Watchdog groups: EagleAI voter cancellation contract flouts Georgia law

General Assembly prohibited outside election donations last year
A voter walks into the Joan P. Garner Library in Atlanta as the polls open for the Georgia presidential primary on Tuesday, March 12, 2024. Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

A voter walks into the Joan P. Garner Library in Atlanta as the polls open for the Georgia presidential primary on Tuesday, March 12, 2024. Miguel Martinez /

When Georgia Republicans banned donations for election operations last year, they were taking aim at millions of dollars primarily benefiting large, Democratic-leaning counties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now two watchdog groups say the outside funding ban should also prevent a Republican-backed startup company, EagleAI, from offering to help cancel voter registrations at a discount to county election offices.

EagleAI plans to sell its software, which would identify potentially outdated voter registrations, to Columbia County for $2,000, a below-market rate that constitutes a prohibited gift under Georgia law, according to a March 8 letter sent to state election officials by watchdog groups American Oversight and Campaign Legal Center.

“EagleAI is a problematic ‘solution’ in search of the nonexistent problem of voter fraud,” said Chioma Chukwu, deputy executive director for American Oversight. “Whether EagleAI attempted to undermine Georgia law by charging only a nominal fee for its services is a clear issue for state investigation.”

EagleAI CEO Rick Richards said in an email that he wouldn’t respond to questions.

EagleAI is a private venture, but it is supported by Republican activists including Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who participated in then-President Donald Trump’s phone call asking Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to reverse Georgia’s election results in 2020.

The secretary of state’s office would open an investigation of EagleAI if requested by the State Election Board, spokesman Mike Hassinger said.

“We have urged all counties in Georgia to be extremely cautious when using third-party applications to access voter data, as those applications may be unreliable and do not have the robust functionality and accuracy available through the GARViS system,” which is Georgia’s voter registration system, Hassinger said.

EagleAI has billed itself as a tool that helps verify voter eligibility challenges, which, if upheld by county election boards, can result in registration cancellations.

Conservative activists have challenged over 100,000 Georgia voter registrations over the past three years, an effort they say is needed to prevent the possibility of election fraud involving people who have moved. County election boards have dismissed most voter challenges, and very few cases of ineligible voting have been proved.

But voter challenges have been filed against some legitimate Georgia voters, forcing them to defend themselves to election boards, and in some cases, preventing their ability to vote. All Georgia voters are required to show ID in each election before casting a ballot.

During the 2020 election year and the COVID-19 pandemic, county election offices in Georgia received about $45 million from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonprofit organization that was funded in part by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The money was used to fund, among other things, equipment to process mail ballots, protective gear for election workers, election staffing, absentee ballot postage costs and voter outreach.

Most of the money donated by the Center for Tech and Civic Life went to Democratic-leaning counties, but several Republican areas also received grants.

In response, the Georgia General Assembly passed the bill last year that made it a felony for local governments to accept donations for elections from nongovernmental sources.

Richards has previously acknowledged that he could charge a “nominal fee” rather than the fair-market value for EagleAI, according to the watchdog groups. If that were allowed, nonprofit organizations such as the Center for Tech and Civic Life could also avoid Georgia’s ban on election donations by charging a small fee, they said.

Columbia County’s election board approved the $2,000 contract with EagleAI in December, but Richards hasn’t signed it yet, Elections Supervisor Nancy Gay said. She said it’s unlikely she would use EagleAI this year while her office is busy running elections.

“I’m not even giving that (contract) any more thought. I’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Gay said. “I’ve got to worry about this election year, first and foremost.”