Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Monday announced his office has sent letters to 8,000 individuals who potentially live outside the state but have requested absentee ballots for the January 5 runoff election contests.
The individuals in question requested absentee ballots for runoffs but also have filed a National Change of Address notice with the United States Post Office indicating that they currently live outside of Georgia, according to a release from Raffensperger’s office.
In secretary of state’s office letters, recipients were reportedly reminded that anyone casting a ballot in Georgia elections without possessing the necessary qualifications is committing a felony under state law (O.C.G.A. § 21-2-571). Per O.C.G.A § 21-2-561, it is also a felony to register to vote in Georgia if you are not a resident of the state. These crimes are each punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a $100,000 fine.
It should be noted that requesting an absentee ballot after filing a National Change of Address notice is not necessarily a crime. Georgia law allows for voters who are temporarily out-of-state but still residents to request absentee ballots. Additionally, members of the military stationed in other parts of the country or students temporarily outside the state for college, for example, could also plausibly request ballots from out-of-state in legal manners.
“Qualified Georgians and only Georgians are allowed to vote in our elections,” Raffensperger said in a statement.
To qualify as a valid Georgia voter, an individual must be a permanent resident and a citizen of the state of Georgia and of the county in which they have requested an absentee ballot. If an individual has moved out-of-state with the intention of making that state their residence, they have lost their residency in Georgia.
“I have said many times that I will not tolerate out of state voters attempting to undermine the integrity of the vote in Georgia,” Raffensperger added. “Let this be a warning to anyone looking to come to Georgia temporarily to cast a ballot in the runoffs or anyone who has established residence in another state but thinks they can game the system: we will find you and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
Certain actions, such as registering to vote or casting a ballot in another state, would be considered establishing residency in another state, the secretary of state’s office explained. Students that claim in-state tuition in the state of their college or university would also be establishing residence in that respective jurisdiction. Students or temporary residents of another state who registered to vote in their state of temporary residence for a previous election this year but then decided to reregister in Georgia for the runoffs would likely be guilty of voter fraud in either the Peach State or their other state of residence, Raffensperger’s office noted.
Sean Ross is the editor-in-chief of The Georgia Memo and Yellowhammer News. You can reach him via email at Sean@GeorgiaMemo.com