This story was updated at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is asking for prosecutors to investigate more than 1,000 people suspected of committing felony voter fraud by casting ballots twice in the state’s June primary election.
About 150,000 Georgians showed up June 9 at their precinct because they never got their absentee ballots or opted to vote in person. Only a small percentage proceeded to vote twice without canceling their absentee ballots, Raffensperger said. He said no election results were changed as a result of double voting.
The timing of Raffensperger’s announcement, about five weeks before the start of early voting for the Nov. 3 election, sparked swift criticism from the Fair Fight Action voting rights group as an attempt at voter suppression. But for the state’s top election official, the decision to further investigate double voting allegations sends a message that it won’t be tolerated in November when more than 5 million people are expected to cast ballots.
“We’ll be turning this over to the state attorney general, but also local DAs, and also federal prosecuting attorneys if they want to pick this up,” Raffensperger said at Monday’s press conference held outside the state Capitol. “I think it’s a serious matter, and I think that there’ll be interest to make sure that this does not continue and that the penalties are paid.”
In the troubled June 9 primary, more than 1.1 million people voted by mail after Raffensperger’s office sent out 6.9 million absentee ballot applications as worries grew about the spread of COVID-19 and the state offered voters a safe voting alternative to interacting at a precinct. Many Georgia voters suffered through long lines on primary Election Day.
Intentionally voting twice is a felony offense that carries a minimum penalty of one year in prison and a maximum $100,000 fine.
Fair Fight accuses Raffensperger of attempting to suppress voters by pushing a “right-wing narrative” about people abusing the voting process instead of protecting their rights.
In November, the massive push for absentee ballots led to President Donald Trump and some other Republican leaders to say voting by mail is more likely to result in fraud.
The notion that more people voting by mail will result in widespread illegal voting is an unfounded claim that ultimately casts doubt in the process, Fair Fight said.
Fair Fight said it formed a voter empowerment task force in April after Raffensperger fashioned his task force this spring to identify election improprieties.
“Secretary Raffensperger’s grandiose press conference was a deliberate distraction from his failures to do his job,” the Fair Fight statement said. “Under his so-called leadership and the ‘meltdown’ of an election over which he presided, Georgians faced barriers in casting their votes and having their votes counted.”
Poll workers are supposed to call the local election office to verify if a resident who requested an absentee ballot is unsure if it’s been counted when they arrive at a polling place.
Anyone who intentionally broke election law by voting more than once should be prosecuted, said Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis.
“But we are concerned that voters who were simply trying to vote may get caught up in the dragnet,” she said. “There was a lot of confusion about the presidential primary, which was rescheduled after some voters had already cast mail ballots – but when those voters wanted to vote in the state primary, they received ballots that also included the race. Did that count as ‘voting twice’?”
Raffensperger decided not to send absentee ballot applications for the November election. Instead, his office is banking on a new online portal to expedite the process of applying for an absentee ballot, getting more drop boxes to turn them in, and improving the in-person efficiency at precincts with more poll workers and places to vote.