In recent weeks, the news filling American living rooms is that Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, bravely stood up to President Trump’s claim of voter fraud in the November 2020 elections and continues to do so now that Georgians are heading to the polls next week to decide a crucial runoff election that will decide whether Democrats regain control of the Senate. Once again, investigative journalist Greg Palast, who has reported for the BBC, Rolling Stone and the Guardian, often on voter suppression, exposes what’s really been going on in Georgia since the Republicans stole the election from gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams in 2018.
I conducted the third of three interviews for CounterPunch during this year’s election season with Palast on December 28th, having learned from him that Raffensperger is no hero; that he and his immediate predecessor Brian Kemp succeeded in illegally purging 198,000 registered voters from Georgia’s rolls, causing the Black Voters Matter and other voting rights groups to sue in federal court to get these names reinstated in time for next week’s elections. Below are excerpts from our interview.
CD: I’m glad to have you back, Greg Palast. And boy, have you had an active year, most recently with Black Voters Matter and the ACLU in Georgia. The ACLU released your findings that Georgia illegally removed 198,000 voters from the voter rolls, which you say could affect the outcome next week
GP: They were removed in November of 2019 before the 2020 election. You can get the report at gregpalast.com. 198,000 voters were illegally removed by Republican secretaries of state.
First, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who through this removal process — this great voter roll purge — made himself governor over Stacey Abrams, stealing that election in 2018. Before that 2018 race, he illegally removed 340,000 voters from the rolls. Then, an additional 200,000 voters more were wrongly removed in November of last year in the run-up to the current election.
I discovered that they removed 198,000 of these voters illegally. Based on my ACLU report, Black Voters Matter, Rainbow/PUSH (the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s organization), Barbara Arnwine’s Transformative Justice Coalition, and the major Hispanic grassroots organization Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, sued in federal court to force the state to put these names back on the rolls
Now, of course, if you’re waiting for the wheels of justice to turn, that’ll be way into next year, long after this runoff. So, because the runoff is this Tuesday, we asked for an injunction to get these people put back on right away.
CD: I understand that the judge, after hearing a day of testimony, wasn’t going to grant the injunction. Instead, he wanted you, the voting rights groups and Sec. of State to get together fix the “discrepancies” — that is, the errors, in the state’s purge list.
GP: Two things happened. One, the Secretary of State — who took away the voting rights of 198,000 based on false information — said we didn’t give him enough notice that we were going to sue, which is nonsense because I know he read my report.
I know that because the day after we issued the report (September 2), this Republican Secretary of State held a press conference complaining that the ACLU has “hired a well-known Stacey Abrams shill, Greg Palast.” I’ve been asked, how do I respond to the accusation? My answer: I’ve been called worse things than a “Stacey Abrams shill.” And, in fact ,where I come from, that’s considered pretty damn good.
Second, the State claims these 198,000 people had moved, they left Georgia. They left Atlanta. You can’t vote in Georgia if you don’t live there. It’s a crime. And the State claims, there are 198,000 people trying to vote from another state or in two counties. Um, I don’t think so.
And guess what? So we checked with the Post Office, which knows if someone has moved. Checking with the Post Office to confirm if a voter has moved is not only a good idea — it’s the law! Federal law requires that you check with the post office before you remove people from the rolls for having moved from their county. Now, how do you check with the Post Office? You don’t ask your mailman. The post office has a dozen or so contractors, which can go into their computers.
These are the official licensees. We hired hired three of them. All of them told us the same thing: These voters haven’t moved! It’s a simple question. Did these voters fill out those little change of address forms? Yes or no? And the postal service licensee said, they did not — the voters never moved.
CD: When did they report that Greg?
GP: We checked it a year ago and we checked it again a couple of weeks ago.
Now, are you ready for this? The State lied to the court! The State bald-faced lied to a federal judge, saying that the State went to the postal service through a licensee, Anchor. Nope. Anchor worked for ME, not for the State. The State never checked with Anchor. They never checked with the post office. It was a straight-up lie to avoid the injunction, to keep these voters off the rolls.
Now we’re going to expose the lie. Can we expose the lie before the election and get the judge to act? I don’t know. The judge did say that clearly there were “discrepancies” between our list, which comes from the post office, and their list, which comes from, I don’t know, the Proud Boys or, um, the Klan, or maybe they have a special postal list for people in white sheets. They certainly have an awful lot of Black and Brown people and young people on that list. Including, by the way, Christine Jordan, who was Martin Luther King’s cousin, now 94 years old. She was thrown off the rolls in 2018. I was there at the polls when her granddaughter was in tears that Ms. Jordan was being thrown out after 50 years of voting in the same place.
By the way, the major news media has never picked this up. Ms. Jordan was on the Daily Show — but not the daily news.
CD: [See my CounterPunch article of August 21, 2020], I asked you why the major media didn’t follow this and your response was, it was easier to say the Russians are doing it than to admit that there’s endemic racial apartheid in America’s voting system, vote suppression constructed by the GOP and made possible by their cringing enablers, the Democrats. Watching the coverage now of the upcoming Georgia vote it struck me that Raffensperger, the secretary of state, is being made into some kind of hero for saying that there is no voter fraud in Georgia.
GP: Yes, Raffenperger, a GOP hack and champ at suppressing the Black vote, is being played as some type of hero because he couldn’t steal enough votes for Trump.
And Trump is screaming that he [Raffensperger] didn’t simply declare Trump the winner — which, after all, Raffensperger has no legal authority to do. Today, this guy says there was no voter fraud in Georgia. Yet this is the same pol who, one month before the [November, 2020] election, ran out and said that there were 1,000 Georgians who illegally voted twice! He was screaming about massive voter fraud.
So when this guy now says, “I don’t know where this voter fraud stuff comes from,” how about your own press conference, Mr. Raffensperger. accusing a thousand people of voter fraud? Now, every single outlet, New York Times, NBC, ABC, all covered his phony charge that there were 1,000 double voters. They all covered it. But they didn’t cover the ACLU’s report that Raffensperger illegally removed 198,000 voters. The US press forgot to ask this guy, “Whatever happened to your charge of a thousand double voters? How many did you arrest?” But I asked. And the answer? Zero. They couldn’t find one fraudulent double voter, not one.
How’d they get it wrong? They found someone named Jose Garcia who voted twice, but believe it or not, Jose Garcia is a common name; maybe not for a Republican, but it’s still a common name.
But the real evidence put out by the ACLU and Black Voters Matter, the Palast Investigative Fund and the nation’s top experts, and the United States post office tells us is that this guy is a f*ing liar, that he put 198,000 people off the voter rolls in a Jim Crow operation of the first order.
Where did Trump get his crazy claims of massive voter fraud? Trump got it from these GOP Secretaries of State: Raffensperger, Brian Kemp — and from Kris Kobach of Kansas.
CD: KKK [See my CounterPunch article of August 21, 2020]
GP: And by the way, I sued Georgia earlier this year and won a case requiring the State to open up its files to reveal the secret communications between Kris Kobach of Kansas, Trump’s vote thief in chief, and the Georgia Secretaries of State. We won a federal judgment.
So, we’re hoping for another victory. We will have a trial. We couldn’t get the injunction because the State lied to a federal judge. It’s really hard to win against officials who just lie through their teeth. And if they do it under oath, it’s called perjury. I used to be an investigator for attorneys general around the United States and for the US Justice Department. And I certainly can identify a fraud on the court, and this was it.
CD I mean, the lawyers representing the State lied to a federal judge. That’s a huge no-no.
GP: Well, in America, we don’t know about Georgia.
CD: Well, let me ask you again about the injunction. You wanted the names [of purged voters] added back to the voter list. How much of a big deal is that to accomplish?
GP: It’s easy to put voters back on the rolls. That’s the other thing they lied about.
It’s like an Excel spreadsheet and you just, boom, hit the switch. Now Stacey Abrams sued them last year as well, back at the end of 2019. And, while she too couldn’t get an injunction, she found an error where even the judge said, “you have to put back 22,000 people.” They did that in 48 hours. If they can put back 22,000 people on that list, they can put back 198,000. It’s just a matter of flick of a switch.
CD: So, things are getting really hot now with the election coming up January 5.
I’ve been watching and there was an appeal from Democrats who are worried about the amount of money that the Republicans are pouring into this. What’s going on?
GP: Well, Democrats are always moaning for money. So is Trump. But the Democrats are way outspending the Republicans. So money’s not the issue. As we know, Hillary Clinton spent twice as much as Donald Trump and still got her ass kicked.
In Georgia, you can run, but you can’t hide from the ads. Every single bus, every single billboard, every single radio station has no other ads, every single TV program. After you’ve seen 400 ads, I don’t know how many more ads are going to make much of a difference. What does make a difference? Its’ the grassroots work.
Go to GregPalast.com and you’ll see a video from Cobb County, Georgia, “Georgia Closes Black Polling Stations.” Cobb, a Republican-controlled county, closed six of the 11 early voting stations. Cobb County has always been solid Republican. It’s Newt Gingrich’s district; but Cobb went for Biden. So the Republican voting chiefs in the county simply removed all six voting stations in Black areas and kept open all five stations in white areas.
CD: You can’t get more blatant than that.
GP These are the kind of cheap tricks that they’re playing all over the state. Plus, and by the way, Georgia law says you can’t close early voting stations. Once they’re open, they can’t be closed. They did it anyway.
Also, they’re supposed to be open for early voting on weekends. That’s when most African-Americans and Hispanics vote. They traditionally vote on weekends, after church.“Souls to the polls” as it’s known. About 70% of African-Americans vote early in some form. So the GOP made sure there would be almost no voting on Sundays — and no voting allowed on the weekend before the election! That’s unbelievable!
CD: How could they do that?
GP: How can they do that? Um, let’s see. They’re white and Republican and the people that they don’t want to vote on Sundays…I wonder who they are? Maybe they’re Black, maybe they’re Democrats. I don’t know, but they come from churches singing a lot of gospel.
The state legislature, which still has a gerrymandered Republican majority, made that decision. Nevertheless, even under Georgia law, they’re supposed to have the last few Sundays open for voting in every County. But, law Professor Barbara Arnwine told me only about 30 of the 159 counties in Georgia have had weekend voting. That’s a pure violation of law, but they know who they’re stopping.
There’s also the big problem of voting by mail and voting by drop box (where you put your absentee ballot in a special lock-box).
For example, two of the three people I watched about to put their ballot in the drop box didn’t include their return address. Those two ballots would have been disqualified. I stopped them: “Wait, put on your return address!” They said, “Why do I need a return address? I’m here at the polling station?” I said, “Because they won’t count your vote. If you don’t put on your return address, if you leave anything blank on a mail-in ballot — whoosh, into the garbage.”
CD: Your advice has been all along is to read the instructions carefully
Well, about the drop box. There was a problem in some areas during the November election season, and I read they put in fake drop boxes.
GP: Look, there’s all sort of tricks being played. And the GOP has started a new trick. They’re now installing cameras above the drop boxes. Why? Because under Georgia law, this is weird: You’ve got an 82-year- old neighbor who cannot wait in line at the polling station without dying from COVID. So the neighbor asks you to drop off their ballot into the drop box.
They filled it out. They sealed it. You can’t tamper with it. Yet, under Georgia law, if you don’t live with that person, you can’t take their ballot and stick it in the drop box. Even if you have someone who’s handicapped, stuck at home. You have to live with the vote. And so they’ll use these cameras to determine if you are listed as living at the same home as the person whose vote you’re dropping off.
I’m non-partisan. I’m not telling you who to voter for. But I strongly believe that the winner ought to be chosen by voters and not by these Jim Crow tricks. I’ll be down there. We’ll be reporting for you. And you know, the tricks are endless, but unfortunately I wish they were all just in Georgia. But Georgia is where the GOP takes their nasty little tricks for a test drive, which is why I’ve been reporting from Georgia for seven years.
CD: Well, thanks for your great work, Greg. And we’ll all be watching with baited breath about the outcome of this Georgia election.
GP: Okay. On January 4th, we’ll have a special film out about what’s really going on in Georgia. Go to GregPalast.com.
CD: We’ll check it out.