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State elections chief calls for state troopers to secure more than 2,000 polling places

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BY: STANLEY DUNLAP – FEBRUARY 14, 2022 4:41 PM

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger wants the governor to authorize state troopers to provide security at the state’s polling precincts throughout the 2022 election year.

Georgia elections have remained under intense scrutiny since the 2020 presidential election in which poll workers and other election officials were threatened over baseless claims that a rigged election cost President Donald Trump a second term.

Raffensperger said at a Capitol press conference Monday that stationing troopers at county election offices throughout early voting and at the 2,000 polling places on Election Day will make it safer for voters, poll workers, and poll watchers as the state rolls out its new election law.

Raffensperger addressed his request to Gov. Brian Kemp, the state Legislature, and the State Election Board.

“There are over 2,000 Election Day polling places in Georgia so we need law enforcement with a statewide footprint to be able to man each location to supplement the county sheriffs who already provide security at polling places,” he said. “Georgia State Patrol officers are well trained and have high respect across the country and party lines.”

The request, however, drew criticism from one of Raffensperger’s Democratic opponents for secretary of state, state Rep. Bee Nguyen of Atlanta, who called it a waste of resources and a potentially intimidatory tactic, given troopers’ history of discrimination against Black voters.

In the days and weeks following the 2020 presidential election, where Trump was narrowly defeated in Georgia by Democratic candidate Joe Biden, death threats were lodged at a voting equipment technician in metro Atlanta, Fulton County election workers were harassed over baseless allegations of absentee ballot fraud, and a Cobb County election worker reported that racist slurs were directed at him after leaving an election warehouse.

Also, death threats forced Raffensperger and staff to temporarily relocate from their Capitol office.

Also on Monday, Raffensperger endorsed House Speaker David Ralston’s plan to have two Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents dedicated to election investigations and to give the agency the authority to handle cases independently. 

Raffensperger said more investigators would complement the two election fraud officers in the secretary of state’s office. But more must be done since the secretary of state’s office and 23 other investigators often have to be pulled from business licensing and other matters to handle election cases, he said.

“I think we can all agree that the two election investigators currently assigned to our office are not enough,” he said. “Georgia has become the epicenter of the election universe and this year we’re going to have hard-fought campaigns that are going to be watched all across the nation.

“Every indication is that we’re going to have close races and with that environment it only makes sense to provide additional resources for election security so that everyone can have confidence,” Raffensperger said. 

A sharp increase in threats against election workers and officials in recent years has prompted Democratic legislators in states including Maine, Washington, Illinois, and Vermont to introduce bills that increase punishments for such offenses.

Last month, a Texas man was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly urging the killing of several Georgia officials a day before the Capitol insurrection.

According to a Brennan Center for Justice report from spring 2021, one third of 223 election officials surveyed did not feel safe working the polls. 

More than a year after the former president’s rally helped unleash an attack on the Capitol, Trump continues to say the election was illegally tallied in Georgia despite several recounts, including a hand recount of 5 million paper ballots that confirmed the results of the electronic machines. 

A Fulton County special grand jury will investigate whether the former president or his associates attempted to illegally overturn the 2020 election results.

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