On Tuesday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced that 1,000 residents voted twice in the state’s June primary election, and promised to prosecute the offenders who violated the law. But beyond having an impact on Georgia, the news will no doubt have a national impact as the country hurtles toward the November 3 presidential election.
In a press conference at the Georgia state capital announcing the findings, Raffensperger was unequivocal. “A double voter knows exactly what they’re doing, diluting the votes of each and every voter that follows the law,” Raffensperger said. “Those that make the choice to game the system are breaking the law. And as Secretary of State, I will not tolerate it.”
The state’s findings come after a controversial election, Georgia’s first since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, in which voters were forced to deal with long lines and malfunctioning machines. Following the primary, which drew national attention, Raffensperger pledged to investigate. The announcement on Tuesday was part of the results of that investigation.
Double voters, in the cases that Raffensperger cited, are those who mailed in absentee ballots and also voted at the polls on the June 9thelection day. While there are protocols in place to double-check that individual voters are unable to cast ballots twice, it is obvious there were gaps in the system.
Raffensperger’s press conference also comes less than a week after a report by the ACLU of Georgia that showed the state of Georgia had improperly removed nearly 200,000 citizens from Georgia voting rolls.
The news from Georgia is likely to add fuel to an already contentious debate over mail-in voting. With the nation less than 60 days away from a general election, issues regarding mail-in balloting and potential voter fraud have been in the news on a daily basis. President Trump and his allies, including Attorney General Barr, have frequently cited untruthful claims about potential voter fraud as a reason to limit mail-in balloting. For his part, President Trump has frequently voted by mail.
President Trump also raised eyebrows last week when he appeared to endorse the idea that North Carolina voters should vote via mail and in person – exactly the unlawful activity that the Georgia Secretary of State disclosed on Tuesday. “Let them send it in and let them go vote,” Trump said told North Carolina based broadcaster WECT-TV last Wednesday. “And if the system is as good as they say it is then obviously they won’t be able to vote (in person).”
Trump’s comments drew immediate backlash, with the North Carolina Attorney General clarifying that such activity would, in fact, be illegal.
In Georgia, double voting is a felony offense and can be publishable with up to a $100,000 fine and 10 years in prison. On Tuesday, Raffensperger said that the state and local authorities will investigate, and as appropriate, prosecute those found to have double voted.
Despite the fact that voter fraud, particularly by mail, is rare, the news from Georgia will nonetheless appear to counter claims that it is non-existent. With the nation expecting record numbers of mail-in ballots this election season, critics will likely seize on the news to illustrate the risks to the security of the upcoming election. Additionally, coupled with the comments by the President and others, and a general lack of trust by many in the American political system, the developments in Georgia will likely only add confusion about how to vote in an already fraught and contentious election. And unfortunately, when people doubt the integrity of an election process…
Nobody is a winner.