Trump: Georgia Republican accused of voter purges would make 'great governor'

Oliver Milman

Recent investigation found Brian Kemp has overseen the removal of more than 340,000 current Georgia residents from voting rolls

Brian Kemp faces Democrat Stacey Abrams in the midterms. Photograph: David Goldman/AP

Donald Trump on Saturday said Brian Kemp, a Republican accused of purging a huge number of voters from Georgia’s registration rolls, would make a “great governor” of the southern state.

Kemp is currently Georgia’s secretary of state, which means he is supervising an election in which he is a candidate.

Amid a flurry of tweets about the impending midterm elections, Trump tweeted that the Republican has “prepared for this very difficult and complex job for many years. He has my Strong Endorsement.”

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A recent analysis of records by the Palast Investigative Fundfound that Kemp has overseen the removal of more than 340,000 current Georgia residents from voting rolls, making them unable to participate in the 6 November election in which he faces the Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Georgia residents who have not voted in the past three years are sent a notice asking if they still live at their provided address. If they do not respond they are marked inactive and removed from voting records.

Kemp has also faced legal action over claims that he has hindered the voting registration of around 50,000 people, a group that is overwhelmingly black, Latino or Asian American, by implementing a new law.

The “exact match” law demands that election officials pause a voter registration if identifying information does not precisely mirror information in existing records, meaning that abbreviated names, random hyphens or extra spaces on forms can delay registration. Such voters must take extra steps to verify their identities.

Kemp’s campaign has said lawsuit claims of voter disenfranchisement are “utterly false and politically motivated”.

Kemp himself has said his opponent, Abrams, wants “wants illegal [immigrants] to vote in Georgia”, a charge he has provided no evidence to support. He told Fox News last week: “I think hard-working Georgians should decide who their governor is, not people here illegally like my opponent wants.”

Abrams is running to become the first black female governor in US history. She has called for Kemp to stand down as secretary of state and accused him of targeting minority voters in a bid to bolster his election campaign. Polls show Kemp has a slender lead in what is usually a reliably Republican state.

“Dishonesty, incompetence and voter suppression have no place in the secretary of state’s office, and Brian Kemp should resign immediately so that Georgians can be confident the election will be administered in a fair and competent manner,” a spokeswoman for Abrams said.

“Kemp is running scared because he knows that Georgians are increasingly excited to vote for Stacey Abrams, and they aren’t going to let him steal this election or their futures.”

Trump’s Saturday tweet claimed Abrams was “totally unqualified” and would “destroy a great state”.

Abrams is a lawyer, romance novelist and former minority leader in the Georgia house of representatives.

Also this week, the president voiced his support for another Republican, Montana congressman Greg Gianforte, who assaulted a Guardian reporter.