Reality Test: Georgia Election Supervisor Jody Hice Makes Even Extra False 2020 Claims

Fact check: correct.

Hice, who was backed by former President Donald Trump, has focused his campaign on false claims about the 2020 election – including claims Trump would have won Georgia had the election been “fair.” And Hice has repeatedly made false claims about Raffensperger’s actions as Georgia’s election chief.

Here’s a fact check of some of the things Hice said at Monday’s debate. Hice’s campaign did not respond to a CNN request for comment.

Hice told Raffensperger, “They created the ballot crop in Georgia.” He later reiterated, “The ballot collection was started in the state of Georgia because of Brad Raffensperger.”

facts first: Hice’s claim is false. Raffensperger did not create the ballot collection in Georgia. In fact, less than three months after Raffensperger became secretary of state in 2019, Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation banning ballot collection in Georgia. “Ballot harvesting” can be described more neutrally as “ballot collection”. More generally, the phrase refers to the practice of organizations or activists collecting voters’ completed absentee ballots and submitting them for counting — rather than voters mailing in their ballots themselves or getting a family member or friend to submit them. The 2019 law gave Georgia voters two basic options: mail in or have ballots mailed in “in person” or have ballots mailed in or mailed by someone they live with or a family member. In other words, the law prohibited third-party groups from collecting and dropping off strangers’ ballots. It is at least possible that there was some ballot harvest in Georgia’s 2020 election; Raffensperger’s office is investigating allegations made by a right-wing group. But even if illegal harvesting did occur, that doesn’t mean Raffensperger “created ballot harvesting in Georgia.” (Nor would this mean that the actual ballots provided by ballot collectors were fraudulent or invalid.)

Raffensperger and Stacey Abrams, Part 1

Hice claimed that Raffensperger “cut deals with Stacey Abrams” — the Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former House minority leader — “and opened the floodgates to voter fraud in this state.” Hice also referenced Raffensperger’s alleged “deal” at other moments in the debate abrams

facts first: Hice’s claims are false. Raffensperger didn’t make a deal with Abrams. If Hice was referring, as he has in the past, to a March 2020 legal settlement between Raffensperger and Democratic Party entities regarding the state’s signature verification process for mail-in voters, Abrams was not a party to that agreement — as one of the panellists, The Constitutional Reporter of the Atlanta Journal, Mark Niesse pointed out to Hice. And there’s no basis for claiming that this legal settlement, or anything else Raffensperger did, “opened the floodgates to every aspect of electoral fraud in this state.” It’s possible that a few ballots in Georgia were fraudulent, but there’s no evidence of voter fraud even remotely widespread enough to change the outcome in a state where Joe Biden won by 11,779 votes. And there is no evidence that the 2020 signature verification settlement agreement resulted in widespread fraud. A signature check of a sample of more than 15,000 absentee ballot envelopes in Cobb County, a large Atlanta-area county won by Biden, found zero fraudulent ballots.

signature verification

When panelist Niesse pressed Hice to explain how the Settlement Agreement allegedly weakened postal voting verification, Hice insisted, “Well, it weakened signature verification. It has made it much more difficult for it to happen. They eventually had to notify the voter themselves.”

facts first: This is misleading. Even before the Settlement Agreement, the election law of Georgia Republicans passed in 2019 had required counties to notify voters “promptly” of issues that were about to be disqualified from their ballots, such as missing or mismatched signatures, and to notify voters a give a chance to fix these problems. The settlement agreement set specific deadlines for notifying voters, rather than relying on the vague word “promptly,” and established the methods by which notifications were to be made. As Niesse noted to Hice, the percentage of absentee ballots rejected by signature issues in the 2020 general election after the settlement agreement was nearly identical to the rate in the 2018 midterm elections before the settlement agreement.

Raffensperger and Stacey Abrams, Part 2

Hice condemned Raffensperger’s decision to mail a ballot-by-mail application form to each of Georgia’s active registered voters during the 2020 party primaries. (Raffensperger, like officials in other states, mailed these forms because of the Covid-19 pandemic. He did not mail unsolicited ballot application forms during the 2020 general election.)

Hice said: “We had a conference call, the Georgia delegation, with Brad urging him, urging him not to send absentee ballot applications to anyone on our voter registration file. He did it anyway. In fact, the deal was already closed with Stacey Abrams before that call even happened.”

facts first: This is wrong. Again, Raffensperger didn’t make a deal with Abrams. And Raffensperger’s settlement agreement with the Democratic Party organizations had nothing to do with his decision to mail out the absentee ballot application forms during the primary. In fact, the Settlement Agreement said nothing about who to send an election application form to. The agreement dealt in particular with the signature matching process.

Abrams campaign spokesman Seth Bringman said Monday that Abrams was among pro-suffrage advocates who urged Raffensperger to mail ballot application forms to voters of all ages in Georgia, and not just older voters, according to an Atlanta constitutional report Journal from March 2020 said that Raffensperger was originally planned. But the Raffensperger campaign said Abrams had no involvement in or influence on Raffensperger’s decision, released about a week after this news report, to send ballot application forms to voters of all ages; Raffensperger campaign spokesman Lance Dutson said Raffensperger’s office had “pushed back on Stacey Abrams and her liberal allies on various proposals,” as Abrams-founded group Fair Fight Action noted in tweets criticizing Raffensperger at the time.

Notwithstanding, there is no indication that there was any sort of “agreement” between Raffensperger and Abrams regarding this Raffensperger decision.

Postal voting and voter identification

Hice said Raffensperger opened the door to changes that harm “election integrity,” including “sending out ballot-by-mail applications that have virtually no voter identification involved.” Hice added: “Those are the things that really need to be addressed that haven’t been addressed under Brad Raffensperger’s current leadership.”

facts first: It is not true that Georgia has not “corrected” the issue of requiring voter identification for absentee voting or the issue of the foreign minister sending out absentee ballot application forms. In 2021, Kemp signed legislation that required mail-in voters to provide some form of identification other than just their signature and that banned governments and government officials from mailing unsolicited mail-in ballot forms. In addition, Raffensperger was not the reason why no other form of identification than a signature was previously required for postal ballot applications. State law, not Raffensperger policy, had stipulated that only one signature was required.