Amateur voter fraud hunters challenged Last year 92,000 Georgia voters used registration, voter lists, public records, door-to-door campaigning and their own hours to root out ballot rigging Which election workers, courts and state officials have been unable to find.
Data from the challenges was collected by the voting rights advocacy group Fair Fight Action and shared exclusively with NBC News. The group is suing in federal court over a massive coordinated challenge to the eligibility of 364,000 people to vote in the 2021 Senate runoff, arguing that such mass challenges are discriminatory and intimidating.
The tally represents challenges in 15 of Georgia’s 159 counties — including seven of the top 10 most populous counties — meaning the actual number in the state is likely higher.
These numbers provide a window into both the baseless claims of stolen elections and the impact of Georgia’s comprehensive 2021 election law. Senate Bill 202, as it is known, codified that county residents could make unlimited requests to elections officials to remove voters from the rolls if challengers believed they were ineligible . the law mandated County officials must hear those challenges within 10 business days.
“SB 202 blocked access to the ballot and prevented voters from participating through processes like these mass voter challenges,” said Ciantie Stewart-Reid, executive director of Fair Fight. “As we think about what voter suppression looks like in 2022 — this is what it looks like.”
Most of the challenges documented by Fair Fight were unsuccessful; Local officials left almost all the voters on the rolls. According to the tally, 2,208 voter registrations were removed during the hearing. More than 3,500 others moved to pending or challenged status, which requires voters to update their registration.
But advocates and experts said the challenges created a bureaucratic nightmare for busy local officials trying to run smooth elections, who were left to sort through a pile of larger challenges as they tried to limit voters’ rights to theirs. Legal obligations had to be balanced with responding quickly.
“We’re already not in a very good environment to run an election,” said Zach Manifold, elections supervisor in Gwinnett County, “and once you start throwing in a really big administrative burden — it’s another piece of the puzzle.” Which makes it tough.” According to the Fair Fight tally, there were more than 47,000 voter challenges last year.
it’s not difficult. It’s just time consuming.
– Georgia resident Caryl Esta on challenging voter registration
Voter challenges by private citizens are the latest in a growing trend of voter fraud vigilantes, in which those convinced of widespread fraud – despite substantial evidence it does not exist – have begun to take matters into their own hands. In Arizona, armed members of a right-wing group patrolled and monitored drop boxes, while in New Mexico, volunteers with an “audit force” went door-to-door to check voter rolls.
The Fair Fight data also suggests that Georgian voters of color and youth may be affected by challenges at large. In Cobb County, the group was able to examine voter registration data for most challenges – including voter race, ethnicity and age, and found that both demographic groups were overrepresented in challenges.
Fair Fight, which was founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams, began tracking challenges in 2021. It followed public hearings and issued public records requests to obtain the list of challenged voters.
The staff member overseeing Fair Fight’s tracking spent a few months on the voter protection team for Abrams’ gubernatorial campaign in 2022 and continued tracking there; She returned to work for Fair Fight after the Democrats lost.
From public records to personal experience
Fraudsters typically use public records to mine voter rolls for potentially ineligible voter registrations before making written requests to local commissioners in their county. Many use address change data from the US Postal Service to challenge voter eligibility. Others canvassed in person in their communities to check registration addresses, According to Fair Fight’s tracking.
And while most challenges fail, some voters receive letters notifying them that someone else has challenged their eligibility.
“Challenges are more likely to disenfranchise or intimidate or confuse voters than they are to actually vote,” said Andrew Garber, a lawyer at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. The organization has urged counties to decline mass challenges and called on the state to establish standardized procedures for processing them.
The challenges in 2022 ranged from detailed to precise.
- A Forsyth County resident filed one of the biggest challenges of the year in October, challenging 15,787 voters — about 6% of the county’s voter list — in one fell swoop. he said the postal service The data indicated problems with voters’ addresses. The commissioners were suspicious, and asked whether they had tried to filter registrations to sort out college students or military members who were forwarding their mail for those reasons. Minutes of the hearing show that he did not do so. The challenges were dismissed.
- A Cobb County resident challenged more than 60 students at Kennesaw State University who used a generic college address instead of a specific dorm address on their registrations, as well as dozens of registrations that appeared to lack an apartment number. The county dismissed the challenges.
- In November, a Forsyth County woman challenged the registration of the previous owner of her home, saying the man was living in Texas and was improperly using his address in Georgia, according to hearing minutes that The challenge was considered. The challenge was upheld.
Challenge laws have been on the books for years; According to Janine Eweller, an 18-year veteran of the Cobb County Elections Department, they were designed so that voters could convey their personal knowledge to officials.
Years ago, she filed a voter challenge to have her in-laws removed from the voter list when they moved out of state.
“They knew what I was doing,” she said. “That was my personal knowledge. The code was originally intended for that sort of thing, not the address that has been filed on the basis of these large-scale challenges.
Cobb County has set a high standard for accepting challenges, according to Evaler, but few counties devote enormous manpower to investigating challengers’ claims.
In late August, VoterGA, a group claiming widespread election fraud and corruption, worked with local residents to challenge the registration of more than 37,500 voters in Gwinnett County — nearly 6 of the county’s voter rolls. %.
Gwinnett County elections supervisor Zach Manifold said he has six to 10 people working long hours, often 60 to 70 hours a week, for about a month to evaluate each challenge.
At the end of the month, the Board of Commissioners rejected the challenge outright. But his staff was now exhausted, Manifold said, and was heading straight into his busy election season.
Many of the challenges were based on changed addresses, and he said members of his team had already reached out to those voters to update their information and, in some cases, take the years set by federal law to remove old ones. The process had started. Voter registration from voter list.
“I don’t think they like it, depending on where you are, it could take five to nine years … before you actually get cancelled,” he said. “It’s federal law that we have to give people that much time.”
The disparity in how the counties handle the challenges has drawn attention from a number of advocates, including the Brennan Center and several Georgia voting rights groups, who this month wrote a letter asking the state elections board for the counties to respond. There was an urge to create a standardized process. Challenges.
“The coming election cycle could see more collective challenges,” the groups wrote. “By making rules before the administrative burden of the cycle becomes too intense, the Board can help counties navigate a thorny legislation with greater clarity and efficiency.”
‘I don’t trust any of them’
Caryl Esta, 62, doesn’t typically volunteer for campaigns or get involved in politics — though she recently made an exception to wave signs for Republican Herschel Walker during a Senate runoff — but she’s a Georgia is one of the residents of the U.S. who has worked for hours on the state’s voter list in an effort to boot ineligible voters.
“It is not difficult. It is just time consuming,” she said.
She will search for registered voters who have filed with the post office to change their address and therefore may have moved, or check the voter list for registrations that do not have an apartment number. She said she has challenged more than a thousand voter registrations in this way.
Asta said she does not want to disenfranchise eligible voters. She figures that if she is wrong, people can easily verify their registration or update it with elections officials if they are sent a letter notifying them of the challenge. But she wants Cobb County to do more to clean up voter rolls and prevent fraud.
Esta said she distrusts the election system because of errors she has seen — such as the DeKalb County vote counting machine programming error that occurred in the 2022 primary.
Asked if he believed the recent election results in his state, Asta said: “I don’t believe any of them.”
Back in Gwinnett, Manifold said the submissions have continued this year, though so far the challenges are less broad and more specific — “data cleanup things rather than real collective challenges,” he said, like duplicate records.
“It’s never ending, we have something like nine filings since the beginning of the year,” he said. “The groups there are still active.”