Fifteen House Republicans are seeking a briefing with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger over suspected election irregularities in the state.
The GOP members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, in a letter sent late Tuesday, raised concerns in the aftermath of the disputed 2020 presidential election, but also ahead of two special U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia set for Jan. 5.
The outcomes of the two Senate races in Georgia will determine which party controls the upper chamber.
Changes must be made to ensure the results are fair and accurate before the Senate runoff voting, said Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., the oversight committee member who drafted the letter signed by his colleagues.
“There is no question the Nov. 3 election was a disaster. The Secretary of State’s Office sent out request forms for absentee ballots. We have been asking the secretary of state for better signature verification,” Hice told The Daily Signal, adding:
We want more hands on deck for the Senate [runoff] elections—4,000 GOP poll watchers. And we want more transparency. We have heard crickets, really.
On Monday, Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, announced his office was launching a statewide audit for signature matches on absentee ballots from the Nov. 3 election.
“Election integrity has been a top priority since Day One of my administration,” Raffensperger said in a public statement.
Though the outcome of the [presidential] race in Georgia will not change, conducting this audit follows in the footsteps of the audit-triggered hand recount we conducted in November to provide further confidence in the accuracy, security, and reliability of the vote in Georgia.
Georgia certified that former Vice President Joe Biden won the state’s 16 electoral votes. Raffensperger has since been on defense against members of his own party, and Hice still has questions.
“The secretary of state has been on a media tour, talking about how this has been the most secure election ever,” Hice said. “At the same time, he says there are 250 open investigations for wrongdoing.”
Biden is the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the Peach State since Bill Clinton in 1992, but Hice is not convinced that’s the legitimate outcome.
“I’ve seen and heard about issues all over the state,” he said. “I do not believe Georgia is a blue state. The state loves President [Donald] Trump.”
The letter was also signed by Oversight and Reform Committee members Reps. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis.; Michael Cloud and Chip Roy, both R-Texas; Mark Green, R-Tenn.; Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.; Thomas Massie, R-Ky.; Gary Palmer, R-Ala.; Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio; Clay Higgins, R-La.; Ralph Norman, R-S.C.; Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D.; Greg Steube, R-Fla.; and James Comer, R-Ky.
“The sanctity of the ballot box and the maxim ‘one person, one vote’ are paramount in a democratic society,” the Republican letter to the secretary of state says. “Yet in the aftermath of the 2020 election, our constituents have genuine concerns that their vote may have been diluted by fraud, ballots that failed to comply with applicable elections laws, and ballots cast by ineligible voters. This is particularly the case for voters in Georgia.”
The letter goes on to say:
Fraud and illegality cannot be tolerated, whether or not the outcome would be affected.
Moreover, it is far from clear that the outcome in this case was unaffected, as the candidates in the presidential race in Georgia are separated by less than 13,000 votes out of almost 5 million cast in the state.
The number of absentee ballot rejections for signature issues increased by about 350% in the November 2020 election, compared with the 2018 election. That’s consistent with the rate of increase in the total number of absentee ballots accepted, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
In all, 2,011 absentee ballots were rejected in the November 2020 election for missing or non-matching signatures out of 1.3 million absentee ballots cast. In November 2018, the state rejected 454 absentee ballots for missing or non-matching signatures out of 284,393 absentee ballots cast.
According to the Secretary of State’s Office, counties will have to strictly ensure residency in Georgia before registering voters. That comes after some liberal activists have advocated for people to move into the state just to vote in the Senate races.
Further, according to the office, about 48,000 new registrations have occurred since Nov. 4, and the bulk of those came from people getting their driver’s licenses, rather than voter registration drives.
When Georgians request absentee ballots, the application must be signed. County election offices review the signatures on the applications, comparing them against signatures of the same voter on file in the voter registration files, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.
If the signature is consistent with previous signatures, then the application is accepted and an absentee ballot packet is mailed to the voter. However, the signature need not be an exact match, according to the secretary’s office.
For the Secretary of State’s Absentee Ballot Online Portal, the applicant must provide his or her date of birth and driver’s license number to verify his or her identity when applying for the absentee ballot. If the information matches the voter registration information, the voter need not provide a signature, and the absentee ballot packet is mailed to the voter.
Voters must sign the oath on the outside of the outer envelope. When the ballot is returned to the county, the first thing the county must do is compare the signature against the absentee ballot application, unless the application was made online, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
The county election offices also compare the ballot envelope signature against the signature of the voter from the voter registration system. Similarly, though, the Secretary of State’s Office said it does not have to be an exact match.
If a ballot is missing a signature or not consistent with the signatures on file, the county office rejects the ballot, but contacts the voter and sends a “cure affidavit” for the voter to provide a signature and a copy of their ID to confirm that it is actually the registered voter who voted and returned the ballot, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
If the voter fails to provide that information within three days after the election, the ballot isn’t counted.
Chris Harvey, director of the elections division for the Secretary of State’s Office, sent a letter to county election offices on Dec. 9 reminding them that the signature verification process should be transparent.
Harvey cited Georgia law that states, “[a]ll proceedings at the tabulating center and precincts shall be open to the view of the public, but no person except one employed and designated for the purpose by the superintendent or the superintendent’s authorized deputy shall touch any ballot or ballot container.”
But he told the election officials, “The fact that the signature verification process is public under Georgia law does not mean that public observers should be allowed to see confidential information or to interfere in the process.”