Lately, I’ve been waking up wondering if what is happening around us is really real. A virus that sneaks around spreading itself without symptoms, mixed with conspiracy theories of massive election manipulation make me keep hoping that one day, I will wake up and everything will be normal again. This all just feels like we are living in some strange fever dream.
But the agonizing reality we cannot avoid is that virus deniers continue to knowingly spread a killer virus, and angry citizens are making death threats against public servants who are doing their duty by our constitution.
A Tale of Two Senate Committee Meetings
Last Thursday two Senate Committee Meetings met. Both meetings dealt with election integrity, but the meetings were as different as night and day.
Government Oversight Committee: Speakers invited to the Senate Committee on Government Oversight included Georgia Secretary of State’s staff as well as staff from various County Election Offices. Election Office staff were unable to attend because they were still busy completing President Trump’s requested recount of votes. The format of the meeting allowed legislators to ask questions of staff.
The presentation by the Secretary of State staff was an impressive description of several of their more than 250 investigations of election irregularity complaints. For example, many of these reports were made by voters who showed up to vote in-person and were surprised to be told they had already received an absentee ballot. Upon investigation, most of these voters had forgotten that they had “checked the box” to automatically receive a ballot for the next election. These checks in our system are there to prevent people from voting multiple times. These reported “irregularities” actually helped to prove that the system worked to deter and avoid voter fraud.
Judiciary Committee: Speakers invited to the Senate Judiciary Committee included members of Trump’s legal team, led by Rudy Giuliani, and several witnesses who weren’t from Georgia and appeared via “Zoom.” The two main points Giuliani made during the six hour meeting were that Georgia’s November election was fraught with extensive fraud and that the election didn’t follow Georgia election law.
Legislators were incorrectly told that according to federal law, which they claim supersedes state law, legislators can call their own special session to choose electors. They believe that they can bypass Georgia’s constitutional requirements that a special session must be called by the Governor or 60% of the legislature. Furthermore, Giuliani stated that a simple mistake such as a voter being allowed to cast a vote in a county that has not been that voter’s primary residence for at least 30 days is an example of the legislature’s election law not being followed — and that alone is enough to disenfranchise millions of Georgia’s voters by choosing a different slate of electors.
Giuliani’s team presented numbers that were impossible to believe, for example claiming tens of thousands of ballots were cast by underage voters. But the Acting Chair of the Judiciary Committee didn’t have any staff members there from the Secretary of State’s office to address these claims, or answer the questions of legislators.
Several legislators in attendance, many of whom were not actually members of the Judiciary Committee, made closing remarks that voiced support for calling an immediate special session. Sen. Elena Parent (D) pointed out how witness affidavits described seeing things that looked suspicious, but many of these concerns have been easily addressed by experts who know the entire election process. Sen. Parent concluded we lack the actual evidence for taking further action.
Sen. Bill Heath (R), Chair of the Senate Committee on Government Oversight, warned his colleagues to be careful about taking legislative action they might later regret, pointing out that perhaps some of the witnesses were not telling the entire truth.
Sen. William Ligon (R), on the other hand, who chaired Thursday’s Judiciary Committee meeting (but who is not the appointed chair), is now circulating a petition requesting that a special session of the legislature be called by Tuesday, Dec. 8th.
We are in a very serious situation. All legislators are getting bombarded with very angry emails and calls and are under tremendous pressure. Administrative assistants are being cursed. But saying something happened doesn’t mean it’s true. I’m left to wonder if they aren’t the ones in the grip of a fever dream. Giuliani, at least, was coming down with COVID-19 when he visited our Capitol without a mask last week.
Now, it is more important than ever that we are watchful, aware, and informed. We must be vocal and active in our support for our elected officials who have been threatened, and we must work hard to remove the chokehold on our democracy. We must speak up against this attempted coup because it is corrosive to our democracy.
Make your plan to vote in the run-off, and don’t just assume that other people around you are planning to vote because they voted before. There are lots of distractions right now, so spread the word to everyone you know to vote as soon as possible. Our country needs every one of us.