The reality of elections in Georgia could not be further from the misinformation spread by Stacey Abrams and her affiliated groups. Georgia has record voter registration and record voter participation. And contrary to Ms. Abrams allegations, state policies and decisions have directly led to those record numbers.
Voters of all demographic groups turned out in record numbers for the 2018 midterm elections, with total turnout nearly matching turnout in the 2016 presidential election. The voting eligible population turnout rate for 2018 was 55%, significantly higher than the 2014 midterm (38.6%) and the 2010 midterm (40.6%). In 2018, African American voter turnout increased 32.5% compared to the 2014 midterm. Hispanic voter turnout increased 97.7%, and Asian American voter turnout increased 98.2%. Ms. Abrams has claimed even higher increases, claiming that African American participation increased by 40% between 2014 and 2018 and that Hispanic and Asian-American turnout tripled. She claims these numbers are “more accurate than census data.”
The best antidote to misinformation is facts and data. The facts and data clearly show that the reality of elections in Georgia is exactly the opposite of the misinformation that Ms. Abrams and her affiliated groups are attempting to spread. The facts and data show that Georgia is a leading state for voter registration and voting.
Georgia is the only state in the U.S. that implemented the trifecta of automated voter registration, no-excuse absentee voting and at least three weeks of in-person advance voting (which Ms. Abrams herself has described as the “gold standard”) in place for both the 2016 and 2018 elections. Many other states are now following Georgia’s lead to institute these best practices, but Georgia led the way.
Even the Brennan Center for Justice, which is normally politically aligned with Ms. Abrams and her comrades, could not ignore the data on these issues. They concluded that Georgia’s automated voter registration has been the most successful in the country, almost doubling the rate of registrations. They further conclude that automated voter registration “keeps voter rolls more accurate, reduces errors that cause delays on Election Day, and lowers costs by allowing states to save money on printing, mailing, and data entry.” Georgia was the second state in the country to implement this policy, proving that, contrary to the misinformation spread by Ms. Abrams, Georgia policy is successful in making it easier for people to register to vote.
Georgia counties have also expanded early in-person voting since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder. Georgia law already required three weeks of early voting plus one mandatory Saturday. Contrary to Ms. Abrams false allegations that Georgia has made voting harder since that decision, state policy allows counties to expand early voting to additional weekend days during the early voting period, including Sundays. Many of Georgia’s larger counties have taken advantage of that decision, including Athens-Clarke, Chatham, Clayton, Dekalb, Floyd, Fulton, Lowndes, and Richmond. In-person early voting increased over 10% from 2014 to 2018.
The preeminent data source for all things voting is the Election Administration and Voting Survey put out by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The EAVS report is the most comprehensive nationwide data source on election administration, collecting data from 6,500 local jurisdictions across all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Unsurprisingly to those of us who are familiar with election administration in Georgia, the EAVS report for the 2018 election shows that none of Ms. Abrams claims about voter suppression are true.
The EAVS report echoes the conclusion of the Brennan Center report that Georgia is the number one state in the country for voter registration at the Department of Driver Services and number six in the country in overall voter registrations. It also shows through data rather than rhetoric that Ms. Abrams is incorrect in her assertions that Georgia faced widespread issues with absentee and provisional ballots in 2018. The data actually shows that in 2018, significantly fewer absentee ballots were rejected than in previous years (7,512 in 2018 vs. 18,266 and 13,677 in 2016 and 2014, respectively).
The EAVS report data further showed that a higher percentage of provisional ballots cast were counted when compared to previous elections. In the 2018 election, 55% of the provisional ballots cast were counted, compared to 45% in the 2016 election. While a higher number of provisional ballots were cast in 2018 compared to 2016 (21,600 total provisional ballots cast in 2018 vs. 16,739 in 2016), there were less provisional ballots cast for reasons of the voter not being registered or not having their ID. Almost the entire increase in provisional ballots cast (4,793 of the 4,861 increase from 2016) was due to properly registered voters voting in the wrong precinct in their county. Each of those ballots counted for all statewide races and other races that the voter was eligible to vote in.
We continue to hear claims of “election hacking” and the Russians hacking elections. There is much confusion, most of it perpetuated by Ms. Abrams and her allies. This is the most damaging misinformation because it makes many voters question the power of their own vote. Here again, data is more important than political rhetoric. The Federal Department of Homeland Security stated this summer that they are “not aware of any specific targeting of Georgia’s or any state’s election infrastructure in 2018 attributable to any nation state.” Even knowing it hasn’t happened, our office remains vigilant and continues to work with DHS and cyber security experts both in government and the private sector. My office recently hosted a cybersecurity roundtable that included experts from across the nation to find the best practices to protect our new verifiable paper ballot voting system. Those experts include representatives from The Center for Election Innovation and Research, Center for Civic Design, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Microsoft and many others.
While Ms. Abrams and her allies continue to spread false information about Georgia elections, an analysis of the facts and data show that her claims are wrong. The reality is that Georgia is leading state in the country in voter registration and voter participation. Georgia has made it easier to register and to vote since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, and Georgia is continuing to move forward by implementing a new verifiable paper-based ballot voting system for added security. We should all hope that Ms. Abrams and her allies will stop spreading misinformation about Georgia elections. While Ms. Abrams misinformation campaign may be helping to further her political and financial ambitions, it does not help Georgia voters, who deserve accurate information based on facts and data. As Secretary of State, I will continue to use facts and data, not rhetoric, to keep moving Georgia’s elections forward.