Georgia’s New Law, and the Risk of Election Subversion

Can state boards, county boards or anybody else use their administrative powers to flip electoral outcomes? After the November election, a majority of Republican members of Congress and state attorneys basic signed on to efforts that will have invalidated thousands and thousands of votes and caused a constitutional disaster. With that backdrop, it appears naïve to imagine that nobody would attempt to abuse such energy, whether or not in Georgia or elsewhere.

It’s value going again to Mr. Trump’s notorious name. While the oft-quoted line about “finding” votes makes it sound as if he needed Mr. Raffensperger to fabricate votes out of skinny air, Mr. Trump mentioned he had already discovered the votes, within the type of hundreds of ballots he mentioned have been solid illegally:

“We have all the votes we need. You know, we won the state. If you took, these are the most minimal numbers, the numbers that I gave you, those are numbers that are certified, your absentee ballots sent to vacant addresses, your out-of-state voters, 4,925. You know when you add them up, it’s many more times, it’s many times the 11,779 number.”

In addition to the 4,925 out-of-state voters talked about, Mr. Trump baselessly asserted within the name that there have been a whole bunch of hundreds of absentee ballots with solid signatures. He alleged, based mostly on imperfect matches between lists of voters, that there have been 4,502 voters who voted however weren’t registered; 18,325 voters with vacant addresses; 904 voters who voted solely with a P.O. field handle; and almost 5,000 votes by useless folks. And with nearly no proof whosever, he alleged nice malfeasance in Atlanta’s Fulton County, together with 18,000 votes having to do with somebody who did one thing nefarious and “3,000 pounds” of shredded ballots.

County and state election officers maintain a wide range of powers related to such claims. They consider whether or not to just accept or reject ballots, and so they certify outcomes. In Georgia, they hear eligibility challenges. It would have been onerous to make use of these powers to help Mr. Trump, not to mention to outlive a subsequent courtroom problem. But there are levers that they might have at the least tried to tug, even when it’s not clear what would have come of it.

One possibility is that the state board may have usurped the ability of Fulton County, based mostly on the president’s allegations within the basic election and different allegations from the first (the legislation requires proof of failed administration in at the least two elections over the prior two years). The state board may have both used the president’s allegations as a foundation to refuse to certify the end result or to disqualify in any other case eligible voters.

It could be onerous and even not possible to tug this off instantly after an election. The legislation requires a reasonably drawn-out listening to course of earlier than the state can intrude in county elections. The preliminary listening to can’t be held for at the least 30 days after an preliminary petition, which is after the Georgia certification deadline. But maybe a nefarious board may lay the groundwork earlier, probably placing a newly appointed superintendent in management earlier than the elections, when she or he would have the power to pre-emptively disqualify voters and ballots.

County election boards heard comparable sorts of challenges to voter eligibility through the Georgia runoff. The state Republican Party and a Texas group challenged the eligibility of a whole bunch of hundreds of voters in December, based mostly on whether or not a voter appeared to match somebody on the Postal Service listing of individuals within the National Change of Address Registry. A couple of small counties truly went through with attempting to invalidate voters on this foundation.

This eligibility problem was rejected by the U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, who occurs to be the sister of Stacey Abrams, who narrowly misplaced the 2018 governor’s race in Georgia to Brian Kemp. But though the eligibility problem faltered within the runoff, it’s not apparent that ironclad protections exist towards eligibility challenges, both as a matter of courtroom precedent or federal legislation. A narrower problem may have had a greater probability of surviving a courtroom problem. And the brand new Georgia legislation makes these sorts of challenges simpler, by permitting a single particular person to problem the eligibility of an infinite variety of voters.