The two secretaries of state most aggressive in culling voter lists are Kris Kobach in Kansas and Brian Kemp in Georgia, who are also both Republican candidates for governor, exacerbating partisan rancor. Mr. Kemp has presided over a series of purges and restrictive voter-registration rules that heavily affect minorities. Mr. Kemp is white, and his Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, is black.
“Voter suppression isn’t only about blocking the vote, it’s also about creating an atmosphere of fear, making people worry that their votes won’t count,” Ms. Abrams said at a recent debate.
Mr. Kemp has expressed unease at Democratic turnout, but called suggestions of suppression “outrageous” and said that over all “we have one million more people on our voting rolls” than when he took office in 2010. But he had a setback Friday when a federal judge ruled that Georgia needed to make it less difficult for naturalized citizens to vote.
For Waller County, voter suppression has weighed on its reputation. It was further tarnished in 2015, when Sandra Bland, a Prairie View alumna, who was heading back to the school to take a job, was the subject of a highly controversial police stop and subsequent jailing that ended with her suicide.
Officials defend the county.
“I got to Waller County in ’05, so every time every story starts with Waller County and its 40-year racist history of disenfranchising voters, I have no connection to that at all,” said Judge Carbett J. Duhon III, a Republican who is the top official setting voting rules.
“Hindsight being 20/20, can I understand students being frustrated that maybe they are excited for one candidate or the other, and they don’t have a place to go vote on campus during that first week?” he asked. “Yeah, I can see that.”