A voter registration group that was led by Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock until earlier this year is under investigation for allegedly sending ballot applications to non-residents, the Georgia secretary of state announced on Monday.
The New Georgia Project, where Warnock served as CEO until February, is one of four voter sign-up groups being probed for improper registration activities, Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger said in a press conference.
The announcement comes as Democrats have praised Raffensperger, a Republican, for pushing back against President Donald Trump's allegations of election fraud in Georgia during the presidential election. Meanwhile, Warnock, who is engaged in a heated race that could determine party control of the Senate, dismissed past investigations of voter fraud against the group as "alarmist."
While Raffensperger said he has not seen indications of systemic fraud, he said there is evidence of "third-party groups working to register people in other states to vote here in Georgia."
Raffensperger said the New Georgia Project "sent voter registration applications to New York City," in a potential violation of state law.
"Voting in Georgia when you are not a resident of Georgia is a felony," said Raffensperger. "These third-party groups have a responsibility to not encourage illegal voting. If they do so, they will be held responsible."
Warnock was listed as CEO of the New Georgia Project from 2017 until Feb. 21, 2020, according to the group's corporate filings. He has been identified as the New Georgia Project's chairman and spokesman in media reports and has said he organized voter mobilization drives for the group, including a push to register 80,000 new minority voters in 2014. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment about the ongoing investigation.
Walter Jones, a spokesman for the Georgia secretary of state's office, said he was not aware of Warnock's connection to the New Georgia Project and declined to provide additional details on the allegations, citing the ongoing investigation.
The New Georgia Project is a "nonpartisan effort to register and civically engage Georgians," according to its website. The group, which was founded by failed gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, has registered "nearly 400,000 people from underrepresented communities to vote in Georgia," its website claims.
Warnock, a pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, is headed into a runoff election against incumbent senator Kelly Loeffler (R., Ga.) on Jan. 5. The race is one of two in Georgia that will determine party control of the Senate next year.
The New Georgia Project was the subject of a prior voter fraud probe by the secretary of state's office in 2014, when contractors working for the group were accused of forging voter registration applications. The case was referred to law enforcement in 2017, but charges were never brought.
Supporters of the New Georgia Project criticized the 2014 investigation as an attempt at voter suppression. "Using the word voter fraud is alarmist, and it was totally unnecessary," said Warnock in 2017, arguing that the lack of charges against the group showed that it has "excellent internal controls and that we have followed the law."
Raffensperger said on Monday that three other voter registration groups are also under investigation by his office. One of the organizations, America Votes, allegedly sent "absentee ballot applications to people at addresses where they have not lived since 1994," said Raffensperger.
A group called Vote Forward is accused of registering a dead Alabama voter in Georgia, and another, Operation New Voter Registration Georgia, is accused of encouraging college students to temporarily change their residency for the purpose of voting in the state.