The House Oversight Committee announced Wednesday that it is launching an investigation into allegations of voter suppression in Georgia’s November midterm elections.
The move comes months after Republican Brian Kemp, then Georgia’s secretary of state, eked out a win over Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams in a gubernatorial race marred by voting irregularities. Abrams has since formed a new organization, Fair Fight Georgia, aimed at battling voter suppression.
Since retaking control of the House in January, Democrats have announced that they will pursue investigations into a range of issues, from President Trump’s business dealings to the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the border.
The oversight panel’s chairman, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), and civil rights subcommittee chairman, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), said in letters to Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Wednesday that they are “investigating recent reports of serious problems with voter registration, voter access, and other matters affecting the ability of people in Georgia to exercise their right to vote.”
“The Committee is particularly concerned by reports that Georgians faced unprecedented challenges with registering to vote and significant barriers to casting their votes during the 2018 election,” the lawmakers wrote.
Abrams accepted defeat in November but maintained that the election had been tainted, with some voters reporting that they had waited up to four hours to vote, had not received absentee ballots that they requested and were given inaccurate information from county elections officials.
In the days leading up to the Nov. 6 election, advocates successfully challenged some of Georgia’s election laws and procedures, including a voter registration law that could potentially harm minorities and policies that resulted in a disproportionate number of rejected absentee ballots in a majority minority county.
Abrams’s group has filed a federal lawsuit against Georgia elections officials, alleging that they “grossly mismanaged” the 2018 election and violated Georgians’ constitutional and civil rights.
In a statement Wednesday, Fair Fight Action CEO Lauren Groh-Wargo said the group was pleased to see lawmakers “recognizing the magnitude of problems Georgians faced in 2018 due to the Secretary of State’s malfeasance, as well as the state’s continued refusal to guarantee the right to implement meaningful reforms in the 2019 legislative session.”
“Every resource should be leveraged to unearth the root causes of these problems and find solutions to ensure all citizens have their fundamental right to vote,” she said.
Asked about the investigation at a news conference Wednesday, Kemp replied, “My reaction to that is they need to quit playing politics up there.”
He did not address the allegations of voter suppression, but instead urged lawmakers in Washington to provide more disaster relief to Georgia, which was hit by Hurricane Michael last year and by tornadoes over the past week.
“We have given $91 billion to Puerto Rico, and Elijah Cummings and his colleagues in the House are hung up on giving more money to Puerto Rico” while people in Georgia and other states suffer, Kemp said. “So I would urge them to do the real work of this country: Take care of the people that need disaster relief.”
In a statement, Raffensperger said his office has received Cummings’s letter and “looks forward to an open dialogue and a thorough process.”
As secretary of state, Kemp had drawn criticism from Democrats for championing a contentious “exact match” voting law disproportionately affecting black voters and alleging a hacking attempt into the voter registration system days before the midterms.
Abrams last year accused Kemp of using the “exact match” law to essentially block 53,000 Georgians from voting; Kemp replied that anyone with a suspended registration would be able to vote at the polls as long as they provided the proper identification.
In their letters Wednesday, Cummings and Raskin made a sweeping request for documents related to the election, giving Kemp and Raffensperger a deadline of March 20. They cited reports that Kemp’s office has purged more than 1 million voters and closed more than 200 polling places in recent years.
Among the materials requested by the committee are documents related to decisions about polling sites and communications with any consultants on the issue.
The panel is also seeking materials related to Kemp’s allegation of an attempted hack of the state voter registration system, as well as documents discussing Kemp’s “ethical or legal obligations or possible conflicts of interest” while running for governor at the same time he was overseeing the state’s elections.
Also Wednesday, Cummings and Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) — who chairs the House’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure — sent letters to officials at the FBI, Department of Justice and General Services Administration, asking how and why the FBI abandoned plans to move its headquarters out of downtown Washington.
The administration abandoned that plan six months after Trump took office. Now, Trump wants to build a new FBI headquarters on the site of the old one, near the White House. Trump owns a hotel just across the street from the FBI building, and some Democrats have alleged that Trump’s decision will help his business — by eliminating the prospect that a rival hotel might be built on the site when the FBI left.
The two committees want all communications between the GSA and FBI about the site, and details about any briefings given to Trump himself.
David A. Fahrenthold contributed to this report.