Written by Daniel Trotta
(Reuters) – A Georgia county has validated between 15,000 and 20,000 registered voters whose status was challenged ahead of the November 8 midterm elections, leaving another 16,000 pending cases to resolve, officials said on Wednesday.
A voter challenge campaign in Gwinnett County, an Atlanta suburb, is being led by VoterGA, which supports Donald Trump’s false claims that widespread fraud cost him the 2020 election. With the support of prominent allies of the former president, VoterGA has challenged the registration of 37,000 voters in the county of some 562,000 active voters. .
Similar challenges are occurring in counties across Georgia, which have tight races for US governor and senator on the ballot, and inquiries have overwhelmed the Gwinnett Board of Elections.
Voting rights advocates assert that the campaign disproportionately targets areas with high African American populations. VoterGA disputes this, calling it a lie.
Zack Manifold, the Gwinnett County Election Supervisor, told the county election board Wednesday that a review of the challenges found that 15,000 to 20,000 were left out of further scrutiny because the process by which ballots were handed out to these voters was legitimate.
Manifold said he was informed just before the meeting that 6,275 other challenges had been withdrawn by VoterGA.
Garland Favoretto, co-founder of VoterGA, told Reuters these challenges were withdrawn after an earlier review by Gwinnett County found them to be legitimate, leaving a total of about 16,000 cases pending.
“I would be surprised if any more entries (from the voters’ lists) are removed before the elections,” Favoretto said.
These efforts come on the heels of Trump’s false claims that widespread fraud allowed incumbent President Joe Biden to win the state and the country as a whole in 2020. Several courts, government reviews and members of his previous administration have dismissed Trump’s allegations.
Challenges to the role of voters this year are being filed under the Georgia Election Integrity Act of 2021, or SB 202, which made it easier for citizens to question the eligibility of registered voters.
VoterGA volunteers searched public records to compile their claims, seeking to verify whether voters had registered incorrectly, moved away, had invalid addresses, or could not be explained in any other way.
The group is backed by the American Project, founded by former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former Overstock.com Inc CEO Patrick Byrne. The US project announced in August that it would sponsor lawsuits related to allegations about the 2020 elections in Georgia, including several related to VoterGA and Favoriteto.
Favoretto said he has not voted for Trump and has never met Flynn or Byrne but would welcome their help.
Voting rights advocates, including the ACLU and every local vote, say VoterGA is abusing the law, which they say was intended to enable citizens with personal knowledge of an offense to report it, such as when a neighbor is moving away and still registered to vote locally.
The group brings “tens of thousands of what we would call unfounded challenges that are consuming office resources that already have better things to do at this time,” Vasu Aberaman, senior policy adviser to the ACLU, said.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Heather Timmons and Edmund Kellman)