Party unity and continued pursuit of fair and proper elections were two themes Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer spoke on Saturday in Polk County.
The former state senator from Duluth spoke to about 30 people gathered at the event facility at JWR Land and Cattle in Rockmart at the regular meeting of the Polk County Republican Party.
“Let me say that it’s absolutely imperative that we pull together. I mean, the margins are so tight that we have no chance of winning — even if we fix all the electoral problems that I’ve talked about — we have no chance of winning if we do not stay together,” Shafer told the crowd.
Shafer opened with some positives for the party, including a boost in donations last year that helped the state organization go from a half million dollars in debt in 2016 to raising $48 million in 2020.
“It was important to put the party’s financial house in order to demonstrate some discipline to attract large dollars and we did that,” Shafer said.
In addition to that, the party recruited and trained more than 13,000 volunteers for the 2020 general election who went on to help the group have a greater reach to voters and candidates than any previous election cycle.
“But obviously, in several key races, we fell short,” Shafer said.
“And one of the takeaways from that is that at the end it doesn’t really matter how many dollars you raise or how many volunteers you recruit or how many doors you knock on or phone calls you make, you cannot rely on the integrity of the electoral system. And I do believe that vulnerabilities were exposed in 2020.”
Shafer noted the changes in the implementation and the certification of absentee ballots in Georgia during the 2020 election cycle as being a catalyst for voter fraud.
A legal settlement between the state and the Democratic Party signed in March, 2020 addressed accusations about a lack of statewide standards for judging signatures on absentee ballot envelopes.
The result was the creation of a voter review panel in each county of at least three people which examines any signature with an absentee ballot that does not match the state database and decides whether the ballot should be accepted or not.
Of the more than 1.3 million absentee ballots returned to county elections offices for the November 2020 election, more than 2,000 of them were rejected because of an invalid or missing signature, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
That’s the same signature rejection percentage as the 2018 midterm election in which more than a million fewer absentee ballots were submitted.
Shafer also discussed the mass mailing by the state of absentee ballot applications to registered voters and the implementation of ballot drop boxes as more examples of programs that the state GOP felt could lead to increased voter fraud.
Following the U.S. Senate special election in January, Shafer said he put together an election competence task force that came up with “about 11 pages of recommendations to the General Assembly on the changes that needed to be made to our election law.”
More than half of those recommendations wound up in SB 202, the sweeping elections reform bill that passed in the General Assembly and was later signed by Gov. Brian Kemp.
Among the changes it makes is reforming the county-level signature verification certification and requiring voters to provide a Georgia driver’s license or ID card number, or a photo of the ID when applying for an absentee ballot.
“Fixing the elections alone does not guarantee that we’re going to win because … there are other challenges that we face as a party,” Shafer said. “But it’s difficult to see how we would have gone forward if we were up against the level of irregularity that we faced.”