In the days following the Georgia Senate second round, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman took to CNN and apparently encouraged people go to state to vote in races.
“I hope everyone moves to Georgia, you know, in the next month or two, register to vote and vote for these two Democratic senators,” Friedman said, referring to Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, running against the Republican of Georgia. Meaning. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
Friedman’s comment – in addition to a tweet from former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang that he and his wife were moving to Georgia to help organize for Ossoff and Warnock – people on social media have been talking about traveling to the state ahead of the election. Most wanted to know how they could volunteer, but a smaller number of people responding to Yang’s tweet raised the possibility of voting in the state.
There is a major problem: It is illegal to temporarily move to Georgia just to vote in an election and then leave. Georgia state officials are urging potential out-of-state voters to stay at home, warning them that they will face stiff penalties if they vote fraudulently.
“Make no mistake, I will seek to prosecute those who attempt to undermine our elections to the fullest extent of the law,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement. recent statement. “Outside groups seeking to interfere with democracy in Georgia must be warned that the consequences will be severe.”
Georgia’s January 5 senatorial elections are indeed consecutive. They will determine whether Republicans or Democrats occupy the Senate chamber – and the makeup of the Senate will have a huge impact on President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda.
But ultimately, voters in Georgia will decide this election.
What does Georgian law say about who can vote there?
The deadline to register as a voter before the second round is December 7, and in Georgia, state law allows anyone with a legal primary residence in the state to register. However, the Secretary of State’s office has been very clear that moving to the state for the sole purpose of voting and then moving is considered fraudulent – and could result in a felony conviction.
Georgia state law requires that those who register be “a resident of this state and the county or municipality in which they wish to vote.” The law adds that “the residence of any person will be considered as being in the place where the dwelling of this person is fixed, without any current intention to move away there”.
In a recent press release, the Georgia Secretary of State’s office confirmed that “this would include people who move to Georgia solely for the purpose of voting in an election without the intention of remaining in the state.”
False registration – or someone who registers to vote knowing they are not eligible in Georgia – is a state crime and carries a fairly severe penalty: between one and 10 years in prison and / or up to a fine of $ 100,000.
What is legal is to register to vote if you are already planning to move to Georgia for a longer period and establish your residence there. In other words, if you are moving to Georgia for a new job or to be closer to your family, for example, and intend to stay there longer, you have every right to register for vote in an election in your new state. .
It is also legal to move temporarily to Georgia to participate in a campaign or to help other Georgian residents register to vote. Many Democratic and Republican agents and activists in other states are looking for ways to help their candidates, but some are actively discouraging volunteers from coming to the state, largely because cases of Covid-19 are on the rise in the country.
“We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, but please, I repeat, don’t – don’t book airline tickets or refuel and plan to travel to Georgia,” he said recently. said Stacey Abrams spokesperson Seth Bringman. Amanda Terkel from HuffPost, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
For legal voters in Georgia, postal ballots began mailing to those who requested them from November 18, while advance in-person voting begins December 14 and continues until ‘on polling day on January 5.
How did this notion of voting in another state start?
It’s hard to say exactly how this idea of moving to Georgia just to vote started catching on social media. A high profile case is a CNN interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
Here is what Friedman said in full in his interview with Chris Cuomo from CNN, in the context of the discussion over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who could obstruct Biden’s platform if he retains a Senate majority:
I hope everyone will move to Georgia, you know, in a month or two, register to vote and vote for these two Democratic senators, bumping up against two Georgian senators, who both made the under investigation for what? To get a briefing on the coronavirus and then sell stocks before the public knew about this information, the two were investigated.
There are some issues with what Friedman said. First of all, there aren’t two Democratic senators – the two senators for re-election in Georgia are incumbent Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
Second, although a Snopes fact-check pointed out that Friedman “did not, however, specifically urge Democrats to relocate temporarily to Georgia just long enough to vote there, or to commit electoral fraud by faking their status. of residence, ”he said. vague enough and suggestive enough to possibly be interpreted that way.
Yang’s tweet, on the other hand, did not say anything explicit about the vote in Georgia. Yang said he and his wife planned to move to Georgia to volunteer, and encouraged others to do the same.
Still, Georgia Democrats are hopeful that out-of-state volunteers will maintain their out-of-state efforts for now, as Covid-19 cases enter their worst peak so far.