The battle for the control of the US Senate has found a new battlefield—Georgia. With the runoff election set to be held in January, Republicans and Democrats are leaving no stone unturned to clinch the crucial vote to dominate the upper chamber of Congress. Also, the outcome of the polls may very well decide how effectively the Biden administration can function.
However, the importance of the senate races and a few public statements by former Democratic Presidential aspirant, Andrew Yang, and Thomas Friedman, columnist for The New York Times, have led to the formulation of serious allegations. A rather bold one has been purported widely—Democrats are urging voters to 'fake their residencies' in order to vote in Georgia's runoff election. How true are the claims?
What Is Happening In Georgia?
A runoff election is declared when none of the candidates has been able to secure a majority in the first election under state law in order to prevent the rematch of votes. In such an event, two candidates with the maximum number of votes, qualify to fight it out in a second election. The winner is expected to secure the minimum vote share that has been mandated by the state—in this case, Georgia—to be declared the winner of the election.
Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff will be challenging incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue again on 5 January 2021 for Purdue's seat. Perdue managed 49.8 percent of the votes, while Ossoff collected 47 percent—both falling short of majority under Georgia's election laws. Republican Kelly Loeffler, who notched only 32.7 percent, and Democrat Raphael Warnock, who fetched only26 percent, are also set to lock horns for the other seat in Georgia.
Where Did It Begin?
The origin of the claims can perhaps be traced to a tweet by former Democratic Presidential aspirant, Andrew Yang on 7 November. In the post, Yang said that all those who campaigned for Joe Biden must "get ready to head to Georgia" as it was the only way of ensuring that Mitchell McConnell can be kept at bay and Biden is assured of a smooth government.
In another tweet on 8 November, Yang said that he will be moving along with his wife Evelyn in order to help Ossoff and Warnock will the elections, and "clear Mitch out of the way". A tweet from Yang on 12 November spoke about the identification of community organizers who could mobilize voters over the next few weeks.
Thomas Friedman, columnist for The New York Times, appeared on CNN's Chris Cuomo's Cuomo Prime Time on Monday night. While discussing the overall condition of the country, Friedman said, "I hope everybody moves to Georgia in the next month or two and registers to vote and votes for these two Democratic senators."
Aftermath of Yang's Tweets and Friedman's Statement
Great American Politics, a political news website, which has been openly critical of the Democratic party, and has questioned the legitimacy of Biden's victory vehemently, published an article on 11 November that accused 'leftists' of urging voters to "fake residency" in order to secure a Democratic win in Georgia's runoffs.
"Yang is lying. He isn't "moving to Georgia." He has no intention of setting up a permanent home in the Peach State. He is only taking temporary residence so he can vote in the run-off," the article trained guns at Yang.
Furthermore, the piece said that it was an "immoral act" to perform. "But, Yang's immoral tweet and his decision to try and cheat real Georgians out of their choice for the US Senate is exactly the sort of un-American stuff Democrats do," read an excerpt from the article.
Another story published by The Federalist made a similar pronouncement. The article claimed that Democrats were "openly urging people to commit a form of voter fraud" by "moving" to Georgia "temporarily" to vote for the two candidates fielded by the party in the runoffs.
The article pointed out that it was a felony to vote without being a legal resident of Georgia or to be in the state only to cast one's ballot. "Democrats, however, appear not to be worried about the ramifications of such potentially fraudulent votes on a local or state level," stated the story.
What Is The Truth?
First, and foremost, voting without establishing residency in Georgia is illegal. As mentioned above, it is a felony to vote without being a legal resident or to be in the state temporarily only to vote. According to the Wall Street Journal, moving to Georgia to vote in the runoffs is legal, provided the registration for the same is completed before or on 7 December 2020. The article also emphasized that the resident will have to reside in the state "for a while or risk getting into trouble."
So did Yang and Friedman "urge" voters to violate any of these crucial clauses? NO. It is important to note that none of the social media posts by the 45-year-old entrepreneur explicitly sought democratic voters to 'fake their residencies' and vote in Georgia's runoff election. All the tweets appear to address the issue of coordination in activities, organizing resources, and activation of voters.
And if Friedman's statement is taken at face value, then legally, if someone registers and stays in the state for a "long time" then voting in the elections, is not illegal. At no point did, Yang or Friedman state about "acquiring temporary residency" in the state to vote in the elections, or urge voters to engage in fraudulent means.