The Georgia secretary of state’s office is investigating claims by a conservative watchdog group about “illegal ballot harvesting” in the state during the November 2020 general election and a special January 2021 runoff election. pending investigation is not evidence that “widespread illegal ballot harvesting” elected the two Democratic US senators from Georgia, as a television ad for a conservative super PAC claims.
True the Vote, which describes itself as a nonprofit organization dedicated to election integrity, filed the complaint with the secretary of state last fall, alleging ballot harvesting. But the group does not claim that the ballots were fraudulent. The group has also said it may not be known for which candidates the votes were cast.
The Get Georgia Right PAC ad began airing on April 4, according to Kantar Media. The announcement questions the opinion of Republican Governor Brian Kemp Claim March 2021 who “led the fight to aggressively investigate all allegations of voter fraud” in the state.
Instead, the narrator says, “Kemp dismissed concerns about voter fraud in the 2020 election” and “refused to call a special session before the runoff and continued widespread illegal vote-gathering, electing two Democratic senators ”. On screen, the ad shows a video of what appears to be people placing various envelopes into ballot boxes in Georgia’s Gwinnett and Fulton counties.
In Georgia, it is illegal for people other than relatives or caregivers to collect and mail completed absentee ballots on behalf of other voters, which some critics of such ballot collection practices refer to as “harvesting.”
“If Kemp can’t beat voter fraud, he won’t beat Stacey Abrams,” says the narrator, referring to Abrams, a former Georgia state representative who is running unopposed to become the Democratic nominee for governor again.
Kemp is being challenged in the Republican primary by several candidates, including former Sen. David Perdue, who lost to Democrat Jon Ossoff in one of two January 5, 2021, second round elections Mentioned in TV ad. In the other Georgia Senate race, Democrat Raphael Warnock defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler.
Unsubstantiated claim about Democratic victories
But the announcement does not provide any proof that “widespread illegal vote harvesting” got Ossoff and Warnock elected to the US Senate. We contacted Get Georgia Right PAC about your ad, but did not receive a response.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, confirmed in early January that his office was launching an investigation into “credible allegations” of illegal ballot harvesting in the state in 2020 and early 2021. The claims were made in a formal complaint of November 30. Presented by Texas-based True the Vote according a January 4 article published by Just the News, a media outlet started by John Solomon, former conservative columnist Hill.
In an interview for Solomon’s podcast, Raffensperger said his office decided to investigate the allegations despite a prior throughout the state analysis conducted by the non-profit corporation MITER which found no “suspicious indicators of vote harvesting”.
The complaint, which True the Vote did not make public but allowed Just the News to review, allegedly alleges that as many as 242 people dropped off multiple ballots during 5,662 trips to drop boxes across Georgia. Supporting evidence is said to include surveillance video footage from cameras the counties placed at the drop box locations, as well as geolocation data from the cell phones of people who made multiple trips to those locations.
The group True the Vote also said it interviewed an anonymous Georgia man who admitted he was paid $10 for each ballot he collected and returned in the Atlanta area during the November 2020 general election and January 2021 runoff election to the two seats in the Georgia Senate.
Just the News reported that True the Vote had informed Kemp’s office of his allegations in early 2021 and that the governor referred the matter to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. But, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitutionthe GBI said An investigation was not warranted at the time because the organization did not provide additional evidence linking cell phone data to illegal ballot harvesting efforts. Specifically, GBI said it received “no witness statements or names of potential defendants to interview.”
For his office’s investigation, Raffensperger said he would need to obtain additional evidence from the anonymous individual with whom True the Vote spoke about an alleged harvesting scheme. In March, the Georgia Board of Elections voted to approve a subpoena request for Raffensperger to interview that unidentified person.
The secretary of state’s office told FactCheck.org that its investigation is still ongoing.
Importantly, True the Vote does not claim that the ballots it suspects were illegally harvested are fraudulent, as the repeated use of the phrase “voter fraud” in the ad could lead viewers to believe.
“We have no evidence that the ballots themselves were fraudulent, meaning we have not identified counterfeit ballots,” Catherine Engelbrecht, founder and director of True the Vote, told FactCheck.org in an email. “We allege that the collected ballots are cast illegally.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures31 states explicitly allow someone other than the voter to mail or deliver an absentee ballot on behalf of the voter, although many states limit that person to a close relative.
AN georgian law enacted in 2019, and signed by Kemp, stipule that a voter must “hand-mail or hand-deliver” their absentee ballot or may allow “mother, father, grandparents, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, spouse, child , daughter, niece, nephew, grandson, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, or a person residing in the household of the voter” to do so for them. The law also says that a caretaker who does not necessarily reside in the same household can mail or deliver the ballot to a voter with a disability, and an employee of a jail or other detention center can return the ballot to a voter who is in custody. .
It is illegal for any other person to mail a voter’s completed absentee ballot.
Opponents of ballot collection, including Raffensperger, argue that the practice creates an opportunity for third parties, such as campaigns and other political teams, to coerce voters, tamper with absentee ballots, or even discard ballots.
Additionally, Engelbrecht of True the Vote told us that his organization does not know which candidates may have benefited most from any illegal ballot harvesting that has occurred.
“Our position is that based on our findings, the number of ballots trafficked and dropped in drop boxes exceeded the margin of victory in key races in both 2020 and 2021,” he said in his email. “We will never know for whom the votes were cast. Our investigation was intended to provide important information about process abuses and potential crimes.”
Ossoff won his runoff election against Perdue by almost 55,000 votes, and Warnock won his against Loeffler by more than 93,000 votes.
When the The National Office was asked Raffensperger in January if the alleged harvest could have affected the outcome of the elections in Georgia, he said that “we will see where [the investigation] takes us.”
That means election officials have not determined that “widespread illegal ballot harvesting” in Georgia gave Democrats two victories in the Senate and control of Congress, as the ad claims.
Kemp rejects special legislative sessions
As the ad states, Kemp made rejection some requests from Republican lawmakers in November and December 2020 to call a special session of the Georgia General Assembly heading down claims of voter fraud and change certain election rules and procedures before the Senate runoffs in January 2021. It also opposite calling a special session to select a different set of state electors who would vote for then-President Donald Trump instead of Democrat Joe Biden, whose victory in Georgia was confirmed by multiple counts and audits.
Kemp argued that the election law changes could not be implemented during an ongoing election and that he had no constitutional authority to allow lawmakers to simply pick pro-Trump voters. He said that doing either would undoubtedly result in legal challenges.
in a January 6, 2021, letter To three members of Congress, Raffensperger said his office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had been “diligently investigating all allegations of fraud and wrongdoing” and found “no evidence sufficient to cast doubt on the outcome of the Georgia presidential race.” ”. ”
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