by Paul Sperry
More than 1,700 Georgians were singled out for illegally casting two ballots in 2020 elections – including last month’s hotly contested presidential race – but their fraudulent votes weren’t canceled out, according to state election officials. And so far, none of the cheaters has been prosecuted, raising concerns about continued fraud as Georgia prepares to vote again in twin U.S. Senate runoff elections next month.
The majority of double voters were Democrats who cast an absentee ballot either by mail or drop box and also voted in person on Election Day, officials said, which is a felony under state law.
The highest share of offenders were from Fulton County, which includes Atlanta – many of whom were allowed to cast a second ballot by poll workers, officials said.
Hundreds of workers assigned to county poll sites were recruited and trained by the Democrat-run Georgia chapter of the ACLU and a minority-owned temp agency run by Democrat donors, according to documents obtained by RealClearInvestigations. Most of them were young and inexperienced.
Before the election, the ACLU urged anyone “threatened with prosecution” over double-voting allegations to contact the chapter for legal assistance. It is now signing up poll workers for the January 5 runoff races. And the temp agency, Happy Faces Personnel Group, remains under contract with the county to supply workers for that critical election, despite complaints from poll managers and poll watchers that its recruits were “poorly trained” and “highly partisan.” The Georgia runoffs will determine control of the Senate.
Though the number of suspected double-voting felons is the largest in state history, RealClearInvestigations has learned that no cases have been referred to the state attorney general for criminal investigation.
“This office does not have any referrals on double voting cases so far from the State Election Board related to the June 2020 primary or November 2020 general [election],” said Katie Byrd, spokesperson for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, a Republican.
The lack of action undercuts Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s promise last month “to prosecute those who try to undermine our elections to the fullest extent of the law.”
Fraud cases are referred to the attorney general by the election board, which is chaired by Raffensperger, a Republican who has taken heat from President Trump for not doing more to investigate claims of fraud in the November 3 election.
Some local officials had hoped at least some double voters would be prosecuted and made examples of ahead of the Senate runoffs next month to deter other cheaters from committing fraud.
“I am terribly disappointed in the lack of enforcement of our election laws,” said Forsyth County Commissioner Dennis Brown, a Republican. “We are asking for the same outcome in January during the runoffs if something is not done soon.”
Raffensperger faced a backlash from liberal voting-rights groups over his warnings about fraud following the June primary, when more than 150,000 voters tried to vote twice but reportedly were unsuccessful. (The system is supposed to catch double-voters, but at least 1,000 still slipped through safeguards.) The groups, led by Democratic activist Stacey Abrams’ well-funded Fair Fight Action, have maintained that claims of fraud could have a chilling effect on absentee voting and effectively suppress black voters in the state who disproportionately prefer that method of voting.
Some local election officials believe Raffensperger is afraid of being labeled “racist” by Abrams, who is suing him for allegedly “disenfranchising” voters of color in the state.
“I am not sure the secretary of state has the backbone for this,” Fulton County poll manager Suzi Voyles said. “We have turned in thousands of unlawful voters and not one of them has been prosecuted.”
Brown agreed that Raffensperger may be out of his depth, noting that “this is his first political office.”
“He is a little bit afraid, politically, and buckled a little more than he should have to Abrams, who’s trying to stir up racial discord,” he said. “That’s why he printed up all those absentee ballot [request] forms and sent them to people who hadn’t asked for them – which was just a terrible action, because it creates all kinds of problems with double voting and other fraud – and that’s why he agreed to install all those drop boxes, which just opens the door for illegal ballot harvesting.”
Raffensperger’s office declined an on-the-record interview.
Pressured by Abrams and other voting-rights activists, Raffensperger agreed to mail out absentee ballot applications and install ballot drop-off boxes in Georgia’s 159 counties. As a result, absentee voting skyrocketed across the state. Both the primary and general elections drew historic numbers of absentee ballots.
Some poll watchers blame the push to make absentee voting easier during the coronavirus pandemic for the surge in double-voting. Double voters typically mailed in or dropped off ballots before Election Day and then also showed up to vote in person and were allowed to vote despite being flagged in the system. Others voted in person first, then dropped an absentee ballot in one of the drop boxes later that day, bypassing system safeguards.
“The one thing that the system cannot safeguard against with the new drop boxes is voters who go through the steps saying they did not request an absentee ballot, vote at the polls, and then later that day drop a ballot in the absentee box before 7 p.m.,” Voyles warned.
Despite such concerns, the boxes are being used again for next month’s runoffs. Absentee voting has already begun in the Senate races, which pit GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler against Democratic hopeful Raphael Warnock and Republican Sen. David Perdue against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. Democrats hope to win both contests to take control of the 100-seat Senate with 50 seats and Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris as a tie-breaker.
An investigation by Raffensperger’s office revealed that at least 1,042 people knowingly voted twice in the June primary, with 60% of them using Democratic Party ballots. Another 294 voted twice in the August runoff election. Two-thirds of the combined 1,366 double votes were votes by absentee.
Hundreds more broke the law again on November 3. Results are preliminary, but investigators so far have found at least 400 cases of double voting in the presidential race. These fraudulent votes were not canceled. It’s unclear whether they favored Joe Biden or President Trump due to the secrecy of ballots. Raffensperger officially called Georgia and its 16 electoral votes for Biden last week after a third recount showed him with a razor-thin lead of 11,769 votes.
Voting twice is a felony punishable by one to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. Proving intentionality is not required under Georgia law. Yet none of the total 1,736 confirmed cases of double-voting has been referred for prosecution, even though some cheaters were overheard bragging about violating the law.
The secretary of state’s investigations office is still fielding reports from precincts and complaints from poll watchers, so the figure may rise substantially. Details are unclear about the total number of people who showed up at the polls on November 3 despite having cast an absentee ballot by mail or drop box, but the number is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. Investigators are confident that in most cases, people who’d already cast their vote were flagged by the system. They may have tried to vote again, but were turned away. The full number of those who were nonetheless allowed to vote in person remains an open question, however.
Before 2020, the most repeat voting complaints came in 2008, when 10 cases were investigated in Georgia. In this election, more Georgians than ever before requested an absentee ballot after Raffensperger made it easier to vote absentee. Many poll watchers had warned that providing more voting options would create more ways to cheat.
Although Raffensperger would not comment, a senior state election official defended his record by noting that double-voting might have been worse in the general election if he hadn’t publicly denounced the fraud that took place during the primary.
He said the secretary of state’s office has put safeguards in place to ensure everyone’s vote is counted just once in the Jan. 5 election. He did not specify what procedures have changed other than improving training for election workers to make sure they properly follow procedures for canceling absentee ballots when voters show up in person.
“As long as human beings are involved, no election is going to be perfect,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If an election worker ignores or just doesn’t see the indication that a voter has already cast a ballot and lets them vote anyway, there’s really nothing we can do but investigate the person who cast the double vote who would know they’re double voting and are committing a felony.”
Poll Workers From a Partisan ACLU
Voyles, who has been helping manage polls in Fulton County for 20 years, complained that Democratic county officials entrusted the ACLU of Georgia with training election workers in how to screen out voters trying to cast two ballots. She noted that the ACLU chapter is a political activist group that appears more interested in defending people who vote twice than stopping them and reporting them to authorities.
Before the presidential election, the state’s ACLU chapter urged anyone “threatened with prosecution” over double-voting allegations to contact them for “legal assistance.”
“The ACLU of Georgia invites anyone threatened with prosecution for allegedly voting two times in the primary election to request legal assistance by contacting the organization as soon as possible,” according to a Sept. 8 press release.
Despite the potential conflict, Voyles said a lawyer trained by the ACLU was put in charge of policing double-voting at her precinct.
“I was not happy the ACLU was there,” Voyles said. “I do not trust them.”
In fact, Fulton County allowed the ACLU to station lawyers at each of its 255 polling sites, replacing poll managers and overriding normal county procedures for catching absentee voters who show up at polls. This “new policy” was designed to “simplify” the process.
Fulton County was not alone. All told, the ACLU recruited, trained and deployed more than 2,700 election workers at polls across the state on November 3. It also helped recruit “technicians” to help operate and “troubleshoot“ the machines of Dominion Voting Systems. ACLU recruiters targeted younger Georgians for the election work, many of whom had no previous experience checking in voters, and put them through a special training program separate from the county’s.
“Don’t think of yourself as ‘inexperienced,’ “ an ACLU organizer told recruits in an October 8 training session, according to notes from the meeting. “Prepare to walk in and take a leadership role, even as a first-time poll worker.”
In a guide for Georgia poll workers, the ACLU came close to encouraging double-voting: “Voters can cast a regular in-person ballot even if they requested an absentee ballot.” The chapter also facilitated absentee voting by listing the locations of all the drop boxes in the state, including some 36 drop boxes installed in Fulton County.
Poll workers are supposed to verify if a walk-in’s absentee ballot has already been received. If such a voter shows up at the polls after requesting an absentee ballot, poll workers must cancel the ballot electronically and have the voter sign an affidavit swearing he or she will not send it in. And they are supposed to turn away anyone who already voted absentee and then shows up in person.
But in hundreds of cases in Georgia, poll workers issued voter access cards to people who had already voted absentee, ignoring status messages that appeared on their electronic Poll Pads indicating that they had applied for an absentee ballot.
Records show the ACLU of Georgia is financially supported by Abrams’ group and run by Andrea Young, a civil-rights activist and Democrat who served as chief of staff to former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga. A former Planned Parenthood official, Young last month urged voters to elect politicians who support abortion rights and lower sentences for black convicts, among other things.
“The voting has ended. The counting has begun. Now, the next phase of our work begins: Protect the right to reproductive freedom. Reform our criminal legal system,” she wrote on the local ACLU website the day after the presidential election. “We vote to elect officials who will pursue policies to promote civil rights.”
Young does not count Trump among those officials. In a local newspaper interview after Trump took office, she slammed the new president for proposing policies she said “infringe on civil rights.”
Her ACLU chapter supports the “Black Lives Matter” movement. In a page on its website titled, “RACIAL JUSTICE: GEORGIA’S UPRISING,” it states: “At the ACLU of Georgia, we have redoubled our efforts to support the voices of the unheard and fight systemic racism in its many forms. Join the movement. Black Lives Matter.”
The ACLU of Georgia did not respond to requests for comment. But a document outlining its recruitment program said it “worked to recruit and prepare qualified poll workers.”
“We are now preparing poll workers for runoff elections in Georgia on January 5,” it added.
Voyles doubts the ACLU-trained workers and monitors had much incentive to enforce election rules. Judging from their training materials, she may have a point.
“Never tell someone that they can’t vote,” the ACLU organizer told recruits in the October 8 training session.
In the same meeting, recruits were advised that their working at the polls was “one of the most impactful ways to effect change in the 2020 election cycle.”
Frowning on ‘Happy Faces’
In addition to the ACLU recruits, more than 340 poll workers — including those screening absentee voters, counting votes, canvassing votes, auditing votes and even supervising poll workers — were contracted over to Fulton County through a minority-owned temp agency that doesn’t specialize in recruiting or training election workers.
Many of the temps from the agency — Tucker, Georgia-based Happy Faces — were described as partisan, inexperienced and poorly trained by poll managers and monitors who worked alongside them.
The “statewide contract” for Happy Faces’ 2020 election staffing was valued at almost $7 million, according to Fulton County documents. The Fulton deal was approved by Robb Pitts, the Democratic chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. Listed as contract administrator for Happy Faces was chief financial officer and staffing manager Edwina Berry Hairston, who appears in Federal Election Commission records as a Democratic donor.
Phone calls and emails to Fulton County went unanswered. But county officials explained in a 2019 document to the commissioners board that they needed to hire Happy Faces because staffing the polls in 2020 would be a “time-consuming effort,” and Happy Faces could “cut out the work by handling everything from recruitment, background checks, orientation, payroll and other processes for our deadline-driven election calendar.” They assured the board that approving the contract for Happy Faces would result in “a successful conduct of the upcoming 2020 presidential election.”
But some Fulton County poll managers and watchers were not happy with the election-related tasks they performed, noting that Happy Faces workers were often rude, incompetent and openly discussed politically sensitive topics.
“The workers from this temp organization employed by Fulton County have no experience, and there are some who are incompetent. And many are highly partisan,” said Garland Favorito, a certified poll watcher who runs VoterGa.org, one of the leading advocates for election integrity in the state.
Added Voyles: “We had an issue with Happy Faces temps, who were given managerial responsibilities but had never worked in any election at all. Their training was inadequate. They were even instructed to ignore basic Georgia law and allow people from other counties or precincts to vote [in her Fulton County precinct].”
Happy Faces, which does not list elections work among the areas of “top talent” it provides, did not respond to requests for comment. But a brochure on its website maintains that it is “dedicated to consistently surpassing service performance standards.”
The temp agency is under contract to also staff polls for the January 5 runoffs.
Byrd, the state attorney general’s spokesperson, said that although the AG is not currently prosecuting any of the 1,736 known cases of double-voting in the 2020 election cycle, he is investigating two individuals who allegedly voted twice in the November 2016 general election.
In both cases, she said, voters knowingly took advantage of glitches or poll worker errors to cast a second ballot in the election.
“Right now, we are processing two double-voting cases from the 2016 cycle. They were referred to this office around September 10,” she said. “I cannot share more on those matters at this time as they’re considered active.”
RealClearInvestigations has learned through other sources that one case involves a female government worker from Putnam County, who allegedly cast a ballot twice, once on Oct. 31, 2016, and again on Nov. 2, 2016. The other case involves a male voter from Murray County, Ga., who allegedly took advantage of a system error that missed his mailed ballot and voted again in person after he was issued access by a poll worker on Election Day. Because the voters have not yet been charged, RCI is withholding their names.
Local critics say it’s outrageous state election officials have not even referred any of the hundreds of known cases of double-voting cheaters from the 2020 cycle to prosecutors for criminal investigation.
“After the primary elections, Raffensperger announced that his office identified 1,000 people who voted twice in the primary. He promised that they would be prosecuted for voter fraud,” said Don Cole, a former speech writer for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a cousin of Senator Perdue. “I must have missed the announcements of arrests, indictments, trials, or convictions.”
“Before the primary we all received firm assurances that the system was so secure that it was impossible to vote twice. Apparently 1,000 people figured out how to get through that security in the primary election,” Cole added. “I guess that they were just warming up for November.”
– – –
Paul Sperry is an investigative reporter for RealClearInvestigations.