Just one day ago, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced that his office is investigating Democratic-aligned groups for allegedly trying to register out-of-state voters for the Georgia runoff elections.
“I have issued clear warnings several times to groups and individuals working to undermine the integrity of elections in Georgia through false and fraudulent registrations,” he proclaimed in a statement, citing groups including America Votes and The New Georgia Project.
But now, investigators for his office are looking into a Republican attorney in Florida for changing his registration to his brother’s home in Hiram, Georgia, and — in a filmed speech — urging members of the Bay County Republican Party to do the same.
The attorney, Bill Price, spoke to the group at an event early last month which was filmed on Facebook Live. The video and event page have since been taken down, though some media outlets recorded it first.
“I will invite each and every one of you to be my roommate in Georgia,” he says in the video, adding that he’s inviting “2 million of you to be roommate.”
“I’m moving to Georgia — I’m changing my voter registration right now,” he continued.
“I’m moving to my brother’s house in Hiram, Georgia and I’m registering to vote and we’re gonna win that election,” Price said in the video. “If you don’t want to do it, fine, but you might as well move to Venezuela now and get used to that lifestyle because that’s what’s coming. We absolutely have to hold the Senate and we absolutely have to start fighting back — if that means changing your address for the next two months, so be it.”
He warned that if Democrats win the Senate, they will pack the courts, admit Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. as states and take people’s “property, all your rights and any guns you ever hope to keep.”
“Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is investigating a Florida lawyer who was caught on tape planning to – and encouraging 2 million others to – move to Georgia before the January 5 Senate runoff elections and to register and cast a ballot,” Raffensperger’s office said in a statement. “Only true Georgia residents can register to vote and cast a ballot in elections in Georgia.”
Deidre Holden, supervisor for elections and voter registration in Paulding County (where Hiram is located) told TPM that she believes Price’s changed registration qualifies as “attempted fraud.”
She said that she was contacted by Frances Watson, investigations supervisor for the Secretary of State, on Monday about the probe into Price’s actions.
Holden also pointed TPM towards the state’s steep penalties for conspiracy to commit election fraud, criminal solicitation to commit election fraud and false registration. All three can be felony-level crimes accompanied by jail time and hefty fines.
“He attempted to register to vote fraudulently, but his registration is still in pending status,” Raffensperger’s office said of Price. In a statement to TPM earlier in the day, Raffensperger spokesperson Walter Jones pointed out that “Registering without the intention of permanent residency is a felony.” It’s not clear if the registration’s “pending” status changes that penalty.
Price told Fox News that the whole thing was a joke, and that he changed his registration to test whether Democrats might try to do the same.
“I wanted to see how easy it was to do it,” he said. “I’m not actually moving to Georgia. I was joking.”
The Bay County Republican party maintained a similar tone in a statement obtained by TPM.
“Any media outlet that takes seriously his comment that two million people should stay at his brother’s house has an agenda that goes beyond journalism,” said party chairwoman Debbie Wood.
“The media’s agenda here is obvious,” she added. “They are desperate to distract from the hearings being held by Trump’s legal team highlighting an actual scandal, significant irregularities in this election that all came at the expense of President Donald J. Trump.”
There has been no evidence of “significant irregularities” revealed from the election.
Some of the groups Raffensperger initially named when announcing his voter registration fraud investigation Wednesday denounced the secretary of state’s comments about them.
Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project started by Stacey Abrams, called that investigation “bogus.”
She said that his evidence of her group’s supposedly fraudulent behavior involved a volunteer writing a registration reminder postcard that ended up at the wrong address. Raffensperger has not said whether his office believes the groups’ behavior was illegal or just accidental.
“The recipient took to Twitter and Brad took to the same old voter suppression playbook to try to stem the tide of the state’s rising, and expanding electorate,” Ufot wrote on Twitter. “A press conference declaring fealty to Trump won’t stop the GOP bullying, and neither will disgracing the office of the SOS with a baseless, nonsense investigation into voting rights orgs.”
A spokesperson for another group Raffensperger named, America Votes, told the Associated Press that the registered voters they were mailing applications to came from a list maintained by the Secretary of State’s office.
This post has been updated with a statement from the Georgia Secretary of State.