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Brad Raffensperger Goes After Residency Fraud When It Takes Down Another Elected Republican

But what about the 35,000 potential voter residency violations in 2020?


Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger appears to have referred a high-profile case of alleged voter residency violations involving a Republican congressman to the Georgia State Election Board — all while tens of thousands of records suggesting similar residency issues have gone uninvestigated by the state.

In December 2022, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution (AJC) published a story taking issue with three votes cast by Republican Rep. Drew Ferguson from Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District in the 2022 election cycle. The AJC reported that, in 2022, Ferguson cast three votes in Troup County, Georgia, where he had lived for years, after moving to his new home in Pike County, Georgia.

Under Georgia law, as the AJC correctly noted, a permanent change of address to a new county requires reregistration for a voter to remain qualified. Accordingly, a voter who moves just before an election is not permitted to vote in a previous jurisdiction outside a 30-day grace period. Ferguson sold his Troup County house in April 2022, AJC reports. But considering he reportedly voted “during early voting for [2022’s] primary, general election and U.S. Senate runoff,” only one of those three votes could have been cast within those 30 days.

The original AJC story also noted that, at the time, the Georgia secretary of state’s office had not opened a case to investigate the issue of Ferguson’s residency because they had not received a complaint. However, a January 2023 follow-up article reported that the secretary of state’s office had opened an investigation into the matter. 

Another follow-up in December 2023 announced Ferguson’s decision not to seek reelection in 2024. 

In response to an open records request asking for information on the status of their investigation into Ferguson, the secretary of state’s office said the case is “currently pending presentation to the State Election Board.” 

I attempted to reach Ferguson but was told he is currently out of the country.

The Data Speaks for Itself

Raffensperger will no doubt receive glowing praise from his adoring fans for having the “courage” to bring a case against a fellow Republican. He will likely humbly accept this praise, while knowing that if the allegations against Ferguson are accurate, he is only one of tens of thousands of Georgia voters who may have violated residency laws in general elections over recent years.

In a Feb. 15 meeting of the Georgia Senate Ethics Committee, Georgia Secretary of State Chief Operating Officer Gabe Sterling and I both offered testimony about the state of Georgia’s voter rolls.  

“We probably have thousands of people over the last few years voting in not necessarily 100 percent the right place,” Sterling admitted. But it has been quite a journey for the secretary of state’s office to finally get to that point, after years of denial, obfuscation, and blame-shifting.  

In May of 2021, I gave the secretary of state’s office records to investigate based on an analysis that indicated nearly 35,000 voters cast votes from counties of previous residence in the 2020 general election. (I had also given attorneys for President Donald Trump a copy of that data, which was a subject of that now-infamous January 2021 phone call between President Trump and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.)

Not long after they agreed to open it, it became clear the secretary of state was taking no substantial action in pursuing the investigation. Their office dismissed the evidence as votes merely cast by Georgians “just trying to exercise their right to vote.”      

Follow-up attempts to contact the secretary of state’s office and the election board yielded no formal response, although certain individual board members have shown concern over the issues. 

In other words, the secretary of state has been willing to excuse thousands of potential violations but now also claims Ferguson’s particular actions were possibly illegal and should be adjudicated by the State Election Board. Apparently, potential residency violations are only a legitimate issue if they involve a member of Congress, not thousands of ordinary voters.

I conducted the same residency analysis for the 2022 general election as I did for the general election in 2020. It revealed similar but fewer results, indicating more than 25,000 votes cast with residency issues.

No One Is Above the Law 

I first presented these kinds of residency issues to the State Election Board in 2002, chaired at that time by Democrat Secretary of State Cathy Cox, and they took interest. We worked together with our legislature to change OCGA 21-2-233 to run National Change of Address processing more frequently. 

But the board, and Georgia politics in general, have changed much since those days.

To my knowledge, only two previous cases of this nature have been referred to the State Election Board in the past 10 years. In 2015, then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp and the board voted unanimously to refer case number 2014-86 (page 243) to the attorney general’s office for a single felony violation of OCGA 21-2-562, which prohibits voters from providing false statements on a voter certificate.

The second case was reported in AJC’s original December 2022 story on Rep. Ferguson, which noted that the board had “issued a public reprimand and a cease-and-desist order in September to a voter who lived in Baldwin County but voted in Hancock County.”

The secretary of state’s office has chosen to refer Ferguson’s issues to the State Election Board, after previously bending over backward to dismiss nearly 35,000 of the same residency issues from the 2020 general election. And they have more than 25,000 more coming from 2022. 

The phrase “no one is above the law” is tossed around quite frequently these days. But no one should be singled out for disparate treatment under the law either.

Should the State Election Board determine that the case against Ferguson does have merit, the board should take more observable interest in the topic of residency issues in general and in the recent evidence regarding its scale. 

To further combat these residency issues, I have previously advocated for our adoption of Virginia’s statute requiring address updates for driver’s license holders who have moved; there is linkage between driver services data and voter registration data that helps keep the latter current. 

This Virginia statute serves as a model for the entire nation. Georgia should adopt similar language because our law on the subject pales in comparison.

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