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Georgia’s state election board has voted to move forward with an investigation into newly elected Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock (Ga.) over potential voter registration misconduct, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Warnock, who defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler on Jan. 5 in the state’s runoff election, is listed as a respondent in the case because of his past role as board chairman of the New Georgia Project, a third-party voter registration group founded by former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

According to an investigator with the secretary of state’s office, the organization is accused of failing to meet deadlines by hand-delivering 1,268 voter registration applications to the Gwinnett County elections office after the mandatory 10-day period had elapsed. State election rules require completed applications to be submitted by voter registration organizations within 10 days after they are received from the voter.

Warnock was serving as board chairman in 2019 when the misconduct reportedly took place. Neither he nor the New Georgia Project responded to AJC’s requests for comment.

On Wednesday, the election board voted 3-0 to continue on with the probe after the board’s only Democratic member recused himself and Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who is the board’s chairman and normally doesn’t vote unless to break a tie, abstained.

It’s the latest point of contention between the organization and the state’s Republican officials. Raffensperger, though dismissive of former President Trump’s claims of widespread fraud during the 2020 presidential election, launched investigations into several third-party voter registrations groups, including the New Georgia Project, over the last few months.

In December, Raffensperger announced that his office was investigating the groups for “repeatedly and aggressively” seeking to register “ineligible, out-of-state, or deceased voters” ahead of the runoff election.

Raffensperger claimed that despite repeated warnings, his office had “received specific evidence that these groups have solicited voter registrations from ineligible individuals who have passed away or live out of state” — including three mailers that arrived on the secretary of state’s own doorstep urging his deceased son to register to vote.
(Blaze Media)

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Election

Georgia’s prime minister resigns, opposition calls for early elections

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Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia has resigned over plans to arrest a top opposition leader, saying it risked escalating a political crisis in the ex-Soviet nation.

Gakharia on Thursday said he was stepping down because of disagreement in the government over enforcing a court order to arrest Nika Melia, saying to do so would “pose a risk to the health and lives of our citizens and increase political polarisation in the country.”

A court in Georgia on Wednesday ruled to place the country’s top opposition leader in pre-trial detention, in a case denounced by the opposition as a political witch hunt.

The move to arrest Nika Melia, chairman of the country’s main opposition force, the United National Movement (UNM), risks further fuelling the political crisis that has gripped Georgia following parliamentary elections in October.

His supporters have vowed to obstruct police if they move to arrest him.

Georgia’s independent TV stations have aired footage of riot police deployed close to the UNM headquarters.

On Wednesday evening, a court in the capital Tbilisi granted the prosecution’s request to send to pre-trial detention the 41-year-old politician who is accused of organising “mass violence” during 2019 anti-government protests.

The prosecution’s motion followed Melia’s refusal to pay an increased bail fee. He initially posted bail in 2019.

Melia, who faces up to nine years behind bars if found guilty, has rejected the charges as politically motivated.

“The case against me is judicial nonsense. Paying bail twice is nonsense. It is part of ongoing repr essions against the opposition,” he told AFP.

“There is no single opposition leader in Georgia, no single independent media outlet that doesn’t face criminal prosecution on trumped-up charges,” Melia added.

In a statement ahead of the trial, the European Union envoy to Georgia described the circumstances surrounding Melia’s prosecution as a “dangerous trajectory for Georgia and for Georgian democracy”.

All of the ex-Soviet country’s opposition parties are boycotting parliament, refusing to assume their mandates after elections marred by irregularities.

The opposition boycott weighs heavily on the political legitimacy of the ruling Georgian Dream party, controlled by oligarch and former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Leaders of nearly all of the country’s opposition parties gathered Wednesday at the UNM party headquarters in Tbilisi ahead of the trial in the event that police move to arrest Melia.

“We will not surrender Melia. If police hit us, we will fight physically and hit them back,” leader of the European Georgia party, Gigi Ugulava, told journalists.

On Tuesday, Georgia’s parliament voted to strip Melia of immunity from prosecution that he is guaranteed as a lawmaker, paving the way for his pre-trial detention.

The Georgian branch of the Transparency International rights watchdog said the “selective prosecution against the chairperson of the largest opposition party will seriously harm democracy in the country.”

In power since 2012, Georgian Dream has seen its popularity fall due to discontent over its failure to address economic stagnation and perceived backsliding on commitments to democracy.
(AFP)

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