- 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)
Ron DeSantis Faces Lawsuit, Investigation for “Human Trafficking” of Migrants
A woman only known as “Pearla” allegedly lured the desperate migrants onto planes with monetary incentives and false promises.
A Political Stunt Blows Up in the Governor’s Face
After unexpectedly flying some 50 mostly Venezuelan migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is staring down a class action lawsuit, a local investigation, and a potential probe from the Justice Department.
On Tuesday, Lawyers for Civil Rights, in conjunction with the nonprofit Alianza Americas filed a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of the migrants. The filing names DeSantis, the state of Florida, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue, and their accomplices as defendants.
It alleges they fraudulently induced the migrants to cross state lines to Martha’s Vineyard, where shelter and resources were not prepared.
According to several accounts, the migrants were falsely promised work, free rent, and immigration assistance in exchange for taking the trip.
The migrants are seeking unspecified damages on top of the cost of their legal fees for emotional and economic harm.
On Monday, Texas Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar announced that he was opening an investigation into the migrant flights and DeSantis’s role in the scheme, which he called an “abuse of human rights.”
“They feel that they were deceived in being taken from Bexar County — from San Antonio, Texas — to where they eventually ended up,” he told CNN on Tuesday. “That could be a crime here in Texas and we will handle it as such.”
Salazar also said in a statement that his office was working with private attorneys representing the victims and advocacy organizations and that he was prepared to work with “any federal agency with concurrent jurisdiction, should the need arise.”
Since making the announcement, the sheriff’s office has been bombarded by threats via phone and email, according to a statement by a spokesperson.
Dylan Fernandes, a Massachusetts state lawmaker representing Martha’s Vineyard, called on the DoJ to launch a human trafficking probe into DeSantis Sunday.
He wrote on Twitter about the “inhumane acts,” saying, “Not only is it morally criminal, there are legal implications around fraud, kidnapping, deprivation of liberty, and human trafficking.”
A Mysterious Woman Named Pearla
Several migrants have told reporters, and claimed in the class action lawsuit, that they were lured onto the planes by a tall, blonde woman calling herself Pearla.
She reportedly approached them outside the San Antonio shelter, on the street, and in a McDonald’s parking lot, talking to them in broken Spanish.
Eduardo Linares, a migrant who said he rejected Pearla’s offer, told The Boston Globe that she promised them a free trip to Massachusetts and guaranteed work.
Another migrant named Alejandro told the outlet she offered him three months of free rent, job placement, and help with his immigration case.
The San Antonio Report interviewed a migrant named Emmanuel who said Pearla paid him $200 to recruit other migrants for the flights.
Tuesday’s lawsuit filing elaborates on their claims, saying that they were enticed with $10 McDonald’s gift cards to fly to Boston or Washington.
It alleges that the migrants were rounded up in hotel rooms while the scheme’s organizers gathered enough people to fill two planes, with them sequestered so they could not discuss the plan with anyone else.
“Once the individual Plaintiffs and class members landed, it became clear that the promises made to induce them on the planes were in fact bold-faced lies,” the filing says.
DeSantis defended himself on Fox News Monday night, saying, “They all signed consent forms to go and then the vendor that is doing this for Florida provided them with a packet that had a map of Martha’s Vineyard, it has the number for different services that are on Martha’s Vineyard.”
The brochures given to the migrants, however, listed services for refugees, not asylum seekers, and some migrants have said they weren’t aware of this fact. If the migrants were misled, the participants in the scheme could be criminally liable.
Who Pearla is and who employs her is still unknown, but DeSantis has publically taken credit for chartering the flights.
The League of United Latin American Citizens is offering $5,000 for information leading to the identification, arrest, and conviction of Pearla.
Two days after arriving in Martha’s Vineyard, the migrants voluntarily took shelter in a Cape Cod military base, which is designed for such emergency purposes.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (Vice) (The Boston Globe)
Is The Pandemic Really Over? Experts Bristle at Biden’s Declaration
Top Republicans took the president’s words as a signal not to approve any more funds for COVID relief.
The Pandemic’s End
“The pandemic is over,” declared President Joe Biden in a “60 Minutes” interview aired Sunday night.
“We still have a problem with COVID,” he said. “We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over.”
“If you notice, no one is wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape, and so I think it’s changing, and I think this is a perfect example of it,” he added, gesturing around at last week’s Detroit Auto Show, where the interview took place.
The president’s remarks turned many heads among public health experts, who have pointed out that 400 to 500 Americans continue to die from COVID-19 every day.
“We’ve had two million cases reported over the last 28 days, and we know underreporting is substantial,” Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, told The New York Times.
“COVID-19 continues to be the number four cause of death in the country,” he added.
Others argued that the U.S. president does not have the authority to declare a pandemic over. Only the World Health Organization, which first declared the coronavirus a global pandemic in early 2020, holds that power.
“We are not there yet,” WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week. “But the end is in sight.”
To Care or Not to Care: That is the White House’s Question
Biden’s relatively relaxed attitude toward the virus on “60 Minutes” contradicted his administration’s official policy, which aids have been quick to clarify remains the same. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the government’s declaration of a COVID-19 public health emergency, which enables it to waive or modify requirements for health-related programs like Medicare and Medicaid, remains in effect. That designation, however, will be up for renewal on October 13.
The White House has also been pushing Congress to allocate another $22 billion toward fighting the pandemic, but top Republicans said Monday that Biden’s comment declaring the pandemic over essentially shuts the door on further aid.
“If it’s over, then I wouldn’t suspect they need any more money,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx.) in response Monday.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the ranking Republican member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, added, “I don’t think they were going to get any Covid money through anyway.”
The Biden administration continues to encourage Americans to get the newly authorized “bivalent” COVID-19 booster shot, which provides protection against both the original strain and the omicron subvariants.
The booster shot could prevent as many as 10,000 deaths and 137,000 hospitalizations in the coming months, according to one estimate by Matthew Daley, a physician at Kaiser Permanente Colorado.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everybody over the age of 12, and those who are older, pregnant, immunocompromised, or have a chronic illness, in particular, get the booster as soon as possible. But while most Americans have been vaccinated at least once, less than half have gotten their first booster shot, according to CDC data.
New York Mayor Eric Adams announced Tuesday that vaccine mandates for private employers will end in November, though public employees will still be required to have a vaccine. The day prior, Starbucks also lifted some COVID policies, announcing that its workers will no longer get two weeks of sick pay for coronavirus infections starting on October 2.
In its statement, the company described the pandemic as entering the “endemic” phase.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (The Washington Post)
Trump Plays QAnon Music During Conspiracy-Ridden Speech in Ohio
In recent weeks, the former president has made explicit gestures to QAnon on Truth Social.
The One-Finger Salute Becomes Trump’s Latest Rallying Symbol
In one of his clearest endorsements of the conspiracy theory yet, former president Donald Trump played a QAnon theme song during a rally in Youngstown, Ohio on Saturday.
Trump was there to support Senate candidate JD Vance ahead of November’s midterm elections. As the night’s rally came to a close, the former president delivered an eight-minute monologue while dramatic string music provided ambiance.
Experts identified the song as “WWG1WGA,” an acronym for the QAnon slogan “Where we go one, we go all.”
But Trump aids who spoke to The New York Times claimed it was in fact a song called “Mirrors” by film and TV composer Will Van De Crommer.
“The fake news, in a pathetic attempt to create controversy and divide America, is brewing up another conspiracy about a royalty-free song from a popular audio library platform,” Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich, told the outlet.
When Trump posted a video to Truth Social containing the same music last month, however, music professor David Dominique told Vice the two songs were indistinguishable.
“I have listened to both [‘Mirrors’ and ‘WWG1WGA’] closely several times now,” he said. “And I have 100% professional confidence these recordings are identical, not even a reinterpretation of a composition, but the same recording.”
Media Matters also analyzed the songs using the software Audacity and found their audio profiles to be “virtually identical.”
When the song played on Saturday, dozens of people in the audience saluted with one finger extended in the air, a gesture Trump aids told The Times they have never seen at one of the former president’s rallies before.
The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer, who has a book about QAnon coming out next year, called the salute “curious” in a Twitter thread.
“Some on Twitter are calling it a QAnon salute, with 1 finger for ‘Where we go 1,’ and Trump is playing a pro-Q song as he talks,” he wrote. “I’ve never seen this happen before, though, so if it’s a Q thing it’s new.”
He added the caveat: “The one finger thing might also be for ‘America First.’ The white nationalist groypers, for example, do a one finger salute for that reason.”
Trump Warms to QAnon
QAnon is a conspiracy theory encompassing a wide range of beliefs, but the most common iteration posits that Trump is locked in a secret struggle against a global cabal of Democratic elites and satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles.
The Trump administration generally kept its distance from the movement throughout most of his term, then the former president began to signal his sympathy for it as the 2020 election drew closer.
He congratulated Marjorie Taylor Greene, a prominent politician who has expressed belief in QAnon, for winning Georgia’s GOP primary.
When asked about QAnon a few days later, Trump told the press corps, “I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate.”
One reporter followed up by asking him specifically about the idea that he was serving as a warrior against a satanic cabal of pedophiles and cannibals, to which Trump replied, “If I can help save the world from problems, I’m willing to do it.”
Late last month, the former president created and shared a flurry of posts on Truth Social that were explicitly related to QAnon.
In one, he reposted the slogan “Where We Go One We Go All,” and in another, he reposted a 2017 message from “Q,” the anonymous persona at the center of the conspiracy theory, criticizing the intelligence community. The string of posts came one day after he demanded to be reinstated as president, and just weeks after the FBI executed a search warrant on his Mar-a-Lago estate.
Last week, Trump posted a meme of himself wearing a Q lapel pin with the words “The storm is coming” superimposed over it. In QAnon lore, “the storm” refers to the imminent return of Trump to the White House and subsequent mass arrest of the deep-state cabal.
In May 2021, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) conducted a survey of Americans’ belief in specific QAnon-related conspiracies.
Around 15% of respondents, equivalent to nearly 50 million people if extrapolated to the general population, agreed with the statement: “The government, media and financial world in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.”