Center for American Progress Action

Center for American Progress Action Fund Highlights Brian Kemp as 2015 Oscar Winner for Voter Suppression
Press Release

Center for American Progress Action Fund Highlights Brian Kemp as 2015 Oscar Winner for Voter Suppression

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp takes home Best Costume Design for brazen effort to block voters from registering.

Washington, D.C. — One of the leading and most controversial contenders during the 2015 film awards season is a movie that begins with a black woman attempting what is supposed to be a simple task: registering to vote. As the movie “Selma” depicts, registering to vote has never been easy for African Americans in Alabama, and despite 50 years of history between the famous Selma march and today, access to voting still faces major threats across the country. There are many nominees vying for recognition as the best at suppressing the vote, and a new report released today by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, titled “The Academy Awards of Voter Suppression,” offers up the winners, including Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R).

This may feel like a movie we have seen before, but in states from Georgia to Wisconsin to South Carolina to Kansas, conservative governors, secretaries of state, and oligarchs have led the charge to block Americans from exercising their sacred right to vote, and they have even gotten assistance from the Supreme Court. After being caught lamenting Democratic efforts to register people of color to vote, Sec. Kemp executed one of the most brazen voter suppression efforts in recent history: He simply failed to process tens of thousands of voter registration forms, largely from voters of color in Democratic-leaning areas of the state. And then he attacked the voter registration drive, even as his office found very few issues with the registration forms. In addition to Kemp, other award winners include Charles and David Koch, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and conservative columnist George Will.

“Just as we were half a century ago, we are in the midst of an onslaught of state laws designed to block access to the vote,” said Lauren Harmon, Voting Campaign Manager at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “Done under the guise of virtually nonexistent voter fraud, these laws serve only to shut out communities that are often blocked from access in other areas, such as the criminal justice system. These laws stem from a concerted effort by conservatives to shut out communities of color, young people, and low-income families, effectively stifling their voices in the political process.”

Honors have been awarded in the following categories: Best Director; Best Picture; Best Actor; Best Actress; Best Actor in a Supporting Role; Best Actress in a Supporting Role; Best Cinematography; Best Original Screenplay; and Best Costume Design. Top awards include:

  • Best Director: Charles and David Koch. With funding through organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, Americans for Prosperity, or AFP, and others, the Koch brothers, oligarchs, and bank rollers of conservative infrastructure, have orchestrated voter suppression efforts, including model legislation for conservative state lawmakers, direct contact with voters containing inaccurate information, and efforts to force purges from voter rolls. AFP has also partnered with True the Vote, an organization known for voter intimidation tactics.
  • Best Picture: North Carolina. According to a New York Times blog, the state of North Carolina passed “a bill that combines every idea for suppressing voter turnout that Republicans have advanced in other states,” in the wake of the Shelby County v. Holder decision that weakened the Voting Rights Act, or VRA. Days before the 2014 election, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling and allowed the state to commence with photo ID requirements, slashing early voting days, ending same-day registration, and severely limiting the available of provisional ballots.
  • Best Actor: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Known for his many other roles attacking workers, teachers, and ethics, Walker has also built his reputation as roadblock to voting access. The voter ID bill that he signed into law four years ago was blocked by the Supreme Court on a technicality in 2014 after being called an “unconstitutional burden” by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Don’t say he doesn’t have any successes though: Walker’s other 2011 voting bill cut early voting by one-third.
  • Best Actress: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. With an assist from the Supreme Court’s weakening of the Voting Rights Act, Gov. Haley helped South Carolina pass and implement a voter ID law that the Associated Press said particularly affected African American voters, with 10 precincts in which almost every affected voters is a person of color. South Carolina is one of seven states that were once covered by VRA preclearance requirements to announce new voter restrictions since the Shelby decision.

Fifty years ago, African Americans marched across the South in search of the equal rights afforded to them under the law, including the ability to vote unencumbered. Today, many Americans are not only still aiming for that goal, but they are fighting conservatives who are actively trying to make it even harder. This story is unfortunately not a movie, but it certainly does have many bad actors.

Full list of winners:

Best Director: Charles and David Koch
Best Picture: North Carolina
Best Actor: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
Best Actress: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry
Best Cinematography: New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran
Best Original Screenplay: George Will
Best Costume Design: Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp

Click here to read the brief.


For more information, contact Benton Strong at [email protected] or 202.481.8142.