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Voting access a focus of Georgia debate

24 October 2018

In the photo ― originally from a 1992 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, and republished in The New York Times on Monday ― a young Abrams stands with three other students burning the flag at the Georgia Capitol.

Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp are in a struggle between Georgia's past and future.

"What I've asked for is that you allow those that are legally eligible to vote, to allow them to cast their ballots", she said. "Voter suppression isn't only about blocking the vote, it's also about creating an atmosphere of fear, making people worry that their vote won't count".

Kemp said accusations that he was suppressing the vote were "totally untrue".

The Washington Free Beacon also noted that Abrams came under fire recently "over a decision to loan her campaign $50,000 while owing over $54,000 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)".

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Abrams said that Kemp's record as Georgia's secretary of state "causes great concern" and pointed to the release of voter data under Kemp's watch and the state's "exact match" voter registration system.

With only 14 days to go before Election Day and early voting now in its second week, the contest to replace term-limited GOP Gov. Nathan Deal looks destined for a narrow finish, with the potential - if neither major-party candidate wins a majority - of a December runoff.

Tensions escalated following a recent Associated Press report that more than 53,000 voter applications - almost 70 percent of them from blacks - were on hold with Kemp's office ahead of the election.

Kemp has promised a tax cut, a teacher pay raise (financed by some sort of spending cap), and anti-gang measures, but spent most of the debate as he's spent most of the campaign-attacking Abrams as an "extremist" who wants to raise taxes and let undocumented immigrants vote and receive government benefits.

"In a recent video", Kemp said, "you called on illegals to vote for you in this election".

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Kemp, meanwhile, is widely seen as an "architect of voter suppression" in the state, helping to codify new policies during his tenure as secretary of state that make it more hard for people of color to vote.

Two reports surfaced just before the debate that played into their competing narratives.

Abrams' spokeswoman Abigail Collazo said Abrams was involved in a "permitted, peaceful protest against the Confederate emblem in the flag" while a student at Spelman College in Atlanta in 1992. Kemp's campaign did not reply to request for comment.

Additionally, Kemp blocked 53,000 Georgia residents from registering to vote, most of whom were African-American, according to analysis from the Associated Press; and 595 absentee ballots in Gwinnett County were recently rejected, most of which were submitted by minority voters as well.

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Voting access a focus of Georgia debate