Kennesaw State University, part of the Georgia state college system, has begun an offensive attack on local civic groups who are conducting voter registration drives on campus. Dean Michael Sanseviro has alleged that these registration groups are targeting African American voters by having them complete fake voter registration forms in an effort to suppress their vote. In reality, this is just an effort by the Dean to intimidate African American voters by discouraging them to register. In the Dean’s memo to students, he fails to mention the name of any particular group. Instead, he makes a general reference to all registration groups by labeling them as potentially dangerous. He further states that these groups are purposely targeting African-Americans with the intention of suppressing their votes.
This is a common theme when it comes to voter suppression efforts. In conservative southern states, voter registration groups have historically come under fire during the final month of voter registration drives when groups make their last push to get citizens registered. With the registration deadline in Georgia being October 11th and the state’s new found “purple” status, efforts to curb minority registration drives are expected to increase.
Civic groups conducting voter registration drives have a duty to return all signed registration forms to the local election boards for them to process, even if there are errors. Dean Sanseviro claims these groups are intentionally registering people incorrectly, thus purposely leaving them unregistered on the day of elections.
Efforts to intimidate or suppress minority votes in Georgia aren’t new. Local election boards around the states came under criticism after purging 372,242 people from voter rolls after they failed to respond to county letters asking for confirmation of addresses and were inactive in recent Georgia elections. The NAACP Georgia and Common Cause Georgia have filed lawsuits against the state claiming the state policy violates the National Voter Registration Act. Georgia’s county election boards are supposed to contact voters if there are any discrepancies with the forms they receive from civic groups. Many critics of the voter purge claim the local government didn’t follow protocol when they failed to reach out effectively to these citizens. Most of these individuals who have been purged are unaware of their status until canvassers from local civic groups go through the leg work to review it. Civic groups play an integral part in contacting new voters, and those who have been purged, by registering them so they can be eligible to vote in the upcoming election.
Dean Sanseviro’s unwarranted claims against registration groups are part of a long line of attempts to curb minority votes in Georgia. The recent efforts are an exercise in classic Orwellian doublespeak. Sanseviro’s urges African-American students to be wary about registering to vote with civic groups because they are suppressing the black vote, while that claim in itself is intentionally geared to suppress their votes. His claim creates unwarranted fear and mistrust in organizations that are actually trying to increase minority representation in the electoral process. Dean Sanseviro’s claims are as baseless as claims of voter fraud in the electoral system. As the deadline nears, voter registration groups should expect more resistance and opposition in red states.