In the current political and media environment, it’s not often that a state politics story without President Donald Trump’s name in it drives a national political conversation for almost a week.
But that’s what happened when Atlanta-based newsperson Ben Nadler published a look at Georgia’s “exact match” voter registration verification process and other policies backed by Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
Critics contend the process and other policies smack of voter suppression and are unfairly disenfranchising minority voters ahead of a tightly contested Georgia governor’s race. Kemp faces Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is vying to become the first black female governor of any state.
Kemp says he is following state law. He argues that Abrams and liberal activists are twisting his record and he has taken steps to make voting easier in the state.
According to records obtained by Nadler from Kemp’s office through a public records request, 53,000 registrations – 70 percent of them from black applicants – were on hold with less than a month before the Nov. 6 election. Many applications on hold were flagged because of the state's exact match verification process. Information on voter applications must precisely match information on file with the Georgia Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration.
Nadler also found that Kemp’s office has cancelled more than 1.4 million inactive voter registrations since 2012 – nearly 670,000 registrations in 2017 alone.
The story got tremendous play with AP customers over multiple news cycles and on social media.
Numerous local and national customers used the AP version or mentioned it in their own pieces matching Nadler’s story. His reporting also was cited in opinion pieces in The New York Times and The Washington Post and drove discussions on Sunday political talks shows such as CNN’s State of the Union and NBC’s Meet the Press.
Nadler's story also lit up social media, with several hundred thousand social interactions over the course of a week. That included 229,400 Facebook engagements and 74,000 tweets. The story received more than 20,000 page views.
For his deep look at a critical issue in Georgia’s high-stakes gubernatorial election and driving a national political discussion for days, Nadler wins this week’s Best of the States award.