Monday, September 25

Georgia secretary of state primary will test big lie’s hold on Republicans | US voting rights

Hello and Happy Thursday,

On Tuesday, Georgia voters will cast their ballots in what I believe is the most important primary election this year: the Republican primary for secretary of state. This morning, we published a story from reporting I did earlier this month about the race between incumbent Brad Raffensperger, the Republican who became nationally known for refusing to overturn the election results, and his Trump-backed challenger and big lie peddler, Congressman Jody Hice .

I interviewed voters with a question in mind. several cocks over the last year have shown that the vast majority of Republicans believe Joe Biden’s victory was not legitimate. I was curious to see whether that belief was translating into who they were voting for. Would voters kick Raffensperger out of office for saying the election was legitimate?

To my surprise, I didn’t find a huge amount of momentum for Hice, who has said the 2020 election was stolen and tried to overturn it. Instead, I found a lot of voters who said they supported Trump, but were also voting for Raffensperger.

“I felt that under all that pressure, I did a good job. I know it upset Trump, and I’m a Trump person, but fair is fair,” said Carolee Curti, 82, who voted for Raffensperger in Rome, which is in the heart of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s deeply Republican district in north-west Georgia .

“I think something happened, but I don’t know anything like everybody else. I don’t know that Raffensperger did anything bad either,” said Judy C, 80, who declined to give her full name after she cast her vote for Raffensperger in Lawrenceville, an Atlanta suburb. “Trump, excuse me, he should keep his mouth shut.”

Another 78-year-old Republican voter who only gave his first name, Bob, said he had automatically ruled out voting for anyone who said the election was stolen. “If you claim the last election was fraudulent, I’m not voting for you,” he told me. “If you asked people to go illegally try and overthrow the election, I’m not voting for you.” He declined to say who he voted for, but said it was probably safe to say he didn’t cast a ballot for Hice.

In early May, some voters like Susan Cox, a 69-year-old retiree in Rome, said they weren’t following the race very closely yet. But she said she didn’t believe the election was stolen. “I think that there’s always been discrepancies in it. Nobody can really say that everything was done right,” she said. “I really think no, that it wasn’t stolen but there were things that were not done right.”

That’s not to say that I didn’t talk to voters who were backing Hice. “I didn’t think the results were honest. I think there was a lot of corruption that went on. And the current secretary of state didn’t know how to do an adequate investigation,” said Mike Albright, 62, who voted for the congressman.

Tom and Emily Saltino, retired in their 80s in Rome, also told me they voted for Hice. They weren’t convinced Trump lost – they had seen the crowds Trump drew when he came to Georgia, and attended the rally they had in Rome. It didn’t seem plausible, they said, that he could draw such massive crowds and lose the election.

Outside of the Republican primary, I spent a sizzling hot afternoon in a west Atlanta neighborhood with Jazmine Cook, 30, and Alexis Hill, 20, as they canvassed in west Atlanta for the New Georgia Project, a non-partisan group that has worked to boost voter participation.

Alexis Hill, of the New Georgia Project, canvasses a neighborhood to encourage people to register to vote in Fairburn, Georgia. Photograph: Alyssa Pointer/Reuters

They’ve been knocking on doors for the last few months, and I asked whether they had been hearing from folks who were concerned about whether their votes would be thrown out. Hill said it hadn’t really come up in her conversations, but Cook said it had.

“They’ll say that they’re not voting because they don’t trust that their vote is going to be counted for. And so, I try to convince them that they should still vote. I’d say that 90% of them are adamant that they’re not participating because their vote doesn’t even matter,” she said.

As I followed Raffensperger throughout the week, something else stood out to me.

I noticed that even though he still defends the 2020 election results, he is still embracing significant restrictions on voting. The central issue in his campaign is preventing non-citizen voting, which is virtually non-existent in Georgia or across the United States. He wants to amend a federal law to allow state officials to conduct mass removals of voters close to election day and he also wants to get rid of no-excuse mail-in voting, which was adopted by Republicans and has been used without controversy until the 2020 election.

In any normal election, these would be deeply controversial ideas. Andra Gillespie, a professor at Emory, told me that Raffensperger’s focus on non-citizen voting in particular was an effort to appeal to his conservative base.

“While the secretary of state upheld the law, he is not friendly to voter rights,” Bee Nguyen, a Democratic state representative who is also running for secretary of state, told me. “And some of his policy positions, specifically cracking down on non-citizen voters, that is leading into the big lie.”

Also worth watching…

  • Doug Mastriano, a Pennsylvania Republican who played a key part in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, earned his party’s nomination for governor on Tuesday.

  • Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appointed a lawmaker who cursed at colleagues and sponsored an anti-protest bill to be the state’s top election official.

  • The Georgia state election board dismissed a complaint that purported to show a man illegally dumping five ballots. Investigators found the man was dropping off ballots on behalf of family members.

  • A local election board in Georgia dismissed a man’s effort to challenge the eligibility of more than 13,000 voters.

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