Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.
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In victories that forcefully rejected former President Donald Trump, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp won the Republican nomination and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had a double-digit lead and was hovering above the threshold that would trigger a GOP primary runoff.
Kemp, who resoundingly defeated former Sen. David Perdue, will face a rematch with Democrat Stacey Abrams, who he defeated by nearly 55,000 votes in 2018 in a race where Abrams did not concede and accused Kemp, then secretary of state, of abusing his office’s authority to suppress voter turnout across Georgia’s communities of color.
Kemp and his successor, Raffensperger, both rejected pressure from Trump in the immediate aftermath of the state’s 2020 presidential election to “find votes” to finesse a Trump victory, which neither did. In response, Trump viciously attacked both men and recruited primary challengers, including Congressman Jody Hice to take on Raffensperger.
With 90 percent of the vote counted, Kemp crushed Perdue, 73 percent to 22 percent, a half-million vote victory margin. Raffensperger lead Hice, 52 percent to 34 percent. Several metro Atlanta counties had yet to fully report, but Raffensperger firmly led in the region.
In other races of national interest, two Trump acolytes won their primaries. Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene, one of Congress’ most unabashed conspiracy theorists, garnered more than 70 percent of her district’s GOP vote. Former football star Herschel Walker won his Senate primary with similar margins and will face Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock this fall.
Many analysts will note that Trump’s grip on the Republican Party seems to be looser than the former president boasts. Kemp’s victory will be parsed by other candidates seeking to distance themselves from Trump but appeal to his base in the general election.
Patricia Murphy, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist, wrote late Tuesday that Kemp did not respond to Trump’s months-long taunts, while he oversaw the passage of legislation that appealed to Trump’s stolen-election believers and social conservatives – from election reforms that were aimed at thwarting Democratic voting blocs to a six-week abortion ban. And Kemp touted his accomplishments in office, in part fueled by a federal stimulus passed by Democrats in Washington.
Raffensperger repeatedly accused Hice of waging a campaign based on stolen election lies. However, he tacked to the far right in the finale of the primary campaign. He touted his office’s efforts to police the electoral process, such as going after voting by non-citizens, a virtually non-existent threat. He also criticized Georgia’s automatic voter registration system.
In recent weeks, Raffensperger also said that record levels of in-person early voting for 2022’s primary disproved the accusation from Democrats that Georgia was a state with a continuing legacy of racially targeted voter suppression. Georgia’s civil rights activists reject that assertion, saying that te state’s post-2020 reforms making absentee voting less accessible has meant that they had to work harder to turn out voters. As a result, many people voted early and in person, so that any problem with registration or accessing a ballot could be resolved.
The other major GOP-led election reform, increasing the state’s legislature authority to directly appoint, replace, and control election officials was not clearly tested in the May 24 primary. Those authorities, which election policy experts say can subvert American democracy, may emerge in the general election if there are photo finishes in high-stakes races.
The primary race for governor in Michigan proves once again that if there’s going to be election fraud happening, Republicans are going to be doing it. In this case, it’s five—five—Republicans who have been found to have turned in enough fraudulent signatures for the primary ballot to be disqualified. Among them is presumed frontrunner and former Detroit Police Chief James Craig. When conducting a review of qualifying petitions, the state Bureau of Elections staff “identified 36 petition circulators who submitted fraudulent petition sheets consisting entirely of invalid signatures.”
That leaves five candidates—half of the current field—without sufficient signatures to qualify for the Aug. 2 primary ballot, elections staff wrote. This is not a normal thing. At all. “[T]he Bureau is unaware of another election cycle in which this many circulators submitted such a substantial volume of fraudulent petition sheets consisting of invalid signatures, nor an instance in which it affected as many candidate petitions as at present.” That includes, again, petition sheets made up entirely of fraudulent signatures.
The five candidates the board found don’t have enough qualifying signatures, along with Craig, are Perry Johnson—a millionaire who has already spent millions of his own money in the primary so far—Michael Brown, Michael Markey Jr., and Donna Brandenburg. The board doesn’t make the final decision; the bipartisan Board of State Canvassers will meet on Thursday to consider the recommendation that the candidates are disqualified. If they end up tossed from the ballot, expect lawsuits.
The elections bureau “does not have reason to believe that any specific candidates or campaigns were aware of the activities of fraudulent-petition circulators,” staff wrote. They identified 30 individuals who submitted the fraudulent petitions for at least 10 campaigns, and six others who are accused of forging signatures for just one campaign. They are all apparently associated with the firm First Choice Contracting LLC, which is headed up by Michigan resident Shawn Wilmoth. According to a link to a news story included in a footnote in the report, Wilmoth was convicted on two counts of election fraud in 2011.
Michigan Democrats and one other Republican gubernatorial candidate, conservative Tudor Dixon, had filed complaints challenging the signatures. Dixon has a major endorsement in his race, by the way: the DeVos family. Dixon also had enough qualifying signatures: 29,041 valid signatures, 199 invalid signatures. However, the fraud was discovered by the elections bureau in their usual verification processes, not as a result of those complaints.
Johnson, the self-funder, is attacking Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and the signature gatherers both. Campaign consultant John Yob released a statement saying the “staff of the Democrat secretary of state does not have the right to unilaterally void every signature obtained by the alleged forgers who victimized five campaigns.” Which isn’t how this works anyway; the four-person bipartisan canvassers board decides that. “We strongly believe they are refusing to count thousands of signatures from legitimate voters who signed the petitions and look forward to winning this fight before the board, and if necessary, in the courts.”
Candidates for governor need at least 15,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, with 100 from each congressional district. Johnson submitted 13,800 valid signatures, with 9,393 invalid. Craig had 10,192 valid signatures, and 11,113 invalid ones. All in all, the 36 petition circulators submitted 68,000 invalid signatures.
The petition circulators apparently used outdated voter lists to find names, meaning that there were lots of dead voters on the petitions, as well as outdated addresses for voters. The elections board also noted that many of the sheets were too pristine, showing no signs of being exposed to weather, folded, scuffed, or passed among hundreds of hands. Some sheets looked like they had been “round-tabled,” or passed around a group of individuals with every person signing one line on the sheet “in an attempt to make the handwriting and signatures appear authentic and received from actual voters.”
The staff of the elections bureau checked petitions for all the races and found two identical sheets submitted for two different judicial candidates. So Wilmoth’s people didn’t even try particularly hard to obfuscate the fact that they were committing fraud.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.
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