ICYMI: Key Takeaways from Battleground Democracy Briefing on Mass Voter Challenges in GA, Impact on Election Administration, and Groups Leading Anti-Voter Efforts
ATLANTA — Yesterday, Fair Fight hosted the third in a series of “Battleground Democracy” briefings to provide media with insight into the current landscape for voting access as we approach the 2024 Presidential Election and the escalating threats to our democracy amid a coordinated nationwide right-wing effort to undermine elections.
The briefing covered the latest developments around mass voter challenges in Georgia and included remarks from Fair Fight leadership in addition to the respective former Chairs of the Boards of Registration and Elections for Fulton and DeKalb Counties, Cathy Woolard and Dele Lowman, respectively. The briefing provided an overview of Fair Fight’s most recent Battleground Democracy memo highlighting four groups we believe are leading efforts to restrict voter access and hamper election administration, burdening both voters and election workers alike.
Takeaways and excerpts from the briefing can be read below.
You can view slides from the presentation here. The full recording is available upon request.
TAKEAWAY #1 – ANTI-VOTER EXTREMISTS APPEAR TO BE ENGAGED IN A STATE-BY-STATE, PRECINCT-BY-PRECINCT STRATEGY TO DISRUPT U.S. ELECTIONS
“Across the country, anti-voter extremists, Republican lawmakers, and election-denying conspiracy peddlers are waging what appears to be a coordinated effort to push access to the ballot out of reach, subvert election outcomes, and sow chaos in election administration.” – Fair Fight Executive Director Cianti Stewart-Reid
“The far-right playbook is three-pronged: restrict voter access, attack election administration, and subvert the will of voters.” – Cianti Stewart-Reid
“These efforts don’t take place in a silo, but rather they’re part of a coordinated, state-by-state, precinct-by-precinct strategy to leverage undemocratic tactics that restrict voter access and hamper election administration.” – Cianti Stewart-Reid
TAKEAWAY #2 – GEORGIA CONTINUES TO SERVE AS A TESTING GROUND FOR ANTI-VOTER TACTICS AND CATALYST FOR NATIONWIDE TRENDS
“Mass challenges have become core to this effort, with Georgia serving as the testing ground for an alarming and dangerous strategy to make administering elections more difficult while intimidating and harassing voters the GOP deems undesirable.” – Cianti Stewart-Reid
“Some far-right groups — many of them with ties to Donald Trump — are now weaponizing…disinformation and conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election to enlist and train individual citizens to help drive their efforts to purge eligible voters from the rolls.” – Fair Fight Director of Strategic Communications Xakota Espinoza
TAKEAWAY #3 – FAILURE BY THE STATE ELECTIONS BOARD (SEB) TO PROVIDE COUNTIES WITH GUIDANCE ON ADMINISTERING MASS CHALLENGES HAS LED TO MASS CONFUSION AND DISPARITIES ACROSS 159 COUNTIES
“And despite the fact that SB 202 passed more than two years ago, the Georgia State Election Board has still failed to provide counties any guidance on how to process challenges. This results in different interpretations of how to adhere to SB 202 across 159 counties.” – Cianti Stewart-Reid
“What causes a lot of confusion and frustration is…the lack of guidance from the State Election Board that we have asked for repeatedly to help us to understand where we should weigh in and what type of criteria outside of the broad guidance that is given in law to determine whether these challenges…should be substantiated.” – Dele Lowman, former Chair of the DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections
TAKEAWAY #4 – THE COST OF ADMINISTERING ELECTIONS IN FULTON COUNTY HAS SKYROCKETED AS A RESULT OF MASS CHALLENGES AND OTHER UNFUNDED MANDATES THAT PLACE SIGNIFICANT BURDENS ON ELECTION WORKERS
“While operating under the guise of so-called ‘list maintenance’ and the need for ‘clean voter rolls,’ in reality these challenges are placing significant burdens on voters and election workers alike.” – Xakota Espinoza
“[Mass voter challenges] bottlenecked our staff from doing their own priority work that they need[ed] to do to get ready for an election.” – Cathy Woolard, former Chair of the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections
“We got…just a ton of open records requests. In fact, we get so many that we were really contemplating trying to have a single staff person dedicated full-time to fulfilling open records requests.” – Cathy Woolard
“We have had legal challenges, including legal challenges on Election Day — from people who just decided something was going wrong, and we’d have to pack up our Election Director and run over to the courthouse and answer questions — which were dismissed because they were false and distracting.” – Cathy Woolard
“The cost of elections, particularly since Senate Bill 202, ha[s] gotten incredibly more expensive. In Fulton County, it’s 4 to 5 times higher than the cost of elections were in 2018. That is a very short period of time for a huge escalation in price, and people come down and complain about the pricing…we’ve gone from about $2 per voter per election — so that’s primaries, runoffs, generals — to now, $6 to $9 per voter. ” – Cathy Woolard
TAKEAWAY #5 – VOTERS OF COLOR ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY TARGETED AND BURDENED BY MASS VOTER CHALLENGES
“It became very clear, as we saw the pattern of these challenges, that certain groups were being targeted. That included students who may live on campus at various colleges in DeKalb County, people who were experiencing homelessness, and individuals with obviously ethnic names…While there was the claim that there was no targeting by race, zip code is a proxy for race.” – Dele Lowman
“It’s clear to me that this is part of an overall strategy to disenfranchise voters that these groups deem to be undesirable.” – Dele Lowman
“True The Vote relied on rejected claims of voter fraud in an attempt to justify their efforts to challenge voters immediately before the January 5 runoff in 2021. They had announced that they had planned to help facilitate challenges against 364,000 Georgia voters, and ultimately, [True the Vote] worked with local Georgians to submit challenges against a total of 250,783 registered Georgia voters across 65 counties immediately before the 2021 runoff. And these challenges were more likely to be made in counties with larger populations of Black and Brown voters.” – Xakota Espinoza
“By allowing these ongoing challenges, it drives further distrust in the process which only fuels that narrative that people are voting who should not be voting. And it leads to the types of behavior that we saw on January 6, and continue targeting through legislation that undermines our access to the vote.” – Dele Lowman