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As fears of election day chaos due to a dramatic increase in mail-in balloting rise, officials in Georgia announced Tuesday they had identified 1,000 residents who voted twice in the state’s primary earlier this year.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), in a press conference, noted that double voting occurred during the state’s June 9 primaries. He added that the act is a felony and that he planned to pursue the cases to the fullest legal extent.
“A double voter knows exactly what they’re doing, diluting the votes of each and every voter that follows the law,” Raffensperger said at the state Capitol. “Those that make the choice to game the system are breaking the law. And as secretary of state, I will not tolerate it.”
About 150,000 people who had been sent absentee ballots also showed up at polling stations, some of them claiming they had never received their ballot or that they decided to cast a ballot in person instead, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
In most cases, according to the paper, double voting can be stopped but obviously the state’s enforcement methods are not foolproof.
Of that figure, 1,000 people returned their mail-in ballots but also showed up to vote in person and were permitted to do so.
Raffensperger did say that the extra votes cast did not alter the outcome of any election.
The paper said an analysis found that absentee ballot fraud in the recent past has been rare. But the secretary of state said absentee balloting increased from about 5 percent to something closer to 50 percent for the June primaries, thereby dramatically increasing the potential for fraud.
For his part, Raffensperger said the state attorney general’s office and local prosecutors will initially decide whether to bring charges against the alleged fraudsters on a case-by-case basis, the paper said.
The penalty for felonious double voting is steep: Up to 10 years in prison and a fine as high as $100,000.
The paper said that so far, about 900,000 people have requested absentee ballots for the November election.
Raffensperger’s announcement comes on the heels of court briefs filed in Georgia and North Carolina by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which said its investigators have discovered thousands of double votes in both states that occurred during the 2016 and 2018 elections.
In North Carolina alone, PILF auditors found about 20,000 voters who appear to have cast ballots twice during the past two election cycles. In Georgia, auditors claim to have discovered more than 4,000 dead people on voter registration rolls while estimating that some 10,000 registered voters cast two ballots in 2016 and 2018.
“This is a widespread concern in North Carolina,” PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said after filing a court brief in July.
“We should be talking about how to strengthen our systems against misdeeds done out of the sight of election officials in 2020 instead of defending an imperfect system from total ruin,” he added. “The plaintiffs are only raising the threat of worsening the settled fact that voter fraud is most common in the mail.”
Regarding Georgia, the organization said in one brief, “It is paramount that Georgia’s election officials investigate and confirm the registrations PILF flagged and further examine Georgia’s voter rolls for other duplicate entries prior to the entry of any injunctive relief that would exacerbate these defects.”
President Donald Trump has repeatedly warned that widespread mail-in balloting will lead to election day chaos, while others have said they will throw the results in doubt and taint the outcome.
Several states experienced a number of issues during primary season when voters used mail-in ballots far in excess of prior election cycles over fears of COVID-19.