Republican nominee had sought disqualification of nearly 10,000 voters
The Democratic majority on the Fulton County Commission said no to a GOP nominee to the election board who has challenged the registrations of nearly 10,000 people.
Jason Frazier said he was concerned that there might be ineligible voters and inaccurate addresses on Fulton’s list of registered voters. Critics, however, say he targeted legitimate voters in the heavily Democratic county based on minor inconsistencies in government records, such as the word “drive” appearing twice at the end of a street name.
The election board is responsible for ruling on voter challenges, setting voting locations and election budgets, and certifying election results. It’s made up of two Republican and two Democratic nominees, as well as a chairperson, subject to the approval of the County Commission.
Commissioner Dana Barrett described Frazier as “not a serious nomination.”
She said his mass voter challenges undermined public confidence in elections.
“The dangerous precedent being set here is being set by the nominating body,” the Fulton County Republican Party, Barrett said.
Frazier had his defenders, including more than 40 supporters who spoke at the commission’s meeting, compared with four who opposed his nomination.
“I have not seen in Jason some highly partisan deep-state conservative plant taking actions to suppress voters,” Clay Jones said in comments to the commission. “Honestly, he’s someone I think we owe a debt to. ... Jason has spent countless hours trying to clean up the voter rolls.”
In all — using Georgia’s 2021 voting law that allows anyone to contest an unlimited number of other voters’ qualifications — Frazier has challenged an estimated 9,500 Fulton County voters since last year, with 160 registrations removed by the county election board and about 6,400 registrations put in “challenged” or “pending” status until voters verify their addresses, according to approximate figures compiled by voting rights groups.
Some eligible voters had to defend their right to vote in hearings before the county election board. Those voters said their qualifications shouldn’t have been questioned because of small discrepancies.
The County Commission unanimously approved the Republican Party’s other nominee to the election board, retired attorney Michael Heekin, as well as the Democratic Party’s two incumbent board members, Teresa Crawford and Aaron Johnson. Each will serve a two-year term.
Georgia’s automatic voter registration called a ‘tremendous success story’
More than 9 in 10 eligible voters in Georgia are currently registered to cast ballots, according to a study released this past week that credits the state’s automatic registration system for that strong performance.
“It’s a tremendous success story of getting eligible citizens onto the voter rolls,” said David Becker, executive director for the Center for Election Innovation & Research, an organization that works with election officials to build voter confidence. “It has resulted in all kinds of efficiencies and anti-fraud, as well as enfranchisement benefits to everybody.”
The group’s report said automatic registration has boosted both registration rates and accuracy, with almost all voters verified by both a driver’s license and Social Security number.
A record 7.9 million Georgians are registered to vote, up from 6.6 million in fall 2016 when the state began automatically registering eligible citizens at driver’s license offices unless they opted out.
The registration rate actually peaked in 2020 at 98%, but that was before COVID-19 and a change in the driver’s license application process that temporarily eliminated automatic voter registration last year.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported on the change to the driver’s license application process that undermined automatic registration by requiring voters to click a button to sign up to vote rather than signing them up by default.
Following the AJC’s reporting, the Department of Driver Services restored the setting to register voters unless they opted out. Voter registrations soared after the department made that change.
About 92% of eligible voters are now registered in Georgia.
Twenty-two states including Georgia provide automatic registration.
Pence has another chance to come to Georgia
Former Vice President Mike Pence was originally set to speak at this weekend’s Georgia GOP convention. That changed, however, and Kari Lake, who ended up on the short side in votes in last year’s race for governor in Arizona, took his place.
The convention didn’t seem like an ideal setting for Pence, who is just now getting his campaign in gear after announcing this past week that he is running to become the nation’s chief executive.
It was an event more in tune with Donald Trump, Pence’s onetime boss and now a competitor for the White House. The former president chose it as his first stop in Georgia since formally announcing his own bid to return to the Oval Office.
Pence is likely to find a friendlier climate at another Georgia event, the Gathering, when conservatives will come together to discuss the future of the GOP.
News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB commentator Erick Erickson is the organizer of the event, set for Aug. 17-19 in Atlanta. He’s had an on-again, off-again relationship with Trump.
It goes back to 2015, when Erickson hosted a similar get-together, the Red State Gathering, that featured most every GOP candidate for president at the time, a group that numbered in double digits. The exception was Trump, who had been disinvited by Erickson following harsh comments the candidate aimed at Megyn Kelly after she had hit him with some tough questioning as moderator of a debate of Republican presidential hopefuls.
The relationship appears to be off again because Erickson has invited several others who are also challenging Trump for the GOP nomination: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott.
Erickson has also invited two Georgians to participate, Gov. Brian Kemp and U.S. Rep. Rich McCormick of Suwanee.
Other notables on the list of invitees are former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky; U.S. Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Chip Roy of Texas and Steve Scalise of Louisiana; and Govs. Bill Lee of Tennessee and Glenn Youngkin of Virginia.
Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC
Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC
Kemp ends his policy of silence on Trump with critical tweet
Gov. Brian Kemp used to point out — despite being targeted frequently by barbs from Donald Trump after refusing to help him illegally overturn the 2020 election — that he had “never said a bad word” about the former president.
But then Kemp won reelection.
Kemp blasted Trump in a social media post for congratulating North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after the Communist nation was admitted to the World Health Organization’s executive board.
“Taking our country back from Joe Biden does not start with congratulating North Korea’s murderous dictator,” Kemp wrote on Twitter over a screenshot of Trump’s praise for Kim Jong Un.
It was the hardest swing Kemp has ever taken at Trump.
Trump has never had a hands-off policy concerning Kemp.
He has called Kemp disloyal, phony and inept.
Things started going badly between them in 2019, when Trump took issue with Kemp’s selection of Kelly Loeffler to fill a U.S. Senate seat. Then he slammed Kemp for lifting economic restrictions early in the coronavirus pandemic.
Bad went to worse when Kemp rejected Trump’s efforts to reverse his loss in Georgia in 2020. Trump vowed to oust Kemp from office and backed former U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s candidacy for governor in the 2022 GOP primary. It apparently didn’t hurt much: Kemp won that contest by 52 points.
Trump even once said that he’d rather see Democrat Stacey Abrams as governor than Kemp. Again, damage was minimal. Kemp topped Abrams in November by a bigger margin than when they first squared off in 2018.
His victory in November freed Kemp to say what he wants. He took it slowly, though. On election night, he took aim at those who criticized his decision to lift economic restrictions early in the pandemic, although he didn’t use names.
“I didn’t listen to the pundits, the so-called experts, the media or the presidents,” he said. “I listened to you — the hardworking people of this great state, because that’s what I was elected to do.”
Now, after taking Trump’s hectoring for so long — and never saying “a bad word” about the former president — Kemp appears ready to do some tough talking of his own.
Secretary of state’s office takes control of Treutlen election server
Investigators in the secretary of state’s office seized a Treutlen County election server in April, 11Alive News’ Doug Richards reported.
The move came after the county hired former Coffee County Election Director Misty Hampton to run a special election.
Hampton had been dismissed in Coffee County following the revelation that she had allowed people associated with then-President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election to scan Dominion Voting Systems software on Jan. 7, 2021.
Treutlen County Manager T.J. Hudson, who placed fourth in the 2022 GOP primary for secretary of state, hired Hampton.
“At that particular time,” Hudson told Richards this past week, “we did not have a clue what had been going on over there (in Coffee County). … Absolutely it would have mattered (if he’d known.)”
Olivia Coley-Pearson, a city commissioner in the Coffee County city of Douglas, called hiring Hampton “a disservice to the residents of Treutlen County.”
The GBI says it is still investigating the Coffee County breach. No charges have been filed.
Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC
Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC
Clyde gun bill to get vote after he said earlier that House leaders threatened it
U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde says his gun bill is back on track after claiming earlier that it was in peril after he sided against House Speaker Kevin McCarthy over debt-ceiling legislation.
Clyde announced on Twitter that the measure to prohibit the federal government from regulating the use of pistol braces — devices that attach to the rear of the gun to allow it to be fired one-handed — could get a floor vote in the U.S. House as early as the coming week.
The Republican, who owns a gun store in Athens, had earlier told conservative activist Steve Bannon that the bill could be in trouble.
He said Republican leadership tied its fate to his vote on a procedural measure preceding the final vote on the debt-ceiling legislation: a rule that outlined debate on the agreement.
“I was told by leadership that if I didn’t vote for the rule, that it would be very difficult to bring my bill to the floor,” Clyde told Bannon.
Clyde voted against the rule as well as the debt-ceiling legislation.
House leaders denied Clyde’s assertion.
Republican hard-liners responded to the dust-up by staging a mini-revolt against McCarthy over what should have been a routine procedural measure on a gas-stove bill.
The vote failed when nearly a dozen Freedom Caucus members joined Democrats in opposing it.
Clyde later met with Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who said the brace bill did not originally have the votes to pass.
The hard-liners remained at odds with the House leadership, however, preventing the advancement of other pending legislation that would normally possess widespread support from conservatives.
Unable to reach a deal to move the bills forward, McCarthy on Wednesday called off all votes for the rest of the week and sent members home.
- Farr out: Kelly Farr, the state’s chief financial officer and director of Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget office, is leaving for a job with ReFrame Solutions, a Connecticut-based technology company. Farr has run Kemp’s budget office since the governor took office in 2019. Before that, when Kemp was Georgia’s secretary of state, Farr served as a deputy secretary of state. Farr will leave his state job at the end of this month.
- COVID-19 money to support public safety: Gov. Brian Kemp this past week designated $83.5 million in federal COVID-19 relief money to support 118 public safety efforts in metro police departments, cities, counties and school districts. The money comes from the state’s $4.8 billion share of $1.9 trillion in funding that Democrats in Congress approved in March 2021 to deal with problems created by the pandemic. Kemp has already distributed most of that money, with much of it going to law enforcement and first-responder bonuses, public safety initiatives, local water and sewer projects, programs to expand rural high-speed internet and grants to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown in early 2020.
- Money to get rid of rail crossings: More than $1.3 million in federal grants will help eliminate rail crossings in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties. Gwinnett is receiving $888,000 to study the feasibility of eliminating three crossings of CSX track: at Arcado Road in Lilburn, Oak Road/Gloster Road near Lilburn and Hosea Road in Lawrenceville. DeKalb will get $460,000 to make changes to a crossing on Constitution Road to a grade-separate crossing. The crossing is located near Norfolk Southern Corp.’s Atlanta facility, and trains block it about 45 times a day. The counties will each have to provide a 20% match of the grants. In all, Georgia will receive $3.2 million in federal funding through the Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program, the Biden administration announced.