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In Georgia and other key midterm states, fears persist over potential voter suppression

Amid record-breaking early voting this midterm season, concerns of voter suppression are at the center of some of the country's most contested races. Lisa Desjardins reports on what new voting restrictions mean for voters in Georgia, North Dakota and Kansas.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amid record-breaking early voting this midterm season, concerns of voter suppression, and who has the right to vote, are at the center of some of the country's most contested races.

    Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins reports on what new voting restrictions mean for voters in some key contests.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In Georgia, record-breaking early voting has more than doubled compared to this time in 2014, soaring in both Democratic and Republican strongholds, as the state's hotly contested race for governor is locked in a virtual tie and, at the center of the race, a contentious fight for who gets to cast ballots.

  • Stacey Abrams:

    I have an opponent who is a remarkable architect of voter suppression. My mission is to tell folks, he doesn't matter. You do.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Former Democratic State Representative Stacey Abrams is the first black woman in the country to be nominated for governor by either party. She's criticized voting policies implemented by her Republican opponent, Georgia's current secretary of state, Brian Kemp.

  • Brian Kemp:

    She's encouraging illegals to go out and vote for her.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Kemp, a strong ally of the Trump administration, says that Abrams' organizers have encouraged voter fraud and have failed to properly register others. Kemp has faced backlash after his office tried to close seven of nine polling places in a predominately poor black county in Southwest Georgia this summer.

    His office has also canceled over 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012, and recently put on hold some 53,000 voter applications, citing the state's exact match rules. That says an application can be invalidated if it doesn't exactly match information on a person's driver license.

    Georgia's population is 32 percent black. The Associated Press reports that black voters make up 70 percent of the applications currently on hold by Kemp's office. Kemp dismisses allegations of voter suppression as outrageous.

  • Brian Kemp:

    And this farce about voter suppression and people being held up from being on the rolls from being able to vote is absolutely not true. Anyone who meets the requirements that's on the pending list, all they have to do is do the same thing that you and I at home have to do. Go to your polling location, show your government I.D., and you can vote.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    At a private event last month, Kemp voiced skepticism about the high number of absentee ballot requests among Democratic voters.

    "Rolling Stone" magazine obtained audio of his remarks.

  • Brian Kemp:

    They have just an unprecedented number of that, which is something that continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote, which they absolutely can, and mail those ballots in. We got to have heavy turnout to offset that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Abrams says minority voters are bearing the brunt of Kemp's policies.

  • Stacey Abrams:

    Voter suppression isn't only about blocking the vote. It's also about creating an atmosphere of fear, making people worried that their votes won't count.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It is a debate in several election hot spots this year. In North Dakota's high-profile U.S. Senate race, a Native American tribe is suing to block a new voter I.D. law passed by the Republican-controlled statehouse.

    The Spirit Lake Tribe says the measure disenfranchises voters who live on reservations, many of whom don't have official addresses on their I.D.'s, or don't have an identification card at all.

    Meanwhile, in Kansas, officials in the majority Hispanic Dodge City moved the area's only polling place outside city limits. And, in Texas, Arizona, Florida and other states, election officials have closed hundreds of polling sites and enacted stricter voter I.D. laws over the past few years.

    This election, the polls and voting itself are on the ballot.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.

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