about violence.

Slater also pointed to an interview by the Boston Globe with Ohio resident Steve Webb, a Trump supporter who said he had interpreted Trump’s repeated calls for his supporters monitor the polls for fraud on Election Day for fear the election will be rigged as a call for racial profiling.

“Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” Webb told the Globe. “I’m going to go right up behind them. … I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”

In his letter to Deal, Slater emphasized that “targeting voters for surveillance and intimidation on account of their religion, race, nationality, or language is illegal under federal law,” which also prohibits the intimidation of or threats against any citizen who is lawfully entitled to vote.

Project Vote, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to increasing voter participation, sued Kemp in July seeking to force him to surrender records to reveal the agency’s reasons for rejecting, canceling or otherwise failing to add names to the state’s voter rolls. Between 2012 and 2015, Kemp’s office rejected 568,000 voter registrations. In September, a federal judge in Atlanta issued a preliminary injunction ordering Kemp to turn over the records by Oct. 7.