On Monday, American Oversight filed requests with state and county election officials in Georgia, seeking the release of any communications they’ve had with a conservative voting-restriction group that is attempting to challenge the eligibility of more than 350,000 voters in the state.
Late last week, with less than three weeks to go before the high-stakes Senate runoffs on Jan. 5, the right-wing group True the Vote, working through activists in Georgia, announced that it was challenging the voter registration status of 364,541 Georgia voters. The challenges — which have already been rejected by several counties — cite questionable data, including address change request records, and ask county election officials to preemptively void voters’ registrations.
American Oversight filed open records requests in 15 counties for election officials’ communications with True the Vote or the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), another voting-restriction activist group, as well as their communications with state and local Republican officials or the Georgia secretary of state’s office. We also asked the secretary of state’s office to release copies of communications with county officials regarding voter challenges or voter-roll changes.
Under Georgia’s open records law, county and state officials have three business days to respond to American Oversight’s records requests. Early voting is already underway, leaving little time for voters to defend their voting rights if county officials allow the challenges to move forward.
The purge of so many names from the voter rolls would have enormous implications not just for the consequential January 2021 election, which determines which party controls the Senate, but also for the rights of thousands of voters who could be shut out from participating.
“Georgia’s election officials have been under incredible pressure from President Trump and his allies for failing to rig the November election in the president’s favor, and we’re very concerned some of them may use these challenges to shut out registered voters before the runoff,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy, and if any election officials are coordinating with outside activists to suppress that right, the public needs to know now.”
True the Vote is among several groups that have long been pushing for state and local governments across the country to investigate supposed voter-roll irregularities and allegations of voter fraud. True the Vote’s effort in Georgia also gained the support of the state’s Republican Party chairman, leading to legal questions about the legality of any potential coordination between the state party and the activist group
American Oversight’s previous investigations into the efforts of groups like True the Vote and PILF have uncovered numerous examples of such organizations, which appear to conduct their own audits of voter files, contacting state and local officials with purported abnormalities. Records we already uncovered showed that PILF had sent Palm Beach County, Fla., a list of instances in which ballots were supposedly cast in the names of deceased voters — the Center for Investigative Reporting looked into that list and found “no evidence that votes have been cast for dead people in the county.”
A separate lawsuit by American Oversight in October prompted Georgia’s secretary of state’s office to release thousands of pages of records related to the management of elections and previous efforts to limit voting access. Those documents included emails that reference a July 9 phone call between officials in the secretary of state’s office and PILF.
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