Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Monday took action to protect the state’s upcoming Senate runoff races from interference from out-of-state voters.
Raffensperger said on Monday that his office had sent out 8,000 letters to individuals who had moved out of Georgia, but had requested absentee ballots for the Jan. 5 elections.
"Qualified Georgians and only Georgians are allowed to vote in our elections," Raffensperger said in a statement. "I have said many times that I will not tolerate out of state voters attempting to undermine the integrity of the vote in Georgia."
The secretary of state said anyone trying to "game the system" will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Penalties include a fine of up to $100,000 and as many as 10 years in prison.
Not everyone who received a letter was violating the law, however. Residents who are temporarily out of state – as some may be due to the pandemic and telework opportunities – are able to request absentee ballots, as are military members stationed in other parts of the U.S. and students temporarily out of state for college.
The state’s runoff elections have garnered national attention because they will determine the partisan balance in Senate. By choosing both Democratic candidates, voters could effectively give control to the party via a 50-50 split, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote when necessary.
Republicans Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue are seeking to defend their seats from Democratic challengers Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively.
President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Trump in Georgia – the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since Bill Clinton in 1992.