Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has announced the creation of an absentee ballot fraud task force.
Voters are being encouraged to vote by mail in the May 19 primary elections as Georgia remains in a state of public health emergency.
Raffensperger says the task force will investigate mismatched signatures, “unaccounted for” multiple votes from the same address and those who register from a nonresidential address.
Task force members have not been announced yet, but Raffensperger said they would be “elections experts, district attorneys and solicitors general who will be on the front lines assuring the people of Georgia that their right to vote and their right to be counted equally is secured.”
At an outdoor press conference Monday morning near the state Capitol, Raffensperger said the task force’s mission is “to ensure that everyone’s vote counts once, that it’s accurate and that troublemakers can’t do things that don’t abide by that principle of one person one vote.”
Asked about those who use nonresidential addresses to register to vote, Raffensperger said the task force would mainly look at voters who were using a paid post office box. The requirement that Georgians have a residential address in order to vote has been a controversial one, with the American Civil Liberties Union, among others, arguing that it disenfranchises individuals who are experiencing homelessness.
Raffensperger was asked about voters who are homeless.
“We understand that everyone needs to have the right to vote, and we never want to increase undue burdens on people for that right to vote,” Raffensperger said.
Several GOP lawmakers raised concerns about voter fraud after the state took the unprecedented step last month of sending out absentee ballot applications to all 6.9 million active voters in Georgia. Georgians who vote by mail are not required to provide a photo identification.
The Georgia Democratic Party calls the task force “state-sponsored voter intimidation” and questions the existence of voter fraud in Georgia.
“It is clear the secretary is caving into pressure by the Georgia GOP, who, upon discovering that Georgians would have a way to access the ballot amid a global health pandemic, went on record saying higher turnout would be devastating for Republicans,” said Scott Hogan, executive director of the Democratic Party of Georgia. “It is despicable that Republicans in Georgia are leveraging a global health emergency as an excuse to further suppress the vote.”
Raffensperger said the state is moving forward with the May 19 primary, despite the coronavirus pandemic. But he says they will reevaluate if Gov. Brian Kemp extends the state of public health emergency past April 13.
“If that came into place, looking at the situation on the ground, we’ll be able to make a determination at that time,” said Raffensperger. “And so we’re monitoring both situations very closely, and we’re very mindful of what’s happening throughout Georgia right now and the ability to have in-person voting.”