Former President Donald Trump continues to cling to the lie that he won a second term in office, this time on the basis of several thousand soon-to-be purged Georgians who didn’t vote in the 2020 presidential election.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger last week announced the names of 101,789 people who risk having their registrations deleted from Georgia’s voter file — a purge Georgia undertakes every two years. Those Georgians can save their registration if they respond to mailers from the secretary of state’s office within 40 days, or they can re-register after being purged.
The news apparently took a few days to percolate to Mar-a-Lago. Trump took his shot.
“Georgia now plans to remove over 100,000 ‘obsolete and outdated’ names off their voter rolls,” he said in an email blast from his “Save America” PAC.
“Doing this, they say, will ensure voting files are up to date, while at the same time ensuring voter integrity in future elections. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE LAST ELECTION? WHY WASN’T THIS DONE PRIOR TO THE NOVEMBER 3RD PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, where they had us losing by a very small number of votes, many times less than the 101,789 figure? This means we (you!) won the Presidential Election in Georgia.”
Wrong on many counts: By definition, the purged voters didn’t participate in the last election, and by federal law, purges aren’t performed ahead of federal elections.
Referring to the purge by the slightly sanitized term “list maintenance,” Raffensperger broke down the thousands of soon-to-be purged voters: 67,286 people had submitted a change-of-address form to the Postal Service, 34,227 had mail had been returned-to-sender and 276 had no contact with election officials for at least five years.
Raffensperger noted, “In each of these cases, the individual had no contact with Georgia’s elections officials in any way — either directly or through the Department of Driver Services – for two general elections.”
In other words: They didn’t vote in 2020.
“Exactly 0 registered Georgia voters who may be canceled voted in last year’s election. Voters aren’t purged until they miss 2 general elections,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Mark Niesse noted, fact-checking Trump’s statement. “Federal law bans list maintenance within 90 days of federal elections.”
“When you get active and vote, you get taken off the inactive list,” State Elections Director Chris Harvey told the Journal-Constitution last month.
This year’s purge is smaller than those in years past: In 2019, Georgia purged more than 280,00 voters from its rolls. That year, 22,000 voters were reinstated after a legal challenge from Fair Fight, former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ group. Those 22,000 had had contact with the voter registration system in some form between January and May 2012.
Between 2012 and 2018, during then-secretary of state and now Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) tenure, Georgia purged more than 1.4 million people from the rolls, the Associated Press reported — including 534,000 in 2017. In addition to the biennial purges, the secretary of state’s office regularly removes voter files for convicted felons and the deceased, Raffensperger noted.
Trump lost Georgia by nearly 12,000 votes — a fact that was affirmed over and over again as his campaign and its allies fought frantically to steal a second term in the White House. Days before the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, Trump pressured Raffensperger to “find” the votes necessary for him to win the state.
Among other legal efforts, Trump was the plaintiff in an unsuccessful state court case, along with his campaign and state party chair David Shafer, that alleged widespread ilelgal voting had tipped the balance in the state. Two counties in that case, DeKalb and Cobb, recently informed the court that plaintiffs had paid their legal fees.
Even with this year’s lower number of at-risk voter registrations, voter advocates say the purge practice is, if anything, overzealous and penalizes people for simply not voting.
“Citizenship doesn’t expire, so your eligibility to vote … that doesn’t expire,” Rebecca Rolfes, President of the League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia, said in a recent interview. “You don’t take people off just because they didn’t vote. They didn’t want to. Maybe they will sometime in the future. That’s the part we disagree with.”