The “mind-boggling” hidden threat in Georgia’s new voting restriction law

364,000 votes in jeopardy from little-noticed provision of SB 202

Special to HartmannReport readers by me and Greg Palast

How do you think the election in Georgia would have played out, or how do you think the election in Georgia next year will play out, if the Republican party is successful in throwing 364,000 Georgia voters — largely people of color — off the voting rolls?

In this edition of the Thom Hartmann Program, first broadcast on June 22, Greg Palast talks about his latest report from Georgia, which reveals how the votes of hundreds of thousands of Georgians are under threat from a little-noticed provision of Georgia’s new voting restriction law, SB 202.

Thom Hartmann: Tell us about your adventure in Georgia. What is this? Where did it come from? Set it up.

Greg Palast: Get her ready for insane! We have Republican operatives, 88 of them in Georgia, who have challenged — are you ready for this? — 364,000 voters, saying that their votes, when they mail them in or they show up to vote, can’t be counted. I kid you not. This is a list that these Georgia Republicans have gotten from a group out of Texas named True the Vote. They are saying that these people, a third of a million voters, are felon voters, voting illegally from out of their counties. Well, we called hundreds of them. The Palast Fund investigators called hundreds of these voters. We spoke to them. They said, here I am, I’m in Cobb County, I’m in Fulton or whatever, we haven’t moved anywhere — but they’re being challenged.

Hartmann: And they’re not felons.

Palast: They’re not felon voters, just people. For example, we had a woman Tamara Horne, who you’ll see in our report, she lost her job and had to move out of her home. She lost her home, moved in with relatives down the street. She’s still in Cobb County, a suburb of Atlanta, but she was challenged by this woman, Pamela Reardon, who’s Marjorie Taylor Greene’s candidate for vice chair of the Republican party of Georgia. She’ll probably win. She’s a GOP official. She personally challenged 32,000 voters, saying that she personally had knowledge that these voters were illegal. And under the new Georgia law SB 202 their ballots cannot count unless they go in to the county offices and prove they are who they are and that they live where they live. It’s a very nice Jim Crow operation.

Hartmann: Wait a minute…this isn’t a possible law, this is a law that’s already passed. And under this law, all 32,000 of the people that this woman challenged will not have their votes count unless they show up in person after the election at the Secretary of State’s office and say, hey, I’m here, I’m really me.

Palast: Well, they can go in now if they want to take off a day of work — if they even find out that they’ve been challenged. Most of the people that we spoke to, in fact everyone we spoke to said, I didn’t know I was going to have my ballot thrown out. I spoke to a guy, Storm Saul, he’s livid. These are legal voters, but the GOP is running this campaign under the new law passed in March, SB 202. And I got to tell you, True the Vote out of Texas, which is backed by the billionaire Bradley family out of Milwaukee, they aren’t going to be satisfied with bending the election in Georgia. They’re going to take this to Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina, and beyond.

Hartmann: Michigan, Pennsylvania, yes, absolutely… Okay, so let’s, as they say in the television and radio business, let’s roll the tape. Here is here is Greg Palast… with what’s her name again?

Palast: Her name is Pamela Reardon of Georgia. She is a GOP official in Cobb County, which is an Atlanta suburb.

Hartmann: Okay, here we go…

Hartmann: That’s mind-boggling Greg. It raises the question, If all I have to do to prevent a legal Georgia voter’s vote from being counted, or to force them to do two steps, number one, go in and vote, and then a few days later go show up at the County Recorder’s office or the Secretary of State’s office and prove that they’re a legal voter, if that’s all I have to do, and you can do that in batches of, in the case of this woman, over 30,000, and in the case of this whole group of Republicans, 364,000 Georgia voters, if that’s all it takes, why don’t we compile a list of registered Republicans in Georgia and challenge their vote?

Palast: Because it’s against the law, Thom. It’s the Ku Klux Klan of 1871. The NAACP was really freaked out, and so as the ACLU, when I said that this was happening. They thought they’d killed it off in December. But now it’s back under the new law, under SB 202. You know, you go to jail for this. In fact, that’s one of the things I asked this woman. I said, you understand under the Ku Klux, Klan law you can go to jail, you can be sued. Democrats I think don’t do it because it’s against the law. You go to jail — if the law’s enforced.

Hartmann: Right, but do you think Brian Kemp’s gonna enforce that law against a Republican state official?

Palast: It’s not going to happen in Georgia, it’s gotta be the feds. Merrick Garland has now said he’s going to begin prosecuting these cases. Now that the ACLU and NAACP have been informed, they are very upset, so watch for action being taken. But more important, we have to expose this. And by the way, I’ll be on Brian Ross Investigates tonight to go further into this… on the NBC Law & Crime stream. But what we have to do is we have to bust this thing right now. True the Vote is an organization out of Texas which came up with these bogus lists. And I’m very concerned that it will not only be Georgia, but it will spread to the rest of the country. It’s very important that we begin prosecuting people for, willy-nilly, taking a third of a million people and telling them they aren’t who they are. This woman admitted that she never spoke to a single, not one single person that she challenged. The Georgia head of the Cobb County GOP challenged 16,000 more voters in just that county. They’re upset that it went for Biden.

Hartmann: So how is True the Vote coming up with this list of 364,000 Georgian voters that should be purged? Are they doing what a Jeb Bush did back in the 2000 election in Florida? I mean, this is a story that you broke for the BBC in 2000 for God’s sake. Where you went in and discovered that he had thrown thousands of African-Americans off the voting rolls just weeks before the election so that his brother could steal it with a 536 vote margin.

Palast: Exactly. But this is the Florida game, which was very effective. People don’t understand that the real impediment to voting is erasing people’s registration. And in this case, it goes further. It says, even if you’ve mailed in your ballot, even if you show up to vote, your ballot can’t be counted. This is devastating, if this goes through. Now again, yeah, it’s the purge game that was played by Jeb Bush, that was played in Ohio in 2004, and of course I exposed this in 2018 when the race was stolen by Brian Kemp against Stacy Abrams. But what’s horrible about this is this is privatizing the purge list system. The state of Georgia has just announced it’s removing 102,000 voters. Now I know that that list is phony as a $3 bill, but this is three times the state purge list — a private organization saying you can’t vote. It’s just unbelievable.

Hartmann: So are they pulling a list of Texas felons and comparing it with the Georgia voter list? Is that how they’re coming up with these names?

Palast: They’re claiming that they got postal change of address information from the Post Office. But, just so you know, we checked with the experts at the Post Office. They said, no way, this is ridiculous. And as you know, if you move down the street, if you move within your county, you don’t lose your vote. If you had a temporary change of address due to COVID, you don’t lose your vote. But with most of these, it’s an error… It’s just wrong.

Hartmann: I don’t think this is an error, Greg.

Palast: Well, when I say it’s an “error”, it’s a very convenient error, removing a lot of Black people, a lot of low income people, a lot of people of color — and the color’s blue.

Hartmann: Quick question for you because we’re going to hit a break here in a second, but last night on MSNBC, one of the shows, I don’t recall if it was Chris Hayes or Rachel Maddow, kind of debunked the notion that John Kerry actually won in 2004, and George W. Bush actually lost, and that Ohio was the linchpin state. My recollection was that the objection to Ken Blackwell, the Secretary of State who is African-American strangely enough, was that he threw a whole bunch of Black people off the voting rolls just before the election and that was one of the ways that he rigged the election. That was not mentioned on MSNBC last night. Am I remembering that correctly?

Palast: That’s correct. I did an article, an investigation…. The Guardian asked me to investigate. What we found out is that there was a mass purge of voters, which I have then described in Rolling Stone. But I also found that there was what we call spoilage of votes, discounting people’s ballots. And this challenge that’s happening will go in that pile, what’s called the “spoiled votes”. You don’t spoil votes by leaving them out of the fridge. It’s by someone challenging a vote and we never talk about that. About 3 million votes are simply not counted, not counted in each presidential election because of these challenges. This is going to be accelerated by this right wing group.

Hartmann: Right. And that’s just the margin that the Republicans need. If they can just slice off a few thousand Democrats here and a few thousand there, then they can win elections. It’s mind-boggling.

Palast: The Democrats are in trouble.