The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform has opened an investigation into the conduct of Georgia’s 2018 midterm elections, calling into question practices already under fire in multiple ongoing lawsuits here.
In letters to Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, said his committee is investigating reports of “problems with voter registration, voter access, and other matters” affecting voters’ ability to cast a ballot during the November 2018 midterm election.
“The committee is particularly concerned by reports that Georgians faced unprecedented challenges with registering to vote and significant barriers to casting their votes during the 2018 election,” Cummings wrote.
The letter was co-signed by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
It also reflects allegations that Democrat Stacey Abrams made after she ended her campaign for Georgia governor last year while pointedly refusing to concede to Kemp. Abrams has repeatedly accused Kemp of engaging in massive voter suppression while serving as the state’s chief election officer while campaigning for governor. Kemp has dismissed the allegations as “divisive politics” and fought them in court, hiring former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes to defend him.
Cummings is requesting what could potentially be hundreds, if not thousands, of documents—many of which nonprofit organizations and voters already suing the state are seeking to acquire through discovery. Some documents are related to the state’s publicized controversies during the run-up to the election—including those that resulted in five federal judges issuing six temporary restraining orders while votes were still being cast and counted.
Cummings has given Kemp and Raffensperger until March 20 to deliver the requested documents to the committee.
A partial list includes:
- All communications related to any voter roll purges, registration list maintenance or other government actions to remove voters from the rolls or cancel their registrations.
- All communications related to placing voter registration applications on hold or pending status under an “exact match” policy requiring that registrations must exactly match names in the state driver’s license and federal social security databases.
- All documents related to closing, moving or consolidating polling sites and any communication with consultants hired by state or local officials to advise on polling locations. The request particularly seeks information about Randolph County, where the populace is predominantly African-American and where a consultant recommended the elimination of seven of its nine polling places.
- All documents related to undervotes or drop-offs in voting rates in any state or federal races, including the lieutenant governor’s race, which is the subject of an election contest challenge now on appeal.
- All documents related to ethical or legal obligations or possible conflicts of interest on Kemp’s part while he was simultaneously serving as secretary of state and running for governor.
- All documents related to the allegation made by Kemp just before the election that the state Democratic party had attempted, but failed, to hack the state voter registration system and a subsequent ongoing investigation prompted by the secretary of state.
The document requests also include communications between Kemp, Raffensperger and other senior officials or managers at the secretary of state’s office, including the leadership team of the elections division; and with the governor and other officials in the governor’s office.
They also seek communications with county election officials; federal officials or officials from other states; anyone affiliated with Kemp’s campaign or any other campaign; anyone affiliated with a local, state or federal political party; and anyone with ties to any group that made political expenditures in the 2018 election.
The requests also include communications with employees of any election equipment vendors, including Election Systems & Software, which is currently seeking the state contract to replace its obsolete electronic voting machines.
Asked about Cummings’ letter at a news conference on Wednesday, Kemp said, “My reaction to that is they need to quit playing politics up there.”
Raffensperger said he “looks forward to an open dialogue and a thorough process.”
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Georgia—ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee—also issued a statement slamming Cummings’ letters to Kemp and Raffensperger. “Democrats are bringing out their full arsenal of weapons to relitigate November’s election in preparation for an upcoming election,” Collins said.
Collins—who opposes broad election reforms proposed in House Resolution 1, some of which would address the Georgia complaints—also insisted that Georgia elections are “an issue to be addressed by state and local officials within our state.”
“The fact that a U.S. congressional committee is inserting themselves into a statewide issue squarely outside of their jurisdiction exposes their purely political objectives,” he said.
Branding the 2018 election in Georgia “insecure and unfair,” state Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikema Williams said, “We will never stop fighting until every Georgian can be assured that their voice is heard and their vote counted. This investigation should be a lesson for every vote suppressor: the people are watching, and you will be brought to justice.”
Lauren Groh-Wargo, CEO of Fair Fight Action, which is suing state election officials to restore federal oversight of Georgia elections, also embraced the congressional inquiry in light of what she described as “the state’s continued refusal to guarantee the right to implement meaningful reforms in the 2019 legislative session. Georgia voters deserve real solutions, not Band-Aid bills that continue to promote long lines and malfunctioning machines … . Every resource should be leveraged to unearth the root causes of these problems and find solutions to ensure all citizens have their fundamental right to vote.”