WASHINGTON — Georgia’s top election official is negotiating with congressional investigators who demanded a pile of documents about alleged voting irregularities during last year’s election.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp missed a March 20 deadline set by the House Oversight and Reform Committee for transmitting documents related to Georgia’s “exact match” law, consolidation of polling sites, long lines and a bevy of other election-related issues.
But Raffensperger said Tuesday his office has been in “regular contact” with Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and that the two have agreed to a “voluntary rolling but extended production schedule” to comply with the March 6 request.
The Democrat-led committee sought voting information after “reports that Georgians faced unprecedented challenges with registering to vote and significant barriers to casting their votes during the 2018 election.”
A committee spokeswoman confirmed Cummings has yet to receive documents from Raffensperger and Kemp, but that they have “committed to fully cooperating with our inquiry in a timely way.”
“We expect them to abide by that commitment,” the spokeswoman said.
The tenor of the negotiations is important, since the Oversight panel has subpoena power and could call in Kemp or Raffensperger to testify publicly.
“Our interest in this is intense,” said Congressman Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who leads an Oversight subcommittee focused on civil rights and liberties. “The more I learn about what happened in Georgia in 2018, the more shocked I am.”
Raskin said Tuesday the panel will review its responses from Kemp and Raffesnperger before making any decisions about hearings.
An attorney for Kemp, Executive Counsel David Dove, said the scope of documents requested by the committee hasn't yet been determined. No “responsive” documents have been identified, Dove wrote in a reply to a request under the Georgia Open Records Act by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Kemp’s office didn’t respond to three emails seeking comment over the last week.
The governor’s Republican allies on Capitol Hill have trashed Cummings’ investigation, which they see as an effort to delegitimize Kemp’s victory over Democrat Stacey Abrams.
“Democrats — state and national alike — seem to have difficulty accepting the fact that Brian Kemp is the governor of Georgia,” said U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, a member of the Oversight panel. “This was a Georgia election run by Georgians — just as the Constitution prescribes —and it is disheartening to see congressional Democrats so blatantly attempt to discredit the results of an election because they are unhappy with the outcome.”
It’s not unusual for government officials to take time gathering information for congressional investigations, said Chris DeLacy, a Washington-based attorney who has represented clients asked to produce documents for Congress. He’s not involved in the request for Georgia election documents.
Usually, documents are turned over without Congress having to resort to subpoenas, he said. In the meantime, lawyers often negotiate over the focus of broad requests for information.
“If a subpoena is issued, that means negotiations have broken down,” DeLacy said. “The hammer is there if and when it’s needed. It’s a significant tool the committee can use, but it’s a tool of last resort.”
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