Twenty-five applications submitted by a Democratic voter registration group in Georgia are fraudulent and constitute one of the "larger" cases the secretary of state’s office has dealt with in years, Chief Investigator Chris Harvey said on Wednesday.
"I don’t think we’ve encountered [a case] that covers the number of counties and the breadth of counties, that deals with something of this serious nature. I can speak for the time I’ve been here," said Harvey, "and knowing what we know now, with 25 confirmed forgeries in seven counties, I think it’s one of the larger ones we’ve dealt with."
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Harvey, who has held the position for seven years, appeared before the Georgia Election Board, along with Secretary of State Brian Kemp, to outline the case against the New Georgia Project, a group founded and run by the state’s top Democrat, Rep. Stacey Abrams.
In a memo circulated amongst county officials last week, Kemp said his office was opening the investigation after receiving "numerous complaints about voter applications," according to reports by WSBTV.
Some board members questioned the rate of fraud, noting that 25 instances is a relatively small number when the group has registered over 85,000 voters this cycle. To date, investigators say they found 25 instances of fraud, 3 instances of forgeries, and 26 suspicious applications.
Both Kemp and Harvey maintained those numbers were significant.
"I know it's a small percentage. I also know that any time an organization is alleged to have committed 25 forgeries, which are felonies that may be expanded four or five times each, you are looking at possibly 100 felonies. I know in law enforcement, that's significant," Harvey said.
That point was echoed by Kemp, who argued it was the office’s duty to investigate any complaints of fraud.
"To address a point about the number of registrations. You know, to me 28 felonies, if you count the three other forgeries that were on the candidacy forms, is a lot," said Kemp.
"I know in the last presidential election we had a handful of Morehouse College students who were disenfranchised because they didn’t get properly registered to vote. I can only imagine what would’ve happened if we had not investigated that. So we take all the complaints that we get, where they come from, and we look into them. And if they lead us somewhere we’ll go there. If they don’t then we will come back and move for dismissal and not bring the case forward to the election board."
Kemp and Harvey told the board that the investigation has not produced any evidence that the New Georgia Project is engaged in a concerted effort to commit voter fraud, but they needed more information in order to complete it.
The board was not originally scheduled to meet, but was called in for an emergency meeting shortly after the group said they would not turn over documents requested in a subpoena by a Sept. 16 deadline.
The deadline was extended to Sept. 26, and Wednesday’s meeting provided the first public glimpse into the details of the state’s accusations.
Initially six counties reported instances of fraud, but that number has now risen to at least twelve.
Abrams has refuted the accusations and maintains the group has not engaged in fraud.
Supporters of the group held a press conference outside of the Capitol building, hours before the hearing, where they accused Kemp of embarking on a "witch hunt" and engaging in racially motivated "voter suppression."
The case has garnered substantial media attention in the past week, in large part due to the senate race. Georgia is one of the key Senate seats Democrats hope to flip in November.
Additionally, Abrams, the group’s founder, worked with the Nunn campaign in policy and fundraising roles, according to National Review.