Georgia GOP ‘election confidence’ report splits state Republicans

The Georgia GOP, after experiencing bruising political defeats in November and January, released a lengthy list of recommendations to limit voting, including doing away with no-excuse absentee balloting. “We want every lawful vote counted and every unlawful vote rejected,” GOP Chair David Shafer said. “We want the counting of votes to be done in the open and in accordance with law.” BOB ANDRES  /BANDRES@AJC.COM
The Georgia GOP, after experiencing bruising political defeats in November and January, released a lengthy list of recommendations to limit voting, including doing away with no-excuse absentee balloting. “We want every lawful vote counted and every unlawful vote rejected,” GOP Chair David Shafer said. “We want the counting of votes to be done in the open and in accordance with law.” BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Duncan takes issue with how panel reached its recommendations

The Georgia GOP released a lengthy list of recommendations to limit voting after bruising political defeats. But the 10-page report immediately divided Republicans and led to a scathing response from one of the state’s highest-ranking officials.

Several of the proposals promoted by the “election confidence task force” on Monday echo the demands then-President Donald Trump made as he sought to illegally reverse his election defeat in Georgia despite the repeated insistence of top officials that there was no evidence of widespread fraud.

The report calls for photo ID verification for mail-in ballots, eliminating ballot drop boxes, ending no-excuse absentee voting, banning third-party groups and state officials from sending ballot request forms, and preventing voters from being automatically registered when they get their driver’s licenses.

It also urges lawmakers to replace newly installed software from Dominion Voting Systems that was approved in 2019 as part of a $107 million overhaul of the state’s election infrastructure.

Another recommendation calls for the elections division to be moved to the state Elections Board, stripping Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of oversight of Georgia’s vote. Raffensperger infuriated Trump and his allies for refusing demands to “find” enough votes to overturn his November defeat in a call that factors into the Senate impeachment trial that opened Tuesday.

“We want every lawful vote counted and every unlawful vote rejected,” state GOP Chair David Shafer said. “We want the counting of votes to be done in the open and in accordance with law.”

There was no evidence of systemic voting fraud in Georgia in the 2020 election, and state and federal officials repeatedly debunked the false narratives Trump and his allies promoted following his defeat. Courts at every level dismissed challenges brought by Trump’s campaign and its supporters.

Read the full report here.

‘We will win’

Republican state senators have already introduced a series of measures that match some of the group’s recommendations. They would overhaul voting laws after record turnout helped Democrats flip the state in November’s presidential race and sweep the two U.S. Senate runoffs in January.

But some state GOP leaders have expressed caution about several of the farthest-reaching proposals.

While Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston have each backed requiring additional verification to cast an absentee ballot, they have not endorsed more stringent measures. Duncan, who defeated Shafer in a 2018 runoff, panned the report through his top aide.

Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan has backed efforts to strengthen voter verification in the use of absentee ballots, but has not signed on to other recommendations made by a Georgia Republican Party "election confidence task force." (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan has backed efforts to strengthen voter verification in the use of absentee ballots, but has not signed on to other recommendations made by a Georgia Republican Party "election confidence task force." (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

“The guy who managed to squander the presidential election and two U.S. Senate seats in a matter of two months’ time has now issued a laundry list of election reforms he’d like enacted without ever once consulting with the Republican governor, lieutenant governor or speaker,” said John Porter.

“At some point, Georgia Republican voters are going to get tired of Shafer’s loser’s limp,” Porter said.

Georgia GOP Executive Director Stewart Bragg said the task force consulted with Kemp’s office and key legislative leaders as it prepared the report.

“We consulted with every Republican elected official who cares about restoring confidence in our elections,” he said. “We hope the lieutenant governor will join them in fighting for what the grassroots membership of the Republican Party is asking. Election integrity is an issue that unites Republicans — with the exception of the lieutenant governor.”

The report is intended to provide cover for Republican legislators who are seeking a broader overhaul of the voting system after the string of election defeats.

Among the members of the task force are former state Sen. William Ligon, who pushed for a special session to overturn Georgia’s election results; Alice O’Lenick, who faced calls to resign as Gwinnett County’s elections board chair after she endorsed changing elections laws so “we at least have a shot at winning”; and Ray Smith, an attorney who represented the Trump campaign’s court challenge.

Democrats vowed to stop the legislation. U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, who heads the Democratic Party of Georgia, said it was “nothing more than a last-gasp attempt by an ever more extreme organization that is terrified of the power of Georgia voters.”

And Stacey Abrams and other voting rights advocates warned they were poised to file court challenges if any of the restrictive GOP voting measures are signed into law.

“If Georgia Republicans think that they are going to restrict the franchise and roll back voting rights, and particularly do so in a way that is targeted at Black, brown and young voters, they have another thing coming,” said Marc Elias, a Democratic elections attorney. “We will see them in court. And we will win.”

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