SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - It's a story we first broke this summer about people questioning the legitimacy of a voter registration group called the New Georgia Project.
Now eleven county board of elections across Georgia are suspecting possible voter registration fraud by this same group. Three of those are right here in our area: Tatnall, Toombs and Effingham counties.
Now the Secretary of State's office is launching an investigation on this group that has ties all the way to Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. She's the founder of the New Georgia Project, and she started it earlier this year to get more minorities registered to vote all over Georgia.
Several Savannah State students were recruited to work for the group but quit because they questioned its credibility. They say they were not properly trained to go door-to-door collecting people's information.
They also questioned what happened to people's information once they turned it in to their supervisors.
Evidently, red flags were raised in other counties and reported to the Secretary of State's Office. The state has now subpoenaed the New Georgia Project to turn over all documents to the state election board investigators.
"You know this is fairly unprecedented," said Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R-GA). "Protecting our voters is one of the top duties of the secretary of state and of our office to make sure that we have secure elections."
The secretary of state's office sent a notice to all county board of elections about the types of issues they are seeing.
- Applications with forged signatures
- Applications with false information
- Voters have been told they are legally required to re-register
- Voters ahve been told they need to re-apply for a new voter ID card because they are not allowed to use their drivers licenses as an ID to vote
Effingham County Election Supervisor Olivia Morgan said they've received a total of 22 applications from the New Georgia Project since July. Six of those they believe are suspicious, and those came in last week.
Some of them had false addresses or P.O. Box numbers which are not allowed. Some applications had information that wasn't matching up with social security numbers.
Morgan said she was already questioning the validity of these applications. When she received the word from the Secretary of State's Office that other counties were seeing the same problems, she notified the state this morning about the type of things they were seeing.
"It was not just one issue per application, so that was a red flag and that it was all from one group," said Morgan. "It wasn't just one application from various places, they were all from the same source."
Georgia House Minority Leader and Founder Stacey Abrams released this statement:
The New Georgia Project is a non-partisan, non-profit program solely focused on registering Georgians to vote.
"The abrupt release of this subpoena saddens me as I know the efforts of this organization have been done with the mission of increasing voter registration and engagement in the most disadvantaged and underserved groups in the state. The New Georgia Project team has fully complied with all laws. We have worked directly with the Secretary of State's office, seeking to address any concerns raised by their office or by the counties, to share information and be transparent on our work. I launched The New Georgia Project to address the large scale voter inequalities within the state of Georgia. We are disturbed by the timing of this action by the Secretary of State, given the success of registration, the close communication with his office and the transparency of the voter registration efforts."
- Representative Stacey Abrams.
The New Georgia Project shares a mission with the NAACP, the Georgia Coalition of the People's Agenda and many civil rights group in the state which is to enfranchise the estimated 800,000 unregistered, eligible African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans to vote right here in Georgia. The New Georgia Project itself has turned in roughly 85,000 applications to date. The team has met several times with the Secretary of State's office and county elections officials to ensure that all of the registration efforts are in compliance with Georgia state law. By law all voter registration drives must submit all forms collected, even if incomplete. We have turned in all forms and in addition, have had in place an extensive internal quality control process to ensure the best possible effort.
We question the timing of this subpoena as it coincides with our increased scrutiny on the processing of voter registration applications across the state. We have serious concerns about the processing of forms we and our partners have submitted.
"I am fearful that within our state there are grave voter inequalities in minority communities. The allegations seem designed to suppress voter registration activities and voting, and we take these false accusations very seriously. The New Georgia Project and our partners are working aggressively to ensure that these new registrants make it onto the voter rolls and are able to vote without incident. We ask that the Secretary rescind this subpoena and instead work on processing all new voter registration applications in a timely way and focus on his core mission of enfranchising Georgia Voters . "
- Reverend Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta
For more information on safe ways to register to vote: