Coronavirus, News, Politics

Georgia Groups Create ‘Voter Empowerment Task Force’ In Lead-Up To June Primaries

The state of Georgia has received more than a million applications for absentee ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The state of Georgia has received more than a million applications for absentee ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Credit Emil Moffatt / WABE
'Add to My List' icon 'Added to My List' icon Add to My List In My List

Voting-rights groups in Georgia are setting up what they’re calling the voter empowerment task force in response to the absentee ballot fraud task force established by the state last month.

“The right to vote is very clear,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo, CEO of Fair Fight Action, one of the groups behind the new venture. “The right to an absentee ballot and to vote absentee is very clear in Georgia, and so we want a message of encouragement and voter empowerment to be made clear while this task force on the other side is rolled out and meant to intimidate.”

The empowerment task force is setting up a text hotline for voters to report any instances of what it deems “intimidation.”

“We’re not going to sit idly by and let them put together a set of partisan prosecutors to scare and dissuade Georgians from exercising their right to vote by mail,” said Groh-Wargo.

The Georgia NAACP, Black Voters Matter, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda and Asian Americans Advancing Justice are among the other groups backing the new empowerment task force.

A few days after mailing absentee ballot applications to nearly 7 million voters, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced the creation of the absentee ballot fraud task force.

It would be charged with investigating irregularities such as signature mismatches that haven’t been fixed, or “cured”; unaccounted for multiple votes from the same address and votes from nonresidential addresses, according to Raffensperger.

While voter fraud remains rare, the secretary of state’s office says its task force is meant to ensure “no one undermines the integrity of the vote in Georgia.”

More than a million absentee ballots have been mailed to Georgia voters ahead of the June 9 primaries. The secretary of state’s office said Thursday that a quarter of those ballots had already been submitted.

In-person early voting for the June 9 primary begins May 18, but officials are still urging Georgians to vote by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.