Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp ordered to answer questions in election lawsuit

The lawsuit accuses the secretary of state and election board members of mismanaging the 2018 election in ways that deprived some citizens, particularly low-income people and minorities, of their right to vote.
Image: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp takes questions at a press conference in Atlanta on Dec. 4, 2019.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp takes questions at a press conference in Atlanta on Dec. 4, 2019.Elijah Nouvelage / AP

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By The Associated Press

ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp will have to sit for questioning about comments he made that seemed to express concern about minority voter registration, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ruled that the Republican governor will have to answer questions as part of a lawsuit filed by Fair Fight Action, an organization founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams, who unsuccessfully ran against Kemp in 2018.

Prior to being elected governor last year, Kemp served as Georgia’s chief election officer as secretary of state.

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The lawsuit accuses the secretary of state and election board members of mismanaging the 2018 election in ways that deprived some citizens, particularly low-income people and minorities, of their constitutional right to vote. It seeks substantial reforms and asks that the state be required to get a federal judge’s approval before changing voting rules.

Lawyer’s for the plaintiffs had asked that Kemp be made to answer questions about a range of topics. But the judge limited the scope of what could be asked to focus narrowly on Kemp’s interpretation of the responsibilities of the secretary of state and state elections board, comments he made about minority voter registration and the actions of the state elections board while he was its chair. Jones said that questions about other topics could be addressed by subordinate officials.

Kemp’s comments about minority voter registration happened at a Gwinnett County event in July of 2014, according to Jones’ order.

“You know the Democrats are working hard, and all these stories about them, you know, registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines, if they can do that they can win this November. But we’ve got to do the exact same thing,” Kemp said at the time. He then encouraged attendees to help register more Republicans.

Lawyers for the state argued that Kemp was simply pressing for greater Republican registration efforts to offset Democratic ones, but Jones ruled that only Kemp could explain what he meant by the statement.

Kemp spokesman Cody Hall declined to comment.

Kemp’s deposition will be limited to two hours and must be completed by Jan. 10.