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Georgia elections chief hints at organized effort behind ballot harvesting, registering noncitizens

"What I found is we had 1,634 that were never put on the voter rolls, they were in the pending status, because they couldn't prove their citizenship," said Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Published: April 26, 2022 3:30pm

Updated: April 26, 2022 10:50pm

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said his office is investigating ballot harvesting and the registration of noncitizens to vote, both of which he suggests may have been orchestrated by third-party organizations.

His office did a citizenship audit of Georgia's voter rolls and found more than 1,600 noncitizens who tried registering to vote, Raffensperger told the John Solomon Reports podcast Tuesday.

"[W]hat I found is we had 1,634 that were never put on the voter rolls, they were in the pending status, because they couldn't prove their citizenship," he explained. "That's a felony in Georgia to even attempt to register if you're a noncitizen. And that's a one to 10-year prison term, and up to a $100,000 fine."

Raffensperger said his office sent the information they found to the state attorney general and local district attorneys, who will interview those who couldn't prove their citizenship and ask them: "Did you do this on your own free will? Or were you put up by it by some third-party organization?"

Through these investigations, Raffensperger said, that they will find out if there is "an organization that's been really attempting to get noncitizens on the voter rolls in Georgia."

He noted that his office is currently defending state law that requires ID and citizenship checks for voters against Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight Action, Inc. group, which is suing Georgia, claiming that the law violates the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.

"[W]hen Stacey Abrams ran for governor four years ago, she talked about the blue wave," Raffensperger recalled, "and she said, 'That's the people who are documented and undocumented,' i.e., that means the noncitizens ... she wanted them to be able to vote in our elections, and absolutely not. I've been pushing back on that. I think that's an incredibly critical issue, not just for us here in Georgia, but for the entire country. Only American citizens should vote."

The secretary of state also addressed ballot harvesting, explaining how it can lead to voters being coerced to cast their ballots for certain candidates.

"I think that we want people to freely express their choice when they vote, but you can end up with that whole process of voter coercion," Raffensperger said. "Next thing you know, that's someone that owns a company, he's actually trying to coerce people and who they should vote for. Or if you're in a union situation, then the union boss is coercing you and who to vote.

"We want people to make that free will decision because when people make that free will decision, then their voice is really truly heard. And so that's why it's very important. We want people to vote without any attempt of coercion. That's why we also have that ban in polling locations. Within 150 feet, you can't come in there and start politicking. Let people make their own choice of who they want to vote for, leave them alone at local polling precincts."

Raffensperger mentioned his office's investigation into ballot harvesting during the 2020 election in Georgia. As with noncitizen voting, they are looking into background organizational support, specifically who paid the harvesters and how much.

"[W]e're going to follow that all the way," he vowed. "And you have to, as they say, 'follow the money.' And we're gonna get to the bottom of it, and we're gonna prosecute."

He later added, "We want to find out what organization has been behind this."

True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht, whose organization's complaint led to Raffensperger's investigation into the ballot harvesting, told "Just the News, Not Noise" TV show cohosts John Solomon and Amanda Head on Tuesday that ballot harvesting has been the norm for a long time in many communities.

"I think the saddest thing for me in this now 15-months-plus-investigation that we've been pursuing is talking to people in and around involved in this effort, in this problem that we face, and recognizing that so many of them who are involved don't even see this as being a problem, because it's happened for so long in so many communities — they prey upon weak and vulnerable communities.

"So that's why we really prefer the term 'ballot trafficking' over 'ballot harvesting.' And we're focusing on voter abuse, because that's what's happening here. This is an abuse of a process that has to be stopped."

Engelbrecht said that in the counties where True the Vote has focused its ballot harvesting investigations — such as Fulton County in Georgia, Milwaukee County in Wisconsin, Wayne County in Michigan, Maricopa and Yuma counties in Arizona, and Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania — they have have uncovered "disturbingly consistent" patterns.

"I think that Secretary Raffensperger is right when he says there's a secret hand that had its reach into all of these processes," she said, referring to Raffensperger's suggestion that there are third-party organizations behind this. 

Gina Swoboda, Executive Director of Voter Reference Foundation, told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Tuesday that outdated voter rolls, ballot drop boxes, ballot harvesting, and noncitizens voting are all detrimental to election integrity.

"So we have a couple of issues where absentee balloting ... because they're generated off of our lists that are not as clean as they otherwise could be, there are ballots being issued, the chain of custody gets broken," Swoboda said. "We have drop boxes that, in my personal opinion, are unsecured, scattered throughout the country, and this leads to issues."

"[I]f you have unsecure drop boxes that are not under surveillance," she later added, "that are not manned live-time by two poll workers of two different parties ... then really your ballots are not secure. You don't have meaningful chain of custody, and you can't guarantee the results of an election to the confidence of the public."

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