Atlanta — “I was blocked from voting for Stacey Abrams.” Yasmin Bakhtiari is upset, horrified and determined. Her family had fled Iran for American democracy. But New York-born Yasmin found democracy disappeared now that she’s located down in Brian Kemp’s Dixie.
Kemp, until Thursday, was Georgia’s secretary of state in charge of voting – and in charge of “maintaining” the voter rolls to make them more accurate. But he used that power to cancel more than half a million Georgian voter registrations without notice.
Bakhtiari, who planned to vote for Kemp’s Democratic opponent Abrams, said poll workers told her, “Your name has been purged [from voter rolls] because you haven’t voted in two election cycles.”
Yet, according to rights attorney Jeanne Mirer of Mirer, Mazzocchi and Julien, New York, “The National Voter Registration Act is crystal clear that you cannot lose your vote for not voting.”
Federal law doesn’t mean a whole lot to Kemp. The GOP candidate aired commercials in which he boasted, “I’m so conservative I blow up government regulations” — followed by dynamite exploding in the background.
Kemp blew up a second federal law, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Bakhtiari said, “Not only could I not vote, but they didn’t even let me do the provisional ballot.”
Provisional ballots are required by HAVA specifically to allow voters wrongly purged to cast a ballot so the voter or candidates like Abrams can fight to have it counted by county officials or by court order.
Bakhtiari knew she was entitled to the provisional ballot. She tried to get one in three attempts taking over two hours.
“The whole process was designed to use any excuse to not have you vote,” Bakhtiari said. “This was a strategy from Kemp to discourage people from voting.”
Of course, Kemp had already ruled that counties cannot tally the ballots of voters he purged, no matter whether he purged them rightly or wrongly.
Abrams’ legal team is fighting to count every ballot — including those provisionals, as well as the piles of absentee ballots rejected under Kemp’s rules — to force Kemp into a run-off.
The fact that Kemp is blocking legitimate requests for provisional ballots will make the push for a re-run that much harder. But if Abrams succeeds, Bakhtiari will re-register in time for the run-off.
She, and thousands of voters like her, will be a problem for Kemp. Because, Bakhtiari warns Kemp, “Nothing will stop me now… and I dare you to tell me that I can’t vote.”