- Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Tuesday that around 1,000 people voted twice in the state’s primaries and that officials would prosecute those who did so on a case-by-case basis.
- Double-voting is a felony in Georgia punishable by one to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
- While Raffensperger repeatedly claimed those who voted twice had tried to “game the system” and were responsible for their actions, numerous experts said many of the votes were likely the result of data reporting issues from overwhelmed and undertrained poll workers.
- Raffensperger even admitted as much and actively contradicted himself during the same press conference where he made the announcement.
- He claimed the problem was not with the voting system, but human error. Others said those errors only occurred because of the flawed voting system Raffensperger put in place and blamed him directly for the state’s chaotic primaries.
One week after President Donald Trump told people to ensure their vote would be counted by voting both absentee and in-person, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger threatened criminal action against hundreds of people who did just that.
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Raffensperger announced that investigations are underway in 100 of Georgia’s 159 counties after it was discovered that around 1,000 people voted twice during the state’s primaries this summer.
Raffensperger noted that double-voting is considered a serious felony in Georgia punishable by one to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. However, he added that officials will prosecute on a case-by-case basis. The double votes did not change the outcome of any of the elections.
The Secretary of State did not say how many of the double votes were from people who intended to vote twice, or from people who requested an absentee ballot, then went to cancel it and voted in person on Election Day— which voters are allowed to do in the state as long as their absentee ballot has not already been received.
Raffensperger did say that was part of the investigation, but he also noted that the state’s law does not require them to prove “intentionality.”
“At the end of the day, the voter was responsible and the voters know what they were doing,” he added. “A double voter knows exactly what they were doing, diluting the votes of each and every voter that follows the law.”
When pressed by reporters for evidence of people intentionally trying to defraud the system, Raffensperger pointed to just one example of a voter who he said was “bragging” about voting twice in Long County.
Still, Raffensperger repeatedly accused voters of trying to “game the system,” claiming that there were 150,000 people who applied for an absentee ballot but showed up on Election Day to cancel their absentee ballot and vote in person.
While most ballots were successfully canceled by election workers, Raffensperger claimed that 1,000 of those 150,000 people, “actually double voted, knowing full well that they had filled out an absentee ballot, had mailed it back in and then showed up on the day of the election.”
Experts Contradict Raffensperger
Numerous experts have cast doubt on the claim that 1,000 people actively committed voter fraud.
Ned Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University told The Hill that the number Raffensperger provided “seems extraordinarily high relative to other recent statewide elections.”
That point was also echoed by Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who studies election data. He told NBC News that, historically speaking, fraud allegations that involve the number of people Raffensperger claims rarely end up being accurate.
“I can’t think of a single time where someone went out there with these allegations and law enforcement came back and said ‘yup, every one of those people fraudulently voted,” he said. “Once they are referred to law enforcement… those initial eye popping numbers turn out to be something you have to squint at.”
McDonald added further context to the situation in a series of tweets, warning people to be cautious of Raffensperger’s allegations.
“This could just be election official data errors, as has repeatedly been the case in prior sensational allegations of vote fraud,” he wrote. “It is abundantly clear from even a cursory analysis of the primary data posted by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office that it is riddled with errors. Many counties didn’t enter late rejected ballots, voters recorded as casting an accepted mail ballot with no vote history, etc”
McDonald also shared a screenshot of data showing the reasons poll workers wrote down for voters who were given an absentee ballot but canceled it to vote in person. He noted that they were full of typos, and thus called the reliability of the data into question.
“These 1,000 alleged double voters are at the mercy of election officials to have entered data correctly,” he tweeted.
“All it takes is for a poll worker to fail to cancel properly a mail ballot of a voter who stated they wanted to vote in-person for a voter to be erroneously flagged as voting twice.”
Major Issues, Revisited
During his press conference Tuesday, Raffensperger even acknowledged that argument, contradicting the numerous remarks he made in the same briefing about how all suspected double-voters were responsible. There, he said of the 1,000 double-votes: “that was really on election officials or poll workers’ side.”
He also insisted that the double-voting was not the result of a problem with the state’s voting system, but rather human error.
“The system worked fine, it’s not the system,” he said. “It gets to be very hectic as you’re juggling the many balls of many voters.”
Others have argued that the reason the primary was so “hectic” that double-votes slipped through the cracks was a direct result of issues with the voting system. Georgia’s primaries were plagued with problems and have been characterized as one of the most chaotic of this election season.
On the ground, there was a massive shortage of poll workers and issues with poll workers not being properly trained in many places. Numerous malfunctions were reported in precincts all over the state due to a new $100 million voting system that state officials had insisted be implemented for the primaries despite numerous warnings.
Both those factors contributed to long lines and hours-long waits, which were compounded by an overwhelmed absentee voting system. Nearly half of all primary voters cast ballots by mail— a record and a huge increase from the 5% of voters who normally vote absentee in the state.
Many people who requested absentee ballots said that election officials never sent them, so they showed up to vote on Election Day. Some also reported other issues with the ballots they did receive, such as being sent the wrong envelope to return their ballot.
A lot of people blamed Raffensperger for the disastrous primary and said he could have done more to prevent it. Some even accused him and other officials of actively engaging in voter suppression because so many of the problems were in largely Black neighborhoods.
With that catastrophe still fresh, many also condemned Raffensperger’s remarks Tuesday, saying the double-voting issues were a direct result of his actions. In a statement to the media, a group of voting rights groups called the Voter Empowerment Task Force slammed Raffensperger, calling his remarks a “deliberate distraction” to draw attention away from all the problems that have happened under his watch.
“Georgia’s failed top elections official has decided to push a right-wing narrative spreading across the country rather than focusing on protecting the Constitutional rights of every Georgian,” the group said.
Raffensperger, for his part, has refused to accept any blame, and with Nov. 3 around the corner, many are worried that without substantial changes, Georgians will just have another repeat of their primaries.
Now, the stakes are even higher because around 900,000 people have requested absentee ballots for the general election. During the primary, Raffensperger’s office told reporters 97% of absentee ballots were delivered to the right place before Election Day.
While 3% might sound like a slim margin, if it holds true for the general, that’s 27,000 ballots that did not get sent to the right place on time, and in an election this contentious, that could be huge.
See what others are saying: (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) (The New York Times) (Politico)
Biden Outlines $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Plan
- President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus proposal on Thursday.
- Under the plan, $1 trillion would go to direct relief for Americans. This includes a round of $1,400 stimulus checks, an extension and $400 weekly increase to federal unemployment benefits, and a $15 minimum wage.
- The proposal would also allocate $440 billion for aid to local governments and businesses, as well as provide $400 billion to directly fight the coronavirus with more testing and vaccinations, among other efforts.
Biden Outlines Direct Aid in Stimulus Plan
President-elect Joe Biden announced the details of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus package while speaking at an event in Wilmington, Delaware on Thursday.
Biden described the package, titled “American Rescue Plan,” as a set of emergency measures to immediately address the country’s economic and healthcare needs. The package will be followed by a second, broader relief package in February, which will aim to address more long-term economic recovery efforts.
Most significantly, $1 trillion — more than half of the funding allocated in the first package — will go to direct relief for Americans. Among other measures, the direct aid provisions in the plan include increasing federal unemployment benefits from $300 a week to $400 a week and extending them from March to September.
Biden’s plan also includes $1,400 stimulus checks to top off the $600 already approved in the December stimulus package. However, eligibility for the direct payments would be expanded to families of non-citizen immigrants as well as families with adult dependents.
Additionally, the proposal includes several other measures targeted at directly helping struggling Americans, such as raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, adding billions in funding for child care, and expanding the child tax credit to poor and middle-class families.
As for the broader economic and pandemic-centered measures, Biden’s package would allocate $440 billion for aid to states, local governments, and businesses. It would also provide $400 billion to directly fight the coronavirus, with a major focus on expanding testing and accelerating vaccine distribution.
Biden has set the dual goals of delivering 100 million vaccines and reopening the majority of K-12 public schools in his first 100 days. To meet that objective, his plan includes $20 billion for a universal vaccination program, $50 billion to expand testing, and $130 billion to help schools reopen safely.
The proposal, overall, meets many of the demands for direct aid that Democrats have pushed for months but have been unable to approve with the Republican-controlled Senate. Now that Democrats hold the presidency and control of both chambers, many members have urged Biden to ask for an even higher price tag.
Biden, for his part, has said he would like to try for a bipartisan majority on his first piece of legislation, but given Republicans months-long resistance to many Democratic asks, that desire is likely a pipe-dream.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
Democrats Ask for Investigation into GOP Members Aiding Rioters
- More than 30 House Democrats signed a letter Wednesday demanding that security officials look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” at the Capitol the day before last week’s insurrection.
- The lawmakers claimed they “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting, including guests who “appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day.”
- The letter comes one day after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) accused her Republican colleagues of bringing rioters into the Capitol the day before for “reconnaissance.”
- Notably, neither the letter nor Sherill herself directly named any members, and these claims have not yet been verified.
Demands for Investigation
Congressional Democrats are demanding an investigation into whether Republican representatives aided the Capitol rioters who lead last Wednesday’s insurrection.
In a letter signed by 31 members Wednesday, lawmakers asked the acting House and Senate Sergeants at Arms to look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” the day right before the attack.
In that letter, the Democrats say that they as well as some of their staffers “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting the Capitol.
They pointed out that was unusual because the building has restricted public access since March as part of pandemic protocols. Since then, tourists have only been allowed to enter the Capitol if they were brought in by a member of Congress.
The members found the tours “so concerning” that they reported them to the Sergeant at Arms the same day.
“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day,” the letter continued. “Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex.”
The demands come after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (R-NJ) claimed during a Facebook livestream Tuesday that she saw Republican representatives bringing now-identified rioters into the Capitol the day before the riots for “reconnaissance.” Sherrill also alleged that some of her GOP colleagues “abetted” Trump and “incited this violent crowd.”
Members Under Fire
Neither the letter nor Sherill have directly named any members, and none of these claims have yet been verified. However, over the last few days, a number of Republicans have been condemned for their perceived involvement in inciting the rioters.
In a now-deleted video, right-wing conspiracy theorist and “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander claimed he had planned the rally that took place before the riot with the help of three House Republicans: Paul Gosar (Az.), Andy Biggs (Az.), and Mo Brooks (Al.). All three men voted to undermine the will of the American people and throw out the electoral votes in Arizona following the insurrection.
Biggs and Brooks have both denied that they have any involvement, but Gosar, who tagged Alexander in a tweet he posted just hours before the attack, has not responded to any requests for comment from several outlets.
“Biden should concede,” Gosar wrote. “I want his concession on my desk tomorrow morning. Don’t make me come over there. #StopTheSteaI2021”
While Brooks has denied any involvement in planning the rally, his remarks to the would-be domestic terrorists at the event have sparked widespread condemnation.
“Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” he told the crowd. “Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?”
Some House Democrats introduced resolutions to censure Brooks for his comments. Other members have also been pushing to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a relic of the post-Civil War era which disqualifies people who “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. from holding public office.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) has also received 47 co-sponsored on her proposed resolution that would start investigations for “removal of the members who attempted to overturn the results of the election and incited a white supremacist attempted coup.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
House Impeaches Trump By Largest Bipartisan Margin in History
- The House voted to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection,” making him the first-ever president to be impeached twice.
- Ten Republicans broke party ranks to vote in favor of impeachment, which means this is the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.
- Ahead of the vote, sources close to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he was pleased Democrats were moving forward with a vote because it will make it easier to “purge” Trump from the party.
- McConnel later said he has not yet decided whether he will vote to convict Trump. Still, he has refused to convene the Senate before Jan. 19, meaning that as of now, there is little chance that the Senate will conduct a trial and oust Trump before his term ends.
House Debates Impeachment
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 232 to 197 to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection,” making him the first-ever president to be impeached twice.
All Democrats voted in favor of the single article. They were also joined by 10 Republicans, which means this is the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.
The decision was debated on the floor after Vice President Pence rejected Democrats’ calls to invoke the 25th amendment and remove Trump from office.
Most notable among the Republican members who voted to impeach was Liz Cheney (R-WY), the number three House Republican who announced her decision Tuesday night.
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she said in a statement.
Questionable Path in Senate
No Republican Senators have publicly said they support removing Trump from office.
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that sources close to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he “has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party.”
Sources separately told Axios that “there’s a better than 50-50 chance” that McConnell would vote to convict Trump.
McConnell responded to the reports earlier on Wednesday but did not outright dispute many of the claims.
“While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” he said.
As for whether or not other members of the GOP would follow suit, a top Republican close to McConnell also told Axios that “Senate institutional loyalists are fomenting a counterrevolution” to Trump.
Additionally, McConnell’s advisers have said that he has “privately speculated that a dozen Republican senators — and possibly more — could ultimately vote to convict.” Notably, it would most likely require 17 Republicans to join Democrats in order for Trump to be found guilty.
In regards to a timeline, the Senate is in recess and not set to reconvene until Jan. 19, the day before Joe Biden’s inauguration. McConnell has rejected calls to ask that members return before then, meaning that as of right now there is very little chance that the Senate will conduct a trial and oust Trump before he leaves office.