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53K voter registration applications on hold in Georgia: report

More than 53,000 voter registration applications, a majority of them from black voters, are on hold in Georgia one month before the midterm election, according to a new Associated Press report, as the battle over voter registration becomes a bigger issue in the state's heated governor's race. 

Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams and voting rights groups are blaming her opponent in the race, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, over the hold up.

Kemp's office oversees elections in Georgia, and she argues he has enacted policies meant to suppress minority votes.

Kemp contends that Abrams and liberal groups are playing political games a month before the election. 

A spokeswoman from Kemp's office told The Hill that the applications are being held due to the state's "exact match" law, which passed last year. The law requires an applicant's information to match exactly what is listed by the state's Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration.

According to the legislation, if an applicant’s information on a voter registration form results does not match the information in a federal or state database, the applicant’s status is "pending."

If an application is marked as "pending," the voter registration database produces a letter, giving the applicant 26 months to provide up-to-date information. Applicants who have been flagged can mail in a copy of "eligible identification" or present it at the polls.

Voting rights advocates have claimed Kemp's "exact match" law discriminates against black and minority voters. They point to the racial makeup of the list of stalled voter registration applications, which is 70 percent black, according to AP.

Georgia's population is about 32 percent black, according to U.S. census data.

Abrams in an appearance in August on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” called Kemp “a remarkable architect of voter suppression.” 

Kemp says less than 1 percent of applications failed verification and were held up.

Kemp's campaign spokesman Ryan Mahoney said in a statement to the AP that because of Kemp, “it has never been easier to vote in our state.”

“Kemp is fighting to protect the integrity of our elections and ensure that only legal citizens cast a ballot,” he added.

Kemp also blames a voter registration project launched by Abrams for racial disparities on the list of voter registration applications.

He told the AP that the New Georgia Project, which Abrams headed as Georgia House minority leader in 2013, was disorganized when it sought to register large swaths of the state's population. 

The New Georgia Project targeted black voters.

Kemp's office said the disparity could be explained by "the higher usage of one method of registration among one particular demographic group," according to the AP.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia in August accused one of the state's counties of trying to make it harder for African-Americans to vote when the Randolph County elections board closed seven of its nine polling locations.

Abrams is the first African-American woman to be nominated by a major party to run for governor. The two are running in a tight race, considered a "toss-up," according to a RealClearPolitics average of polling data.

This story was updated 10:45 p.m.