Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is sounding the alarm about voter suppression even amid a record-breaking week of early voter turnout in Georgia.

“In 2018, we had record turnout,” Abrams said in a press conference Monday. “We had record turnout that shattered records for Democrats among communities of color and in that same election … we know that 85,000 Georgians were denied their right to vote due to voter suppression tactics that shut down their precincts. We know that 50,000 voters had their right to vote held hostage by the exact match process which was proven to be voter suppression tactics. We know that thousands of people stood in lines for hours because of voter suppression tactics.”

Reports showed that in 2018, thousands of “infrequent voters” had their ballots purged in Georgia. Others, mainly voters of color, had their registration put on hold due to the “exact match” law, which puts someone’s voting status on hold if the information they put on their registration form doesn’t exactly match their driver’s license or social security records.

Just weeks after Abrams narrowly lost the governor’s race to Republican Brian Kemp in 2018, she filed a lawsuit accusing then-secretary of state Kemp of using his power to suppress votes. Kemp vehemently denied the accusations.

In September, a federal judge ruled the state did not violate the constitutional rights of voters.

Since announcing she would once again challenge Kemp, Abrams has placed a heavy focus on voting rights concerns in the hopes of mobilizing voters of color.

“We proved in ’18 and it remains true that turnout does not dispel voter suppression,” Abrams said Monday. “Suppression is about barriers to access. But the antidote to suppression is overwhelming the polls with your presence and that is exactly what voters did in 2018, it’s what they continued to do in 2020 and ’21 and is what we are seeing in ’22. But it is wrong to suggest that there is a correlation between voter turnout and voter suppression because suppression is about barriers.”

But Abrams also said she is “grateful” for those who have already cast their ballots in Georgia. 

So far, over 838,000 Georgians have voted, either through mail-in ballots or in person, said Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams’s campaign manager.

“We did see the lines this week, but we overall feel very good considering all of the barriers and considering the challenges of SB202,” said Groh-Wargo, referring to a voting bill Kemp signed into law in 2021. Though Kemp and supporters of SB202 argued the law is to protect elections, critics say it perpetuates voter suppression.

“Under the hood of this turnout is really strong enthusiasm and voting by Black Georgians, specifically,” Groh-Wargo added.

Thus far, those who have stated their race on the voter file more than 35 percent are Black — up from 33 percent in 2020 and 31 percent in 2018 at the same time.

This higher turnout is with both Black men and women, Groh-Wargo said, dispelling the idea that Abrams does not connect with Black men. 

“We’re seeing very strong turnout by Black men,” said Groh-Wargo. “More Black men have voted early in person in raw numbers in 2022 then 2020 or 2018 at the same point.”

According to the campaign’s numbers, about 97,000 Black Georgian men have voted early this year. At the same time in 2020, 96,000 had voted. Only 45,000 had voted in the same time period in 2018. 

Still, Abrams is still trailing in the polls against Kemp. The latest Quinnipiac University poll showed Kemp with 50 percent support from voters and Abrams with 49 percent.

But the campaign said polls don’t show the full story, and they’re still confident they can win. While their target was high voter turnout for the first week of early voting, Groh-Wargo said they will continue to mobilize voters over the next three weeks. 

“Bottom line is we can win,” she said. “We are working hard to win out right [but] we will also be ready for a runoff. We’re readying ourselves for every post-election scenario. Black voters are flexing their power, our Democratic coalition is flexing their power across the board and we will continue to keep our foot on the gas.”

This content was originally published here.

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