Tracking the continuing election fallout in Georgia
With control of the U.S. Senate up for grabs in the state's Jan. 5 runoff election, the nation's eyes are on Georgia. But many Republicans, including President Donald Trump himself, are still refusing to accept the results of the November general election, when President-elect Joe Biden won the state, which had not voted for a Democrat for president since 1992. The outcome of Georgia's presidential race has not changed since then despite a hand-count audit and a second recount expected to finish today.
Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who has repeatedly challenged the election results with fraud claims that have been repeatedly debunked, was in the state for a legislative subcommittee's Dec. 3 hearing on election integrity, at which he leveled many of the same baseless claims of absentee ballot fraud and the security of voting machines that the Trump campaign has made unsuccessfully in other swing states.
The previous day, Trump-championing attorneys Lin Wood of Atlanta and Sidney Powell, a North Carolina native who now practices law in Dallas, filed a brief claiming, with no credible evidence, that the state's voting machines were rigged to sway the presidential election for Biden and seeking to decertify Georgia's election results. Wood also urged Georgia Republicans to boycott the Jan. runoff, prompting a dozen state Republicans to sign a letter begging the party to come together around its Senate candidates. Powell has put forth conspiracies so incredible that the president's legal team formally distanced itself from her. More than 30 Trump campaign lawsuits challenging election results have failed in court.
On Saturday, Dec. 5, Trump himself will be in Georgia for a rally in support of U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, the Republicans who next month will be facing Democratic challengers Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively. It's likely he'll continue to promote false fraud claims, as he has done via Twitter and in a rambling address posted to Facebook on Wednesday. Trump has also attacked Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, formerly a close ally, for certifying the election results.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, and other Georgia election officials have repeatedly said that Trump and his supporters' claims of widespread voter fraud are false. But Loeffler and Perdue have largely ignored their own state's election officials, and even called on Raffensperger to resign last month. This week Gabriel Sterling, a Republican who oversees Georgia's voting systems, held a press conference at which he condemned the threats to election workers being made by Trump supporters.
"It has all gone too far, all of it," Sterling said. "Someone's going to get hurt. Someone's going to get shot. Someone's going to get killed," he continued.
He was responding to threats made against Georgia election officials and others involved in the vote counting process, including death threats made against an employee of Dominion Voting Systems, the Toronto-based company that supplies voting equipment to Georgia. A video of a young worker taking a USB drive from a voting machine — a normal operation that involves transferring a report from an election server to a county computer so one can read it — went viral among far-right conspiracy theorists, who falsely asserted it was evidence of fraud.
A former U.S. attorney has asked Georgia to investigate U.S. Sen Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and close Trump ally. Last month Raffensperger told the Washington Post that Graham had called to ask him if it was within his authority to discard absentee ballots. Raffensperger said it seemed to him that Graham was asking him to help Trump win.
"I am particularly concerned that the chairman of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee would make any attempt to interfere with the Georgia Secretary of State as he endeavored to lawfully perform his constitutional duties in overseeing the 2020 election and the counting, and re-counting, of the votes cast in the state of Georgia," Atlanta lawyer Michael J. Moore wrote.
Graham is not the only Republican under fire for questionable efforts to boost Trump. Raffensperger's office is investigating Florida attorney Bill Price after elections officials said he recently tried to register to vote in Georgia and instructed other Florida Republicans on how to do it, according to a report from WSBTV. Price attempted to register at his brother's address and invited other Republicans to do likewise.
Raffensperger's office has also opened an investigation into several voting rights groups in Georgia, alleging that America Votes, Vote Forward, The New Georgia Project, and Operation New Voter Registration Georgia have sent absentee ballot applications to dead or out-of-state voters, or encouraged ineligible voters to register. America Votes told the Associated Press that they are sending absentee ballot applications to the address list maintained by Raffensperger. In a press release, Nsé Ufot, the CEO of the New Georgia Project, said that Raffensperger was "resorting to desperate attempts to smear law-abiding organizations."
Raffensperger is facing legal trouble of his own, as three Georgia voting rights groups — the Black Voters Matter Fund, the Transformative Justice Coalition, and the Rainbow Push Coalition — allege his office improperly purged nearly 200,000 voters from the rolls prior to the November election. The lawsuit seeks to get them reinstated before the January runoff, early voting for which begins Dec. 14.
Olivia Paschal is the archives editor with Facing South and a doctoral student in history at the University of Virginia. She was a staff reporter with Facing South for two years and spearheaded Poultry and Pandemic, Facing South's year-long investigation into conditions for Southern poultry workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her reporting has appeared in The Atlantic, the Huffington Post, Southerly, Scalawag, the Arkansas Times, and Civil Eats, among other publications.