- 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)
Republican Congressman Proposes Bill to Ban Anyone Under 16 From Social Media
The proposal comes amid a growing push for social media companies to be stringently regulated for child and adolescent use.
The Social Media Child Protection Act
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Ut.) introduced legislation Thursday that would ban all Americans under the age of 16 from accessing social media.
The proposal, dubbed the Social Media Child Protection Act, would require social media companies to verify users’ ages and give parents and states the ability to bring legal actions against those platforms if they fail, according to a press release.
The legislation would also mandate that social media platforms implement “reasonable procedures to protect the confidentiality, security, and integrity of personal information collected from users and perspective users.”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would be given the authority to enforce these regulations and implement fines for violations.
Stewart has argued that the move is necessary to protect children from the negative mental health impacts of social media.
“There has never been a generation this depressed, anxious, and suicidal – it’s our responsibility to protect them from the root cause: social media,” he said in a statement announcing the bill.
“We have countless protections for our children in the physical world – we require car seats and seat belts; we have fences around pools; we have a minimum drinking age of 21; and we have a minimum driving age of 16,” the Congressman continued.
“The damage to Generation Z from social media is undeniable – so why are there no protections in the digital world?”
While Stewart’s arguments are nothing new in the ongoing battle around children and regulating social media, his legislation has been described as one of the most severe proposals on this front.
The plan would represent a huge shift in verification systems that critics have long said fall short. Many social media sites like TikTok and Twitter technically ban users under 13 from joining, but there is no formal verification process or mechanisms for enforcement. Companies often just ask users to provide their birthdays, so those under 13 could easily just lie.
Backlash and Support
Stewart — who spent the weeks before the rollout of his bill discussing the matter with the media — has already gotten pushback from many who say the idea is too extreme and a bad approach.
Carl Szabo, the vice president and general counsel of the social media trade group NetChoice, told The Washington Post that such a decision should be left to parents.
“Rather than doomsaying or trying to get between parents and their families, the government should provide tools and education on how best to use this new technology, not demonize it,” he said.
Others have also argued that the move could cut off access to powerful and positive online resources for kids.
“For many kids, especially LGBTQ young people who may have unsupportive parents or live in a conservative area, the internet and social media are a lifeline,” Evan Greer, the director of the advocacy group Fight for the Future, told The Post. “We need better solutions than just cutting kids off from online community and educational resources.”
Lawmakers have also echoed that point, including Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Ca.), who represents Silicon Valley. However, there also seems to be support for this measure. At least one Democratic Congressmember has told reporters they are open to the idea, and Stewart says he thinks the proposal will have broad bipartisan backing.
“This is bipartisan… There’s Democratic leaders who are actually maneuvering to be the lead co-sponsor on this,” he told KSL News Radio, adding that President Joe Biden recently wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal that referenced similar ideas.
A Growing Movement
Stewart is just one among the growing number of lawmakers and federal officials who have voiced support for keeping kids and younger teens off social media altogether.
In an interview with CNN Sunday, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy expressed concern regarding “the right age for a child to start using social media.”
“I worry that right now, if you look at the guidelines from the platforms, that age 13 is when kids are technically allowed to use social media,” he said. “But there are two concerns I have about that. One is: I, personally, based on the data I’ve seen, believe that 13 is too early.”
Murthy went on to say that adolescents at that age are developing their identity and sense of self, arguing that social media can be a “skewed and often distorted environment,” adding that he is also worried about the fact that the rules around age are “inconsistently implemented.”
His comments gained widespread backing. At least one Senator posted a tweet agreeing, and an FTC Commissioner also shared the remarks on the platform. Stewart, for his part, explicitly cited Murthy’s remarks in the press release announcing his bill.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (KSL News Radio) (CNN)
Feds Investigate Classified Files Found in Biden’s Former Office
The documents reportedly include U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics such as Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom
What Was in the Files?
President Biden’s legal team discovered about 10 classified files in his former office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington D.C., the White House revealed Monday.
The Department of Justice has concluded an initial inquiry into the matter and will determine whether to open a criminal investigation.
According to a source familiar with the matter who spoke to CNN, they include U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics such as Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom.
A source also told CBS News the batch did not contain nuclear secrets and had been contained in a folder in a box with other unclassified papers.
The documents are reportedly from Biden’s time as vice president, but it remains unclear what level of classification they are and how they ended up in his office.
Biden kept an office in the. Penn Biden Center, a think tank about a mile from the White House, between 2017 and 2020, when he was elected president.
On Nov. 2, his lawyers claim, they discovered the documents as they were clearing out the space to vacate it.
They immediately notified the National Archives, which retrieved the files the next morning, according to the White House.
What Happens Next?
Attorney General Merrick Garland must decide whether to open a criminal investigation into Biden’s alleged mishandling of the documents. To that end, he appointed John Lausch Jr., the U.S. attorney in Chicago and a Trump appointee, to conduct an initial inquiry.
Garland reportedly picked him for the role despite him being in a different jurisdiction to avoid appearing partial.
Lausch has reportedly finished the initial part of his inquiry and provided a preliminary report to Garland.
If a criminal investigation is opened, Garland will likely appoint an independent special counsel to lead it.
The case mirrors a similar DoJ special counsel investigation into former President Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified materials and obstruction of efforts to properly retrieve them.
On Nov. 18, Garland appointed Jack Smith to investigate over 300 classified documents found at Trump’s Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago.
Trump resisted multiple National Archives requests for the documents for months leading up to the FBI’s raid on his property, then handed over 15 boxes of files only for even more to be found still at Mar-a-Lago.
“When is the FBI going to raid the many houses of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?” Trump wrote on Truth Social Monday. “These documents were definitely not declassified.”
Rep. James Comer (R-KY), the new chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told reporters he will investigate the Biden files.
Republicans have been quick to pounce on the news and compare it to Trump’s classified files, but Democrats have pointed out differences in the small number of documents and Biden’s willingness to cooperate with the National Archives.
The White House has yet to explain why, if the files were first discovered six days before the midterm elections, the White House waited two months to reveal the news to the public.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (BBC)
Lawmakers Propose Bill to Protect Fertility Treatments Amid Post-Roe Threats
The move comes as a number of states are considering anti-abortion bills that could threaten or ban fertility treatments by redefining embryos or fetuses as “unborn human beings” without exceptions for IVF.
The Right To Build Families Act of 2022
A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would codify the right to use assisted reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertility (IVF) treatments into federal law.
The legislation, dubbed the Right To Build Families Act of 2022, was brought forward by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Il) and Patty Murray (D-Wa.) alongside Rep. Susan Wild (D- Pa.). The measure would bar any limits on seeking or receiving IVF treatments and prohibit regulations on a person’s ability to retain their “reproductive genetic materials.”
The bill would also protect physicians who provide these reproductive services and allow the Justice Department to take civil action against any states that try to limit access to fertility treatments.
The lawmakers argue it is necessary to protect IVF because a number of states have been discussing and proposing legislation that could jeopardize or even ban access to the treatments in the wake of the Roe v. Wade reversal.
“IVF advocates in this country today are publicly telling us, ‘We need this kind of legislation to be able to protect this,’” Murray told HuffPost. “And here we are after the Dobbs decision where states are enacting laws and we have [anti-abortion] advocates who are now starting to talk, especially behind closed doors, about stopping the right for women and men to have IVF procedures done.”
Fertility Treatments Under Treat
The state-level efforts in question are being proposed by Republican lawmakers who wish to further limit abortions by redefining when life begins. Some of the proposals would define embryos or fetuses as “unborn human beings” without exceptions for those that are created through IVF, where an egg is fertilized by a sperm outside the body and then implanted in a uterus.
For example, a bill has already been pre-filed in Virginia for the 2023 legislative session that explicitly says life begins at fertilization and does not have any specific language that exempts embryos made through IVF.
Experts say these kinds of laws are concerning for a number of reasons. In the IVF process, it is typical to fertilize multiple eggs, but some are discarded. If a person becomes pregnant and does not want to keep the rest of their eggs. It is also normal that not all fertilized eggs will be viable, so physicians will get rid of those.
Sometimes doctors will also implant multiple fertilized eggs to increase the likelihood of pregnancy, but that can result in multiple eggs being fertilized. In order to prevent having multiple babies at once and improve the chance of a healthy pregnancy, people can get a fetal reduction and lower the number of fetuses.
All of those actions could become illegal under proposals that do not provide exemptions.
“In my case, I had five fertilized eggs, and we discarded three because they were not viable. That is now potentially manslaughter in some of these states,” said Duckworth, who had both of her daughters using IVF.
“I also have a fertilized egg that’s frozen. My husband and I haven’t decided what we will do with it, but the head of the Texas Right to Life organization that wrote the bounty law for Texas has come out and specifically said he’s going after IVF next, and he wants control of the embryos,” Duckworth added.
In a hearing after Roe was overturned, Murray also raised concerns about “whether parents and providers could be punished if an embryo doesn’t survive being thawed for implantation, or for disposing unused embryos.”
Experts have said that even if anti-abortion laws defining when life begins do provide exceptions, it would be contradictory and confusing, so providers would likely err on the side of caution and not provide services out of fear of prosecution.
“[Abortion bans] are forcing women to stay pregnant against their will and are, at the very same time, threatening Americans’ ability to build a family through services like IVF,” Murray said in a statement to Axios. “It’s hard to comprehend, and it’s just plain wrong.”
The federal legislation to combat these efforts faces an uphill battle. It is unlikely it will be passed in the last few days of lame duck session, and with control of Congress being handed to Republicans come January, movement in the lower chamber will be hard fought.
Duckworth, however, told Axios that she will keep introducing the legislation “until we can get it passed.”