- 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)
Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena
The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.
Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.
In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.
Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.
Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee.
That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.
After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.
Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.
Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts
The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.
It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same.
The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively — are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.
Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.
As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.
Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)
Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December
The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.
Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily
The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.
The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.
After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.
The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday.
The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.
“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.
The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession.
Major Hurdles Remain
While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.
Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain.
Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.
Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.
Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.
Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.
Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.
In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul.
As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported.
It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
California Makes Universal Voting by Mail Permanent
California is now the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent after it temporarily adopted the policy for elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
CA Approves Universal Voting by Mail
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Monday requiring every registered voter in the state to be mailed a ballot at least 29 days before an election, whether they request it or not.
Assembly Bill 37 makes permanent a practice that was temporarily adopted for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which officially takes effect in January, also extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days to seven days after an election. Voters can still choose to cast their vote in person if they prefer.
Supporters of the policy have cheered the move, arguing that proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout.
“Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), said during a Senate committee hearing in July.
Meanwhile opponents — mostly Republicans — have long cast doubts about the safety of mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence to support their claims that it leads to widespread voter fraud. That strategy, however, has also faced notable pushback from some that a lot of Republicans who say it can actually hurt GOP turnout.
Others May Follow
The new legislation probably isn’t too surprising for California, where over 50% of votes cast in general elections have been through mail ballots since 2012, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now, many believe California will be followed by similar legislation from Democrats across the country as more Republican leaders move forward with elections bills that significantly limit voting access.
Newsome signed 10 other measures Monday changing election and campaign procedures, including a bill that would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another bill increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses while a third measure increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.
“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement.
“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”
The news regarding California came just in time for National Voter Registration day today, giving Americans another reminder to make sure they’re registered in their states. For more information on how to register, visit Vote.gov or any of the other resources linked below.