Can state boards, county boards or anybody else use their administrative powers to flip electoral outcomes? After the November election, a majority of Republican members of Congress and state attorneys normal signed on to efforts that may have invalidated hundreds of thousands of votes and led to a constitutional disaster. With that backdrop, it appears naïve to imagine that nobody would attempt to abuse such energy, whether or not in Georgia or elsewhere.
It’s price going again to Mr. Trump’s notorious name. Whereas the oft-quoted line about “discovering” votes makes it sound as if he wished Mr. Raffensperger to fabricate votes out of skinny air, Mr. Trump mentioned he had already discovered the votes, within the type of 1000’s of ballots he mentioned have been forged illegally:
“We now have all of the votes we want. You realize, we received the state. In the event you took, these are essentially the most minimal numbers, the numbers that I gave you, these are numbers which might be licensed, your absentee ballots despatched to vacant addresses, your out-of-state voters, 4,925. You realize while you add them up, it’s many extra occasions, it’s many occasions the 11,779 quantity.”
Along with the 4,925 out-of-state voters talked about, Mr. Trump baselessly asserted within the name that there have been a whole lot of 1000’s of absentee ballots with solid signatures. He alleged, based mostly on imperfect matches between lists of voters, that there have been 4,502 voters who voted however weren’t registered; 18,325 voters with vacant addresses; 904 voters who voted solely with a P.O. field handle; and almost 5,000 votes by useless folks. And with nearly no proof whosever, he alleged nice malfeasance in Atlanta’s Fulton County, together with 18,000 votes having to do with somebody who did one thing nefarious and “3,000 kilos” of shredded ballots.
County and state election officers maintain quite a lot of powers related to such claims. They consider whether or not to simply accept or reject ballots, and so they certify outcomes. In Georgia, they hear eligibility challenges. It could have been exhausting to make use of these powers to help Mr. Trump, not to mention to outlive a subsequent court docket problem. However there are levers that they might have a minimum of tried to drag, even when it’s not clear what would have come of it.
One choice is that the state board might have usurped the facility of Fulton County, based mostly on the president’s allegations within the normal election and different allegations from the first (the regulation requires proof of failed administration in a minimum of two elections over the prior two years). The state board might have both used the president’s allegations as a foundation to refuse to certify the consequence or to disqualify in any other case eligible voters.
It could be exhausting and even unimaginable to drag this off instantly after an election. The regulation requires a reasonably drawn-out listening to course of earlier than the state can intervene in county elections. The preliminary listening to can’t be held for a minimum of 30 days after an preliminary petition, which is after the Georgia certification deadline. However maybe a nefarious board might lay the groundwork earlier, doubtlessly placing a newly appointed superintendent in management earlier than the elections, when she or he would have the power to pre-emptively disqualify voters and ballots.
County election boards heard comparable sorts of challenges to voter eligibility throughout the Georgia runoff. The state Republican Get together and a Texas group challenged the eligibility of a whole lot of 1000’s of voters in December, based mostly on whether or not a voter appeared to match somebody on the Postal Service checklist of individuals within the Nationwide Change of Deal with Registry. Just a few small counties really went through with attempting to invalidate voters on this foundation.
This eligibility problem was rejected by the U.S. District Court docket Decide Leslie Abrams Gardner, who occurs to be the sister of Stacey Abrams, who narrowly misplaced the 2018 governor’s race in Georgia to Brian Kemp. However though the eligibility problem faltered within the runoff, it isn’t apparent that ironclad protections exist in opposition to eligibility challenges, both as a matter of court docket precedent or federal regulation. A narrower problem might have had a greater likelihood of surviving a court docket problem. And the brand new Georgia regulation makes these sorts of challenges simpler, by permitting a single individual to problem the eligibility of a limiteless variety of voters.