Transcript for Brian Kemp, Stacey Abrams make final push in tight Georgia governor's race
We are driving along I-85. It might be a race for the governor's mansion in Georgia but it is one the entire country is watching. In the red state of Georgia where the fish is fried and the tea is sweet the politics are as bare knuckled as it comes. This is a battle for the soul of our state, y'all. We have an opponent who is an architect of voter suppression. Reporter: An historic race in a dead heat. We are Georgia! Reporter: Partly because of Stacey Abrams, the 44-year-old democratic leader in the Georgia house. I'm Stacey Abrams and I'm running for governor. Reporter: Who if elected would become the first black female governor of any state in U.S. History. We want all of Georgia to see themselves reflect in my leadership. Yes, I will be the first black woman to be a governor in the history of the United States, but what that means is I'm opening the door for the next person and the person after that. Reporter: President trump captured the state by a little over five points, so here it seems the prize is much more than a government title. It just may be for the soul of the south, even as longstanding allegations of voter suppression swirl. The candidates themselves, polar opposites. For the Republicans, trump-backed Ryan Kemp, Georgia's current secretary of state. I got a big truck just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take 'em home myself. Yep, I just said that. Reporter: He's unapologetically conservative, a staunch supporter of the second amendment, religious liberty legislation and stricter immigration laws. We are building a red wall right here in the state of Georgia. Reporter: Abrams is running unabashedly as a Progressive, advocating for lgbtq equality, stricter gun control and expansion of medicaid. There hasn't been a democratic governor here in more than 15 years. Yes. Reporter: But you, a black woman, Progressive, can change that? Absolutely because Georgia has changed over the past 20 years. Reporter: For her supporters, Abrams' candidacy is bigger than her. I think Georgia is ready for a Progressive Democrat. This is the birthplace of civil rights. Reporter: Abrams attracted major star power. We need to vote for Stacey Abrams. Reporter: With celebrity endorsements from John legend and will Ferrell. Even Oprah is campaigning with her on Thursday, and former president Obama joining her later this week. Her opponent has used that to his advantage. That is not Georgia values. That is values of California or New York. Reporter: You have had a lot of funding from outside sources. Are you running a state campaign or a national campaign? We are running a locally-grounded campaign that is nationally known. We have more than five time of the number of individual donors giving to us. Reporter: Ryan Kemp has gotten maybe the only endorsement he needs, from the commander in chief himself, president trump tweeting himself that Kemp will be a great governor and will campaign for him right before the election. That resonated with Ted and his daughter Gianna at a Kemp campaign event here in Jessup, Georgia. Why did you bring your daughter today? We love trump and I have listened to some of the things I heard him say, and it is along in line with my conservative values. I really think -- Reporter: Hey, how are you? Good to see you, too. His campaign declined our request for a formal interview so we caught up with him at one of his events. A conservative state, how could it be so tight when you are facing an admitted Progressive? The race right now, there's been a lot of momentum on the democratic side around the country. The Republican base was not real motivated. That changed a couple of weeks ago. Reporter: At the heart of this battle for Georgia's future, what critics say is a blatant attempt by Republicans to intimidate voters of color. Emmet bondran, a long-time civil rights lawyer, says he has watched it happen for decades. There is a history of voter suppression, not only here but nationwide. Reporter: In fact, an ap report found 53,000 voter registration applications are on hold thanks to a so-called exact match law requiring applicant's information to exactly match other government records. So a misplaced hyphen or middle initial can stall an application and a vote. As secretary of state, Kemp is the architect of that law, saying he's trying to prevent voter fraud. Reporter: You talked about voter suppression. That is a myth. That is a myth that the Democrats bring out every two years. We have a record number of people on our voting roles. Reporter: But there's this detail. The majority of those 53,000 voter applications are overwhelmingly minority voters, voters that often choose Democrats. Most of those voters can cast a ballot as long as they bring a photo id to the polls. What do you say to those who say you are trying to suppress the votes? I'm not trying to suppress. The numbers don't lie about the fact. Minority participation is up 23% in Georgia, 23%. That's what you should report and not believe this bs about voter suppression. Whether it is 5,000, 50,000 people, his job is to guarantee that every Georgian who is eligible is ready to vote. Instead he purged them. Reporter: Exact match doesn't just apply to renl stragss. There's also a signatures requirement allowing officials to toss absentee ballots and applications if a signature doesn't match the one on file. The aclu and other groups filed lawsuits claiming hundreds of absentee ballots were tossed. A judge halted the practice last week and Kemp appealed calling absentee voting a privilege and convenience. A college student was eager to cast her absentee ballot, especially as a Latina voter. It is exciting to have a stay in big decisions for the state. Reporter: Her class and work schedule wouldn't allow her to make the hour drive to fill it out in person. I made sure to fill it in correctly and send it in. Two weeks after I sent it in I got notice that it had been rejected. Votes like me are ones that scare secretary Kemp. Reporter: She was told her signatures didn't match. I wasn't given a process to, you know, fix my ballot or have it reinstated prior to the rejection. Reporter: Under the voting rights act, states which had a history of voter disenfranchisement were monitored by the federal government, but a 2013 supreme court ruling undid that requirement. You've been on this case for a long time. Do you feel like we're going backwards? I am both surprised and disappointed that we are going in the opposite direction of making it harder for people to vote. Reporter: A federal study looked at those southern states and examined five kinds of voter suppression tactics. Georgia, the study says, was the only state to have adopted all five. Mr. Kemp created an atmosphere of fear around the right to vote in the state of Georgia. Reporter: Abrams calling on her opponent to step down, but Kemp is standing firm. I took an oath of office to serve as secretary of state and that's exactly what I'm going to continue to do. I am doing the exact same thing that Democrat Cathie cox was doing when she was running for governor. Reporter: Their fate is now in the hands of voters. He believes in the same values that I do. He's conservative, believes in the second amendment, lower taxes, and just believes in the same type of conservative things that I do. Sissy Abrams represents the future of Georgia as I want to see it. It is time for women and people of color to be in power. Reporter: It is clear Georgians are eager to decide the future of their state as long as that unalienable right, the right to vote, is not taken away. For "Nightline" I'm Deborah Roberts in Noonan, Georgia
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