2021-02-12 17:02:16 | ‘Intimidation tactic’: Georgia officials investigate groups that mobilized black voters | Georgia


Story by: Sam Levine in New York The Guardian

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The Georgia state election board referred two cases to prosecutors on Wednesday connected to organizations that helped mobilize a record number of voters in the state during the 2020 election, a move critics say is an intimidation effort.

One case involves the New Georgia Project (NGP), the group founded by Stacey Abrams in 2014, that helps mobilize voters of color. In 2019, investigators allege, the group violated state law by not handing in 1,268 voter registration applications within the 10 days required under state rules. The named respondent in the matter is Senator Raphael Warnock, who the group says was serving as the chairman of its board at the time, but was incorrectly listed on documents as the group’s CEO, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“The February 10th State Election Board meeting was the first time NGP heard about the allegations regarding NGP’s important voter registration work from 2019,” Nse Ufot, who has served as the group’s CEO since 2014, said in a statement. “We have not received any information on this matter from the secretary or any other Georgia official so we will have no further comment on the investigation.”

The episode marks the latest example of Republicans targeting the group. In 2014, Brian Kemp, then the state’s top election official, announced an investigation into allegations of forged registration materials but found no widespread wrongdoing. Late last year, the secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, accused the group of soliciting people from outside Georgia to register in the state – which the group denied.

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Those investigations force the organization to allocate resources towards lawyers it says could otherwise be invested in voter registration.

“Every dollar that we have to spend to defend ourselves against the nuisance and partisan investigations is a dollar that we aren’t able to put into the field to register new voters and have high-quality conversations about the power of their vote and the importance of this moment,” Ufot told the Guardian last year.

The second case the state board referred dealt with a canvasser for the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, another group that played an instrumental role in registering new voters. The canvasser allegedly submitted 70 false voter registrations while working on behalf of the group.

Helen Butler, the executive director of the group, said the group caught the forged voter registration applications in 2019 and that she was the one who reported the canvasser to the secretary of state’s office for investigation. That fact was unmentioned in a Thursday press release from Raffensperger’s office announcing the referrals.

“We have a whole process to ensure that we have legitimate forms,” Butler said in an interview. “We want people to vote. We’re not spending our time out there trying to get fraudulent forms.”

Cliff Albright, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter organization, said it wasn’t uncommon to have isolated instances of mistakes or forms handed in late during campaigns. But the effort to prosecute voter registration groups, he said, was “an intimidation tactic”.

“The state of Georgia is just trying to reassert that even though they didn’t go along with Trump’s attempted coup that they still want to make it clear that they’re still the voter-suppressors-in-chief,” he said.

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Georgia has quickly emerged as the center of the fight over voting rights in America. Joe Biden won the presidential race there, the first Democrat to do so in nearly 30 years, by just 12,670 votes. Warnock and Jon Ossoff, both Democrats, also won stunning upsets in two Senate runoff races in January. Georgia Republicans are already weighing a suite of measures that would make it harder to vote, including requiring people to show their ID twice during the vote-by-mail process and getting rid of no-excuse absentee voting.

The cases were among 35 election violations the board referred for prosecution, Raffensperger’s office said in a statement. The cases were referred to the state attorney general and some to local prosecutors , who can decide whether to further pursue the cases. The vast majority involved civil offenses, but some involved criminal charges.

“Election fraud is not tolerated in Georgia. When there is evidence of it, the people responsible face prosecution,” he said. “Georgia has multiple safeguards in place that allow our team of investigators to discover fraudulent voting. They worked to catch the wrongdoing in these cases, and they maintain the security of Georgia elections.”


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Source References: The Guardian

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