The simple, troubling math of Georgia’s voter registration freeze

70% of the voter registration on hold are of black citizens. 32% Georgians are black.
70% of the voter registration on hold are of black citizens. 32% Georgians are black.
Image: AP Photo/John Bazemore
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

States around the country are hitting voter registration deadlines for the November midterm elections, and Tuesday, Oct. 9, was the deadline for Georgia voters.

Those who didn’t register in time won’t be able to cast a vote in the much-anticipated elections. Unusually, they aren’t the only ones—53,000 other Georgia voters who did register to vote have been put “on hold” an analysis by AP found.

Georgia’s “exact match” policy

A new voter registration policy, known as “exact match,” was adopted by the state of Georgia in February. According to it, every detail on a voter’s registration form has to match the official record of Georgia’s Driver Services or Social Security departments—including hyphenations and transcription errors.

Voters whose forms do not match “exactly” can find their voting rights suspended. More concerning, Georgia residents have not been informed of their “on hold” status; but if they don’t fix it, the state will void their registration.

The majority of voters who have been put “on hold” are black. The policy has been heavily criticized by voting rights activists, who argue that small differences, like typographical errors, are not legitimate barriers to voter participation. They worry the policy might keep thousands of legitimate voters from participating in elections.

Georgia’s secretary of state Brian Kemp, who is running for governor as a Republican, championed the “exact match” policy, and supports it as a way to combat voter fraud. He blames potential disenfranchisement on voting registration groups like the New Georgia Project (led by his opponent, Stacey Abrams) for allegedly collecting inaccurate or careless forms.

But several studies have found that voter fraud in the US is nearly non-existent: According to research conducted and collected by the Brennan Center for Justice, in 2016, only four cases were verified as fraud among millions of votes cast. Between 2000 and 2014, just 31 cases of voter fraud were verified—out of over 1 billion votes cast.

The math of how “exact match” affects Georgia voters

6.4 million—voter registrations processed since 2014 (Kemp’s office data)

1.4 million—voter registrations canceled since 2014

670,000—voter registrations canceled in 2017 alone

200,442—votes the winner won by in the 2014 gubernatorial election

53,000—voters currently “on hold” under the “exact match” policy

26—months for voters to address any discrepancies between forms

26—days between now and the November 6 election

Zero —official messages to voters on the “on hold” list

70%—share of voters currently “on hold” who are African-American

32%—current African-American population in Georgia

1-866-OUR-VOTE—Georgia Election Protection Coalition’s number for support