The Jolt: ACLU of Georgia Says Nearly 200k Voters Were Wrongly Removed from Registration Rolls in 2019

By Jim Galloway, Greg Bluestein and Tia Mitchell | Atlanta Journal-Constitution | September 2, 2020 

Share on print
Share on facebook
Share on email
Share on twitter

The ACLU of Georgia this morning has released a report that says a 2019 purge of voters from the state’s registration database improperly removed nearly 200,000 on the grounds that they had moved – when they had not.

The report is the work of the Palast Investigative Fund, a New York-based nonprofit headed by Greg Palast, an investigative journalist with a history of looking into state voting purges – dating to Florida in 2003.

Of 313,243 voters culled last year, the Palast report alleges that 198,351 were improperly expunged.

The study has its origins as a project originally funded by Al Jazeera America, Rolling Stone magazine and salon.com for a series of print and video reports on voter purges in Georgia and elsewhere. From the report:

This is the Palast team’s second review of the Georgia voter registration cancellation lists. In 2018, we obtained a list of over half a million Georgians removed from the voter rolls by order of the Secretary of State in 2017.

Again, we hired address list hygiene experts to analyze the list. We found and named 340,134 voters who had not moved from their registration address but, whom the Secretary of State nevertheless had canceled their voter registration based on erroneous information these citizens had moved their residence.

Others had moved locally — meaning within the same voting jurisdiction, yet the secretary of state wrongly cancelled their voter registrations.


The entire report is available here.

Jordan Fuchs, deputy to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, sent a response that included this:

“A year ago, Justin Grey, a credible journalist with WSB-TV, conducted a story to see if the people on hit on the list had moved or not. His on-the-ground reporting showed that those who were on the list to be canceled were no longer at that address.

“It is unfortunate that the ACLU hired a known Stacey Abrams show to conduct research especially when there are so many credible options on the left to hire.”


Just last March, our AJC colleague Mark Neisse took a look at a massive purge of Georgia voters in 2017. It began thusly:

Donnel Peterman is the kind of voter who should have been safe from Georgia’s mass cancellations.

He has lived in the same house south of Atlanta for 16 years. He worked at a neighborhood precinct for the 2016 presidential election. He believes voting can make a difference.

Peterman was shocked to learn that like 560,000 other Georgians, election officials canceled his inactive voter registration one night in July 2017, in the largest single removal of voters in U.S. history.

…Since the 2017 purge, Peterman and more than 87,000 other canceled voters have re-registered in Georgia, indicating that they were eligible all along, according to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and APM Reports, the investigative reporting division of American Public Media.

…And nearly 56,000 of them re-registered within the same county, according to the AJC/APM Reports analysis. If their registrations hadn’t been canceled, they would have been able to vote without having to re-register.

More than half, almost 30,000 Georgia voters, re-registered too late to participate in the close 2018 election for Georgia governor. It’s impossible to know how many of them attempted to vote, but those who tried wouldn’t have had their ballots counted.


We told you on Monday about the Republican National Committee robocall that hit Georgia over the weekend, in which Donald Trump Jr. urged listeners to use the absentee ballot application that his father – who has spent the last few months denigrating mail-in voting – is sending their way.

Apparently, the Georgia GOP is part of the operation:

The New York Times reports this morning that the Trump campaign “has spent $200,000 on Facebook ads since May disparaging voting by mail, with baseless accusations of Democrats “stuffing the ballot boxes with fake and fraudulent votes” — and has also pumped $650,000 into Facebook ads over the past week encouraging his supporters to request absentee ballots.”

The question now is whether Republicans will rehabilitate drop-boxes for absentee ballots, which President Donald Trump has also condemned.

***

The Georgia Recorder reports that two members of Congress have begun an inquiry into a business that operates college dorms in Georgia:

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Michigan Democrat, sent a letter to Rhode Island-based Corvias Property Management, a private business that operates dormitories at several of Georgia’s public universities. Wayne State University in Detroit also partners with Corvias.



The topic was raised last month in this piece by our AJC colleague Eric Sturgis:

A letter recently posted online is raising questions about whether the University System of Georgia’s reopening plans for the fall semester, which starts Monday on some campuses, is being steered by finances and not the health and safety of its students and employees.

The May 29 letter from a vice president at Corvias, a Rhode Island-based company in a public-private partnership with the state system since 2014, urges Georgia officials not to set limits on how many students can live in some campus housing and points out its financial investment in the arrangement.

***

Newly-armed with a $7.2 million statewide ad reservation, the Senate Majority PAC launched a new ad Wednesday criticizing U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s stock transactions during the pandemic.

“The day the Senate got a private briefing on the coronavirus, Perdue bought stock in a maker of masks and gloves,” a narrator says. “Then stock in a vaccine manufacturer. And winds up buying and dumping up to $14 million dollars in stock.”

Perdue, who faces Jon Ossoff in November, has said he followed ethics and legal rules and that he wasn’t involved in day-to-day decisions, instead relying on an outside adviser to make the financial decisions. 

A few hours after Jon Ossoff condemned the violent unrest in Wisconsin and Oregon, Democratic Senate contender Raphael Warnock took a similar step in his race against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

“To be clear: what we saw in Kenosha and Portland was wrong. But instead of hearing and healing people’s pain, Sen. Loeffler and Doug Collins fall in line with fear mongering,” Warnock said.

***

Everytown for Gun Safety’s political committee is again spending heavily in hopes of boosting U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath’s campaign against Republican Karen Handel.

Everytown’s political committee has paid for $1.2 million in ads that will broadcast on Atlanta area TV stations and another $500,000 on digital ads targeting voters in the Sixth Congressional District.

McBath first linked with the organization backed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg after Jordan was shot and killed in 2012. Everytown spent $4 million backing McBath in 2018, when she unseated Handel.

***

Qualifying begins Wednesday to replace state Sen. Nikema Williams, now a congressional candidate, in the Georgia General Assembly.

We’ve picked up word that Sonya Halpern, a former advertising and marketing executive with a knack for organizing and fundraising, plans to submit paperwork to run for the Atlanta-based district.

She apparently will boast about $75,000 in her campaign coffers to kick off her bid. The vote will be held on Nov. 3 — the same day as the general election. If no candidate receives 50% of the vote, the runoff is Dec. 1.

***

At a campaign stop in Carroll County, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan made his debut appearance stumping for U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

Duncan told the audience Tuesday that he was impressed by her grit.

“She’s tough. Even before she was sworn in as U.S. senator, you came under attack,” he said, praising her anti-abortion and pro-gun rights stances. “This isn’t a wish list. It’s a need.”

He added: “We’re not just running against Democrats here in Georgia. We are running against Democrats all over the country.”

***

In endorsement news:

— The Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club said it supports Democrat Jon Ossoff’s challenge to U.S. Sen. David Perdue. Eddie Ehlert, the chapter’s political chair, praised Ossoff for pledging to “build a clean energy economy that works for Georgians.”

— The National Federation of Independent Business, a conservative business advocacy organization, has endorsed Rich McCormick in the Seventh District congressional contest.

Greg Sawicki checks to make sure his voter registration is in order during the Candler Park Fall Fest 2019 in Atlanta. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC