Greg Palast, the journalist ejected from a Brian Kemp campaign event in Newnan on Tuesday, is filing suit against Kemp.
Palast was in Newnan for a BET project being produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson when he was escorted away from a campaign event being held at Sprayberry’s on Jackson Street. He has also written for The Guardian and Rolling Stone, and is the author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
Several months ago, Palast began looking into the removal of a half-million Georgians’ names from the voter rolls. That project was for Rolling Stone. He said he had filed a Freedom of Information request asking Kemp for information on how the decision was made to trim the state’s voter list, but said Kemp refused.
Palast said his training with BBC and The Guardian was to try to find recalcitrant sources at public events in an effort to get answers.
“If someone won’t agree to an interview, you hunt them down and ask them questions anyway,” he said.
According to Palast, Kemp initially was using Interstate Crosscheck. That project was developed in Kansas in 2005 and seeks to find people who are registered in more than one state with an eye toward removing them from the voter registration list.
“Kemp has used that list to help him purge voters from the voter rolls,” Palast said.
He said the list is heavily weighted toward African-American, Latino and Asian voters.
“It is also wildly inaccurate,” Palast said.
He said he brought a screenshot of a page from Georgia list for men named “Robert Jones.” Every Robert Jones in Georgia had been matched with a Robert Jones from another state — often one with a different middle name or initial.
Palast said he wanted to ask Kemp if it is appropriate to remove people from the voter rolls in such a fashion.
“This morning I announced that I am filing a federal lawsuit against Mr. Kemp under the National Voter Registration Act,” Palast said.
He said the information about what procedures Kemp used to remove voters from the list clearly falls under public records as outlined in the NVRA.
Palast said he notified Kemp 90 days ago that he was planning to file the suit. After that notice was given, Kemp stopped using the Interstate Crosscheck system and released the list of people who were purged from the Georgia voter list.
On his website, Palast offers a way for Georgians to search to see if their name has been removed from the list. The link is:
“We still have hundreds of thousands of people who have been purged,” Palast said. “I just want the information. I don’t think I should have to go to federal court to get this stuff.”
Cody Hall, Kemp campaign spokesman, said Palast was removed from the event by a Georgia State Patrol detail traveling with the candidate.
“We were notified that Mr. Palast was there. He was not a credentialed member of the media. He had not notified us he would be there. He has never made an appearance at our events,” Hall said.
Hall said the campaign asks journalists to let the campaign know they will be covering an event, although reporters who have had interaction with the campaign are generally welcomed.
Hall said Palast was “a member of the media we had not interacted with before.”
Hall said he told Palast that Kemp would not be answering his questions. Palast shouted questions but Kemp ignored him.
At one point, Palast “was either pushed into or made contact with Secretary Kemp,” Hall said. “At that time, I told him to not make physical contact with Secretary Kemp.
“It wasn’t an aggressive motion,” Hall said. “But you can’t touch Secretary Kemp unless he’s hugging you or shaking your hand.”
Hall said the restaurant management was notified about Palast and asked that he be removed.
Stephen Sprayberry of the restaurant clarified that they were asked if it would be okay to remove Palast and expressed no objection but he did not ask Palast to be removed. He said the situation was one the Sprayberrys have not encountered before in their 90 years of business.
Asked about Palast’s extensive contacts with Kemp regarding his voter suppression investigation, Hall said he had not had any contact with Palast before Tuesday.
“I’m the press secretary with the campaign, and I have not corresponded with Mr. Palast,” he said. “He may have correspondence with the official office.”
This article was first published on October 2, 2018 in The Newnan Times-Herald.
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