ATLANTA — Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Tuesday that his office is investigating possible cases of double-voting in the June primary and August runoff.
In a press conference, Raffensperger said about 1,000 voters are being investigated for allegedly casting two votes, a felony punishable by between one to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
Raffensperger, who is Georgia’s elections chief, said his office “will prosecute."
"Let me reiterate this: Every double voter will be investigated thoroughly," he said. "A double voter knows exactly what they're doing, diluting the votes of each and every voter that follows the law. Those that make the choice to game the system are breaking the law.”
More than 1 million Georgians chose to vote by absentee ballot in the June primary. Of those requesting absentee ballots, 150,000 decided instead to vote at the polls, Raffensperger said. About 1,000 people in that group in 100 Georgia counties allegedly voted both by absentee and at the polls on Election Day.
Voters who request an absentee ballot but decide to vote in person are required to sign an affidavit at the poll stating they didn't mail in their filled-out absentee ballot. Poll workers are then required to call the county elections office to verify the absentee ballot had not been counted.
Raffensperger said the extra votes did not impact any results.
Voting rights activists are adamant voter fraud is rare in Georgia, but Raffensperger said the increase in absentee voting from about 5% in past elections to nearly half the votes cast in the June 9 primary increased the chances.
At least 900,000 Georgians have already requested absentee ballots for the November general election.
While there is no evidence that every Georgian who voted twice did so intentionally, one Long County man told a local television station that he voted twice "to prove that there is a flaw in the system.”
"No one gets to vote twice, everyone gets one vote,” Raffensperger said.
The announcement comes after Raffensperger appealed a recent federal court ruling that ballots postmarked by Election Day and received up to three days after should be counted.
Scott Hogan, Democratic Party of Georgia executive director, said in a statement that Raffensperger, a Republican, is echoing longtime Republican accusations that voter fraud is widespread.
“Voter fraud continues to be extremely rare in Georgia, and any implication otherwise undermines our elections,” Hogan said. "It is clear that rather than do his job of promoting the safety and security of our voting process, the secretary of state is instead pushing the GOP’s voting conspiracy theories and disinformation, as he fights in court to make voting by mail less accessible to voters.”
An investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed that fear of mass voter fraud is not backed by evidence — there have been few cases of absentee ballot violations since 2015, according to State Election Board records.
Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group founded by 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, said Raffensperger’s announcement was to divert blame after Georgia's chaotic primary.
“Secretary Raffensperger’s grandiose press conference was a deliberate distraction from his failures to do his job. Under his so-called leadership and the ‘meltdown’ of an election over which he presided, Georgians faced barriers in casting their votes and having their votes counted,” the organization said. "Now, unsurprisingly, Georgia’s failed top elections official has decided to push a right-wing narrative spreading across the country rather than focusing on protecting the constitutional rights of every Georgian."
Riley Bunch covers the Georgia Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites.