“Much was made both during and after the 2020 presidential election about rampant voter fraud. This week, yet another of those claims fell apart under scrutiny.
In September 2020, Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced that more than 1,000 people may have voted more than once in the state’s primary and runoff elections that year. Amid ongoing allegations of widespread vote fraud from President Donald Trump, Raffensperger charged that the voters in question returned absentee ballots, and then also voted in person—a violation of both state and federal law. Raffensperger assembled a task force to investigate, and he warned that convictions under Georgia law would garner up to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.
But now, Raffensperger admits that his initial claims were overblown.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday that in response to requests for information about the investigation, the secretary of state’s office indicated that only around 300 cases of double-voting were ultimately substantiated, “almost always because of mistakes by confused voters and poll workers.” Of the 1,339 cases which Raffensperger initially claimed, the confirmed total represents barely more than one-fifth (22 percent), though the paper contends that about 100 cases remain “under investigation.””
“Georgia voters who fill out an absentee ballot may either mail it in or drop it off. They could also go to their polling place and vote in person instead. In that case, according to page 55 of the State of Georgia Poll Worker Manual, the poll worker’s terminal will prompt that the voter has been issued an absentee ballot. At that time, the voter would either turn in their absentee ballot to be discarded, or if they did not have it with them, the poll worker would call to verify that the ballot had not been counted before having the voter fill out a form requesting their original ballot be canceled.
If, as Raffensperger alleged, more than 1,000 voters cast more than one vote, by mailing back an absentee ballot and then also voting in person, then in every single case that would require a failure on the part of the state of Georgia or its poll workers.
There is evidence that Raffensperger’s office realized this when he first made the claim. According to emails published by American Oversight, a government accountability watchdog group, on the same day that Raffensperger made the announcement about double-voting, Ryan Germany, the general counsel to the secretary of state, was advising members of the task force on the subject: “There are systematic checks to stop double voting from happening, and those checks appear to be largely working as intended. [Some] people likely voted twice inadvertently or because they were not sure if their absentee ballot had been returned on time.””
“In March, Georgia Republicans passed SB 202, a sweeping new election law that erects obstacles between Georgia voters and their right to cast a ballot. While some are relatively minor or even popular, the most ominous provisions of this new law allow the state election board, which is dominated by Republicans, to seize control of county election boards. Those boards can disqualify voters, move polling precincts, and potentially even refuse to certify an election count.”
“letters from Republican lawmakers are the first step in the legal process Republicans may use to take over elections in Fulton County, the most populous county in the state, which encompasses most of Atlanta. In 2020, nearly 73 percent of Fulton County voters cast a ballot for President Joe Biden. Biden won the county by nearly a quarter-million votes, enough to push him ahead of former President Donald Trump in a state decided by 11,779 votes overall.
Both letters ask the state elections board to begin a “performance review” of the local officials who oversee elections in Fulton County. The senators claim that such a review is justified because “nearly 200 ballots were scanned twice last fall” during the initial vote count in Fulton — a claim that was previously featured on Tucker Carlson’s show.
The reality is much more nuanced, and it suggests that the state’s existing systems worked exactly as they were supposed to work. Although nearly 200 ballots were double-counted during the first count of Fulton County’s ballots, Georgia conducted both a machine recount and a hand recount of all its ballots, given how close the statewide result was. And there’s no evidence that any ballots were counted twice in the final tallies that showed Biden ahead of Trump.
It appears likely that a poll worker in Fulton County made a minor clerical error, and this error was corrected in the subsequent recounts.
Nevertheless, it is probably inevitable that the GOP-controlled state elections board will open an investigation into Fulton County. And once this investigation concludes, the state board can use it as a pretext to remove Fulton County’s local elections board and replace it with a temporary superintendent who can undermine voting within that county.”
“The outcome of Georgia’s 2022 statewide elections, in other words, may not be determined by the state’s voters. It could hinge on a sham investigation into Fulton County’s election administration — and by a partisan board’s subsequent decision to place a partisan official in charge of counting most of the votes in Atlanta.”
“prior efforts to restrict the franchise frequently placed unnecessary hurdles in the way of voters, such as by requiring them to show certain forms of ID or by limiting where and when voters can cast their ballot. These sorts of laws are troubling, but they can be overcome by determined voters.
SB 202, by contrast, is part of a new generation of election laws that target the nuts and bolts of election administration, potentially allowing voters to be disenfranchised even if they follow the rules.”
“Most of these bills are not as aggressive as Georgia’s, but they all undermine localities’ ability to self-rule. In this way, Illinois State University political scientist Lori Riverstone-Newell told FiveThirtyEight, they’re part of an increasing trend of states preempting local government in order to retain power for themselves: Conservative legislatures, in particular, have passed several laws in recent years that limit the types of laws municipalities can pass, including sanctuary-city protections, anti-LGBT discrimination ordinances and minimum-wage increases (especially in the South). These laws can often have what Riverstone-Newell calls a “chilling effect,” where the mere threat of having their power taken away makes local officials afraid to govern as they see fit.”
“One of the most damning indictments of President Donald Trump’s behavior in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 presidential election was that he allegedly pressured Georgia’s lead elections investigator to “find the fraud.” The Washington Post first reported this detail on January 9, and countless other mainstream media sites publicized it.
But that reporting was wrong. Trump never used the phrase “find the fraud” during his December phone call with Frances Watson, the chief investigator within the secretary of state’s office; moreover, he never promised Watson that she would be a “national hero” if she did discover evidence of fraud.”
“Watson discovered an audio file during an effort to retrieve documents for a public records request. This file, which was published last week by The Wall Street Journal, makes clear that the quotes supplied by the anonymous source were erroneous.
During the call, Trump told Watson that she had “the most important job in the country” and that she would be praised “when the right answer comes out.” He also made several incorrect statements, and continuously asserted that he had actually won the state of Georgia.
“I won Georgia, I know that, by a lot, and the people know it,” said Trump. “Something happened. Something bad happened.”
Trump deserves criticism for repeatedly and loudly making this false claim, which eventually culminated in some of this more rabid and deluded supporters assaulting the U.S. Capitol. But the notion that he pressured Watson to specifically uncover evidence of fraud looks much weaker now that a recording of the call has been released.
Trump’s other call with Georgian election officials, a transcript of which has been available for months, continues to look quite bad for him: He repeatedly stated an exact number of votes that he would like the investigators to discover. It would not be wrong to conclude that Trump inappropriately exerted pressure on Georgian election officials. But he did not say precisely what the media alleged that he had said”
“At first glance, Georgia’s law requiring majorities for an outright victory seems inoffensive — the person who wins has to be chosen by most of the people who cast their votes. In theory, this would force candidates to appeal to more voters instead of winning with a large plurality of votes while holding views anathema to the majority of the electorate.
But Georgia’s runoff system has a darker origin: Many historians say it was designed to make it harder for the preferred candidates of Black voters to win, and to suppress Black political power.”
“It effectively began in 1962, when the Supreme Court struck down Georgia’s old electoral system. That older system, called a “county-unit system,” was created 45 years prior to amplify rural voters’ power while disadvantaging Black voters’, and was “kind of a poor man’s Electoral College,” University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock told Vox.
Forced to come up with a new system, Georgia created one intended to continue undermining Black voters’ influence. That was the runoff system”
“”In 1963, state representative Denmark Groover from Macon introduced a proposal to apply majority-vote, runoff election rules to all local, state, and federal offices. A staunch segregationist, Groover’s hostility to black voting was reinforced by personal experience. Having served as a state representative in the early 1950s, Groover was defeated for election to the House in 1958. The Macon politico blamed his loss on “Negro bloc voting.” He carried the white vote, but his opponent triumphed by garnering black ballots by a five-to-one margin.
Groover soon devised a way to challenge growing black political strength. Elected to the House again in 1962, he led the fight to enact a majority vote, runoff rule for all county and state contests in both primary and general elections. Until 1963, plurality voting was widely used in Georgia county elections””
“Groover wanted to stop Black Georgians from voting as a “bloc” — that is, overwhelmingly for one candidate or party — while white Georgians split their votes among many candidates. In a plurality system, if Black voters were able to keep a coalition behind one candidate, they wouldn’t need the support of many white voters for their preferred candidate to win elections.
The method was popular across the former Confederacy: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas all have general election runoffs. As the Washington Post reported, just two non-Southern states have runoff rules, and those “almost never matter””
“There are some, like Bullock, who don’t believe this was designed to be a racially discriminatory institution, pointing out that the use of runoffs began at a time when Black voters had already been largely eliminated from the voter rolls. Others have said there were good governance reasons for implementing the runoff system.
However, Cal Jillson, a professor at Southern Methodist University, told the Washington Post that most of the states that adopted runoff systems did it to “maintain white Democratic domination of local politics. Letters and speeches that survive from the period show race was very much on the minds of those Democrats who advocated the primary-runoff process. ‘People had no misgivings about stating their real intentions and stating them in racial terms,’” Jillson told the paper.”
“As if to simplify the historical record, decades after Groover fought to institute run-off elections, he admitted: “I was a segregationist. I was a county unit man. But if you want to establish if I was racially prejudiced. I was. If you want to establish that some of my political activity was racially motivated, it was.”
Groover also confirmed that he “used the phrase ‘bloc voting’ as a racist euphemism for Negro voting.” A DeKalb County representative who supported Groover “remembered Groover saying on the House floor: ‘[W]e have got to go the majority vote because all we have to have is a plurality and the Negroes and the pressure groups and special interests are going to manipulate this State and take charge if we don’t go for the majority vote.””
“Based upon available exit polling, Democrats won Georgia with a combination of white college-educated, Black and Latino voters. Black voters led the way with a whopping 88 percent of those voters supporting Biden; they make up 29 percent of all voters in Georgia. Latinos and white college-educated voters made up the rest of this winning coalition of voters with 62 percent and 57 percent of these voters turning out for Biden, respectively. Combined, these voters make up a large subsection of all voters in Georgia. Based on data currently available on the final vote counts, we are tracking an increase of about 200,000 more Black voters in 2020 than in 2016.
Add in increased Asian American and Latino Democratic participation, and a true Obama-era coalition emerges. This is thanks to the work of Black Voters Matter, New Georgia Project founded by Stacey Abrams, and other state-based organizers who turned out what we call high-potential voters — voters who don’t have vote histories, but if you talk to them, are likely to engage and lean Democratic.”
“Audio from the full 62-minute call was published by the Post Sunday, including an exchange where Trump threatens Raffensperger and Germany with imminent legal consequences should they fail to overturn the already certified results.
“That’s a criminal offense,” Trump tells Raffensperger and Germany on the call, apparently in reference to Raffensperger not reporting made-up instances of election fraud. “And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. And that’s a big risk.”
Trump also raised a number of conspiracy theories resembling those promoted by onetime Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, who was cut loose by the Trump campaign’s legal team as her election fraud allegations became increasingly outlandish.”
“Trump aired a version of the Dominion conspiracy during his Saturday call.
“Now, do you think it’s possible that they shredded ballots in Fulton County?” Trump asked Germany on the call. “Because that’s what the rumor is. And also that Dominion took out machines. That Dominion is really moving fast to get rid of their machinery. Do you know anything about that? Because that’s illegal, right?”
As Germany affirmed on the call, none of Trump’s allegations are true.
Despite the Trump legal team’s move to disavow Powell, Trump has reportedly remained enamored with her theories. According to a New York Times report from December, he briefly considered naming Powell as special counsel to investigate his baseless claims of voter fraud, though he was ultimately talked down by aides.”
“Though Sunday’s Washington Post scoop provides arguably the starkest example of Trump’s long-running attempts to subvert democracy in order to remain in power — not to mention a more than passing resemblance to President Richard Nixon’s presidency-ending tapes — it is by no means the only time Trump has mounted an effort of this sort since losing reelection.
In at least three other battleground states that he lost to Biden — Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — Trump has directly reached out to lawmakers and other officials to urge them to help him overturn the election results in their states, potentially awarding him an unelected second term in office.”