Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger confirmed Tuesday that 1,000 people voted twice in the state’s primary election in June, a felony criminal act that he hopes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
The alleged double voters returned absentee ballots and then also showed up to vote in person on Election Day, Raffensperger announced, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“A double voter knows exactly what they’re doing, diluting the votes of each and every voter that follows the law,” the secretary of state said during a press conference. “Those that make the choice to game the system are breaking the law, and as secretary of state, I will not tolerate it.”
The Journal-Constitution noted that approximately 150,000 people who had requested absentee ballots ended up voting in person on Election Day.
The large majority reportedly never received their absentee ballots in the mail or simply decided to vote in person instead. But 1,000 both returned their absentee ballots by mail and successfully had their in-person votes tallied by poll workers.
Why does it matter?
The news comes as debate rages on in the country over mail-in voting and the potential for fraud ahead of the general election in November.
Democrats have insisted upon implementing large-scale mail-in voting due to health concerns as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. But several Republicans, including President Trump and Attorney General William Barr, have suggested that doing so would unnecessarily open up the election to potential widespread voter fraud.
President Trump even encouraged North Carolinians last week to test the integrity of the system by voting via mail-in ballot and then voting in person, as well, which is precisely what happened in Georgia.
Despite critics’ attempt to portray the president’s comments as election coercion, it appeared his intent in suggesting the action was simply to prove that the system was fraught with risk. If the system were working the way Democrats suggested it was, then would-be double voters would be denied at the polls.
That is not what happened in Georgia, however, appearing to lend credence to Republicans’ claims.
Raffensperger made clear in his comments that the double voting did not change any race outcomes in the primary election.
Nevertheless, he said that the Georgia attorney general’s office along with local prosecutors will look to punish the offenders for their offense. Double voting in Georgia is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
In response to the announcement, Democratic Party of Georgia executive director Scott Hogan insisted that fraud is rare in Georgia elections and accused Raffensperger of pushing “conspiracy theories.”
“It is clear that rather than do his job of promoting the safety and security of our voting process, the secretary of state is instead pushing the GOP’s voting conspiracy theories and disinformation,” he said.