Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he entered into the controversial Compromise Settlement Agreement and Release with Stacey Abrams because members of the Georgia Attorney General’s Office recommended he do so.
In a letter dated January 6, Raffensperger told former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) that the agreement strengthened Georgia’s signature verification system.
Members of the Georgia General Assembly passed a law in 2019 that made it harder for county election officials to reject absentee ballots. A source inside the Georgia Secretary of State’s office referenced this law while speaking with The Georgia Star News this week. The source did not speak on record.
Raffensperger, in his letter, defended the agreement.
“Much has been made of a Signature Match Settlement Agreement entered into on the advice and recommendation of the Georgia Attorney General’s office in order to protect Georgia’s signature verification laws on both absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications,” Raffensperger wrote.
Staff members in Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office did not return repeated requests for comment this week.
National Public Radio reported in 2019 that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp “signed a sweeping overhaul of the way elections are administered in the state.”
“The law also blocks county election officials from rejecting absentee ballots because of mismatched signatures, and when information on a voter registration application doesn’t match other government databases, the voter will remain on the rolls,” the station reported at the time.
“Kemp’s signing the bill, which had been approved weeks earlier by the Georgia Legislature, marks a shift for the Republican. As a candidate for governor in 2018, Kemp supported removing voters’ names from registration lists if they hadn’t voted in recent elections and blocking registration applications that didn’t exactly match other government databases.”
The source inside the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office told The Star News that Raffensperger entered the agreement with Abrams “because it didn’t change anything that [election officials in] Georgia counties were already doing.”
Raffensperger, in his January 6 letter, said “my office protected and strengthened Georgia’s signature verification system.”
“My office provided Georgia Bureau of Investigation training to each county so that they could better conduct signature verification and also introduced a photo ID requirement into absentee ballot applications by creating an online request portal that requires the voter’s name, date of birth, and Georgia driver’s license number to match voter records in order to request an absentee ballot,” Raffensperger wrote.
Georgia has had no excuse absentee voting since 2005.
Traditionally, absentee voting in Georgia accounts for 5 percent of the electorate, but that increased to 25 percent in November 2020, Raffensperger said.
As The Star News reported Thursday, Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R-Cumming) now wants legislators to discuss meaningful election reform. He suggested state officials require a photo ID if people vote absentee. Duncan also proposed that Georgia’s attorney general assign a statewide grand jury to investigate alleged election fraud in a local jurisdiction. That, he added, “would remove any sense of local politics out of the initial equation.”
As reported, absentee voters in Georgia voted for current U.S. President Joe Biden last November by a vote of two to one.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Stacey Abrams” by Stacey Abrams. Background Photo “Georgia State Capitol” by DXR. CC BY-SA 4.0.