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Fact check: Trump-backed candidate for Georgia elections chief begins campaign with false claims about 2020 election

Rep. Jody Hice, a Republican, announced last week that he is running for Georgia secretary of state, the state’s top elections job. His 2022 campaign was immediately endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly launched dishonest attacks against the Republican currently in the post, Brad Raffensperger.

And then Hice went on television and made a series of false claims about the 2020 election.

This was not new behavior. Since November, Hice has been a vocal and frequent purveyor of inaccurate election claims — baselessly saying or insinuating that the results were tainted by mass fraud and that Joe Biden did not legitimately beat Trump in Georgia.

But Hice’s words are especially noteworthy now that he is campaigning to be the person who oversees Georgia’s elections. Though a controversial new law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp last week removes the secretary of state as chair of the state elections board, the secretary remains in charge of voter registration, certification of results, investigations into alleged election fraud, and other important elections matters.

Here is a look at some of the things Hice said in an appearance on Newsmax last Monday.

A 2020 agreement

Hice criticized Raffensperger for agreeing to a “consent decree with Stacey Abrams,” saying that this agreement “allowed an application for (an) absentee ballot to be sent out to every person” in Georgia’s voter registration file.

Facts First: Stacey Abrams — a prominent voting rights advocate who is a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state House minority leader — was not a party to the March 2020 settlement agreement Hice was almost certainly talking about. More importantly, that agreement said nothing about who should receive an absentee ballot application. Rather, Raffensperger decided separately from the agreement, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, to send out an application to every active Georgia voter — and he did so only for the Georgia primary in June 2020, not the November general election in which Biden defeated Trump.

For the general election, Georgia voters had to request an absentee ballot if they wanted one.

The March 2020 settlement agreement laid out a process for checking voters’ signatures and said that elections authorities must quickly contact voters whose ballots were rejected in order to give them a chance to “cure” their errors.

The Democratic entities that were party to the agreement were the Democratic Party of Georgia, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Abrams was “not involved” in the agreement, though she was “pleased to see the decree signed so that fewer Georgia voters would have their eligible ballots thrown out,” Seth Bringman, spokesman for Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group founded by Abrams, said in an email.

‘Illegal voters’

Hice claimed that, since 10% of Georgia’s voter file of roughly 7 million people is inaccurate, “that means in the ballpark of 700,000 people who are illegal voters in Georgia received an application to receive a ballot.”

Facts First: There is no basis for the claim that 700,000 “illegal” Georgia voters received an absentee ballot application in 2020. Hice’s campaign office and congressional office did not respond to requests for comment on this claim or the other inaccurate claims included in this article.

An official in Raffensperger’s office said Raffensperger has said that about 10% of Georgia voters move every year, which means their voter records need to be updated with their new addresses. But that’s very different than 10% of Georgia voters being “illegal voters.”

In addition, as we noted above, every active Georgia voter was sent a ballot application only for the primary, not for the general election. In other words, Raffensperger’s mass mailing of these applications could not possibly explain Trump’s November defeat.

And it’s also worth noting that Georgia voters who applied for an absentee ballot in the general election had their signature checked before they were sent a ballot. If they cast a vote using the absentee ballot, their signature was checked a second time.

Drop boxes

Continuing to denounce Georgia’s ballot practices, Hice said, “And then you throw into it the voter drop box — where there are hundreds of drop boxes, most of them not attended or monitored in any way; it was just an absolute disaster.”

Facts First: It’s not true that Georgia drop boxes were not “monitored in any way” in 2020. Under state rules, all drop boxes had to be under video surveillance. They also had to be securely affixed to the ground, able to withstand damage from vandalism or bad weather, and be designed as tamper-proof. There is no evidence that any Georgia drop box was manipulated for fraudulent purposes in 2020.

A problem at an Atlanta arena

Hice said, “And then you look at the Republican poll watchers being sent home after a fake water main burst and then those who were left pull out boxes of ballots and start counting.”

Facts First: There are three problems with this claim. First, there is no evidence of wrongdoing during the Fulton County ballot-counting that followed an Election Day water incident at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, which temporarily delayed the counting process. It’s also misleading to call the incident a “fake water main burst” with no additional context; the delay was caused by a very real leak from an overflowing urinal, though the cause was indeed initially described inaccurately as a burst pipe or broken water main. And Georgia’s chief elections investigator Frances Watson, an employee of the secretary of state’s office, said under penalty of perjury in December: “Our investigation discovered that observers and media were not asked to leave. They simply left on their own when they saw one group of workers, whose job was only to open envelopes and who had completed that task, also leave.”

Ballot harvesting

Hice added another vague claim about what happened in Georgia in 2020, saying that there was “ballot harvesting.” (Ballot harvesting is a pejorative term used to describe the practice of third parties collecting voters’ absentee ballots to submit on their behalf; others call it “ballot collection.”)

Facts First: As of today, just shy of five months after Election Day, nobody has presented proof of illegal “ballot harvesting” in Georgia in the 2020 election. Third-party ballot collection is not allowed in Georgia. An independent analysis by the National Election Security Lab at The MITRE Corporation, a nonprofit, found “no suspicious indicators of ballot harvesting” in Georgia in 2020.

A 2019 law supported by Raffensperger allows Georgia absentee ballots to be submitted either by the voter, various family members, or members of their household. It also permits disabled people to have their ballots submitted by their caregiver, and it permits people who are in jail or other detention facilities to have their ballots submitted by a facility employee. But it does not allow third parties to collect the ballots of strangers.

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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