Georgia's top election official says he is opening an investigation into whether third-party groups are trying to register people from other states to illegally vote in Georgia's twin Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections, when the GOP's majority in the chamber is at stake.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced to reporters on Monday that "we have opened an investigation into a group called America Votes, who is sending absentee ballot applications to people at addresses where they have not lived since 1994."
Raffensperger, a Republican, also said his investigators are looking into "Vote Forward, who attempted to register a dead Alabama voter, a woman, to vote here in Georgia." He also spotlighted "The New Georgia Project, who sent voter registration applications to New York City."
The secretary of state also pinpointed “Operation New Voter Registration Georgia, who is telling college students in Georgia that they can change their residency to Georgia and then change it back after the election.”
Raffensperger emphasized that “voting in Georgia when you’re not a resident of Georgia is a felony. And encouraging college students to commit felonies without regard for what it might mean for them is despicable. These third-party groups have a responsibility not to encourage illegal voting. If they do so, they will be held responsible.”
Raffensperger's office also has 23 investigators working on 250 open investigations into "credible claims of illegal voting" and election law violations, he said.
Gabriel Sterling, the election official who manages Georgia’s voting system, told reporters that “this is new information, these outside groups attempting to register people illegally potentially, in other states.”
Sterling said that these third-party groups appear to be “literally saying ‘hey, it’s OK to commit a felony.’”
And Raffensperger emphasized that “this office will continue to take steps to protect the voting rights of the legally registered Georgians of this state, Republican, Democrat, independent, and whatever party you may be a member of.”
The current balance of power for the next Senate coming out of this month’s elections is 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats. That means Democrats must win both of Georgia’s runoff elections to make it a 50-50 Senate. If that occurs, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be the tie-breaking vote, giving her party a razor-thin majority in the chamber.
In Georgia, where state law dictates a runoff if no candidate reaches 50% of the vote, GOP Sen. David Perdue narrowly missed avoiding a runoff, winning 49.75% of the vote. Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff trails by roughly 87,000 votes.
In the other race, appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler captured nearly 26% of the vote in a whopping 20-candidate special election to fill the final two years of the term of former GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson. The Democratic candidate in the runoff, Rev. Raphael Warnock, won nearly 33% of the vote in the first round.