- The Washington Times
Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Georgia pre-election court settlement with Democrats that so riled former President Donald Trump is essentially gone under the state’s new election overhaul law: Verifying mail-in ballot signatures has been replaced by checking voter ID numbers.

Last March, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans, agreed with a court settlement to end a lawsuit from Democrats by changing the procedure for verifying mail-in ballots.

The backdrop: Democrat Stacy Abrams contended that the 2018 governor’s election was stolen by “voter suppression.” Today, she continues to argue she won, instead of having lost to Mr. Kemp by 54,723 votes.

Mr. Trump makes a similar claim today. He says he won Georgia, instead of having lost to President Biden by 11,779 votes. Mr. Trump says bogus ballots were counted due to that March 2020 settlement. There has been no independent evidence to support this.

The six-page settlement came as the nation began to feel the force of the COVID-19 pandemic that would usher in a huge increase in mail-in ballots to comply with social distancing guidelines.

Under the settlement, an individual registrar could no longer nullify a ballot for a signature discrepancy; at least two registrars were needed. And it introduced “curing”: If a ballot was rejected, the voter was to be contacted to verify that it was a correct ballot.

This is where Democrats got the upper hand, an election official told The Washington Times. They immediately put together teams that aided the curing procedure, including knocking on doors to say “You need to cure.”

“They were much better than Republicans in taking advantage of the curing process,” the official said.

The new law, Senate Bill 202, makes a big change by doing away with the somewhat subjective process of comparing signatures. It requires voters’ ID numbers to correspond with those on their ballots.

“A number either matches or it doesn’t, and both parties were critical of the subjective signature-matching process,” said an official in the Office of the Secretary of State. “This makes the process objective.”

The application form for a mail-in ballot now requires one of two ID numbers — the driver’s license or a state ID card. The number then is compared with state records. Applicants who have neither must submit some other form of ID and affix the ID’s electronic image. Voters who submit mail-in ballots in person must show the identification to a clerk.

Mr. Raffensperger endorsed the move from signatures and created an online application that takes only a few minutes to fill out.

“It has been a problem for counties and both political parties because it is subjective,” the Office of the Secretary of State official said of the signature test. “A simpler, quicker and more definitive approach is a number. Either it is correct or it isn’t. We’re not the first state to do this.”

Mr. Raffensperger defended the 2020 election results in the face of an onslaught from Mr. Trump and his legal team, who made a series of unfounded conspiracy charges, such as machines switching Trump votes to Mr. Biden.

Post-Nov. 3, Mr. Raffensperger launched a hand count of each ballot that ended up with the same totals as the Dominion Voting Systems machine tabulations.

In Cobb County, where there were allegations of signature fraud, the secretary of state employed the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to sample 10% of the ballots. The GBI did not find fraud.

Nonetheless, Mr. Trump mounted a furious, almost daily, attack on Mr. Kemp and Mr. Raffensperger, blaming the court settlement for his loss.

His surrogates in Georgia urged conservatives not to vote for two Republican U.S. Senate candidates unless Georgia changed its elections laws. Mr. Kemp took no action at that time, and both candidates lost on Jan. 5 to Democrats, giving the Democratic Party control of the Senate to pass Mr. Biden’s agenda.

Mr. Trump tweeted in November: “The Consent Decree signed by the Georgia Secretary of State, with the approval of Governor @BrianKempGA, at the urging of @staceyabrams, makes it impossible to check & match signatures on ballots and envelopes, etc. They knew they were going to cheat. Must expose real signatures!”

Mr. Trump went on to launch the “Stop the Steal” movement, which reached a crescendo on Jan. 6 with its third rally in Washington and the subsequent invasion of the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.

The Georgia Democratic Party issued a blistering attack on Senate Bill 202: “Let’s be clear: Republicans’ desperate attempt to maintain their grip on power is a dangerous death knell for our democracy, predicated solely on lies fueled by conspiracy theorists and white supremacists. Though it’s unsurprising that Brian Kemp, the architect of voter suppression, is tying his legacy to this racist, anti-democratic bill, it’s no less shameful. He and his fellow Republicans are insulting the memory of heroes like John Lewis who risked their lives for the right to vote, and disempowering the millions of Georgians who have exercised that sacred right as a result.”

Mr. Raffensperger, who won media praise for standing up to Mr. Trump, issued a statement endorsing the bill: “I’m a conservative Republican, but I’ve proven I’ll take a political hit to treat everyone equally under the law and stand up for the rights of all Georgians. The national media loved what I was saying when it differed from the views of President Trump. I hope they’re as interested in my point of view now that it differs with Stacey Abrams’.”

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.