Why Republicans May be illegally Suppressing the Presidential Primary Vote

On the heels of my post yesterday on why so many candidates still appear on the Republican Presidential Preference Primary ballot and what happens if one votes for a candidate who has suspended their campaign comes the Cobb County Republican Party, the champion of election integrity, passing out a mocked up “Official Sample Ballot” crossing out candidates and claiming they have “withdrawn” from the primary election.

Official Sample Ballots are required by law to be supplied to voters. O.C.G.A. § 21-2-401(d) states, “The [elections] superintendent shall provide at the polling place copies of the sample or facsimile ballots for such primary or election as well as a list of the certified write-in candidates for such election in the form as provided by the Secretary of State or appropriate municipal official pursuant to Code Section 21-2-133.”

The actual “OFFICIAL REPUBLICAN PARTY SAMPLE BALLOT” is identical to the fake “OFFICIAL SAMPLE” including all of the dots and other markings on the margins.

This means that Official Sample Ballots are an official election government required by law to be prepared for display to inform voters of their choices prior to voting. The General General Assembly has also put into law safeguards around reproducing Sample Ballots, providing instructions on how they are even to be re-published in newspapers or otherwise reprinted. O.C.G.A. § 21-2-575(b) instructs, “This Code section shall not be applied to facsimile ballots printed and published as an aid to electors in any newspaper generally and regularly circulated within this state, so long as such facsimile ballot is at least 25 percent larger or smaller than the official ballot of which it is a facsimile. This Code section shall not be applied to any sample or facsimile ballots or ballot labels obtained under Code Section 21-2-400. Nothing in this Code section shall be so construed as to prohibit the procurement and distribution of reprints of the said newspaper printings; nor shall it be so construed as to prohibit the preparation and distribution by election officials of facsimile ballots and ballot labels or portions thereof, provided that they are of a different color and at least 25 percent larger or smaller than the official ballots or ballot labels.”

A violation of § 21-2-575 is a felony.

If that were not enough, O.C.G.A. § 21-2-562(1)(a) makes it a felony if any person willfully, “Inserts or permits to be inserted any fictitious name, false figure, false statement, or other fraudulent entry on or in any registration card, electors list, voter’s certificate, affidavit, tally paper, general or duplicate return sheet, statement, certificate, oath, voucher, account, ballot, or other record or document authorized or required to be made, used, signed, returned, or preserved for any public purpose in connection with any primary or election” <emphasis added>.

As stated above, Sample Ballots are documents that are required to be made for a public purpose with any primary or election.

Numerous sources have informed me that Debbie Fisher, the Cobb County Republican Party’s appointee to the Cobb County Board of Elections, is the one responsible for the mark-up of the Official Sample Ballot. What’s more, it is proudly displayed on the front of the Cobb County Republican Party’s webpage at www.CobbGOP.org:

If the Cobb GOP had simply put together a flier informing voters which candidates have suspended their campaigns, which is legally distinguishable from “withdrawn” as stated on the ballot, there would be no issue. However, the Cobb County Republican Party is distributing a document that claims to be the “OFFICIAL REPUBLICAN PARTY SAMPLE BALLOT” for Cobb County, Georgia.

While there does not seem to be any case law in Georgia surrounding prosecution for distribution of fraudulent “Official Sample Ballots,” that is not the case in other states.

In 2019 in Ohio, two men were charged with distributing fake sample ballots.

As Newsweek reported, “Marion County Republican Party official John Matthews and Robert Landon, the GOP candidate for Marion city auditor broke the law by distributing campaign handouts designed to look like sample ballots, reports ABC 6 News.”

Ohio has some of the same requirements as Georgia does regarding the use of a different color paper, “Ohio law bans political parties and candidates from handing out sample ballots like this. They are supposed to be printed on colored paper to distinguish them from real ballots, but the ones distributed by Landon were on white paper.”

Something similar happened in Philadelphia on the Democratic side in November 2023 as a Philadelphia County judge ordered “the confiscation of potentially fraudulent sample ballot flyers at polling places in the 3rd council district.”

Finally, also in 2023, a Republican candidate in Virginia also made news for distributing fake sample ballots. Election officials said that, “as long as the ballot conforms with rules about the font size and color, there’s nothing election officials can do.”

The news story quoted one voters as saying, “At the very least, it’s unethical, and you’re asking for my vote.”

This, of course, is made only more sinister given that many of the parties involved in the creation and distribution of the fake sample ballots, including Cobb County Election Board Member Debbie Fisher and Cobb GOP Chair Salleigh Grubbs, have been very open about their support for Donald Trump. By putting out fake “Official Sample Ballots” making it look like a number of choices are officially eliminated, they may very well be guilty of the same voter suppression and election interference tactics they claim cost Trump the election, but only time and a willingness to prosecute will answer that question for certainty.

While Grubbs, Fisher, and the Cobb GOP may have started the distribution, it has since been shared via social media and through other methods like text and email.

UPDATE – 2/21/2024: Since posting this article, I received a screenshot of a Facebook post by Debbie Fisher stating, “Republican Primary Ballot will have all of the original candidates on the ballot, however there are only 2 Candidates remaining that are considered legitimate votes, Nikki Haley and Donald Trump. Any other selection will be considered a blank vote and not be counted.”

Once again, this is a FALSE statement. If Ron DeSantis wins Georgia, he gets Georgia’s delegates. He can then later release them or may decide to unsuspend his campaign and try for more. The same question was asked regarding the 2020 Democratic Primary by Analeigh Hughes with Capital News Service

So what happens to the votes that are cast for candidates who have suspended their campaign?

Votes for former candidates are treated like they are still campaigning. If the person receives enough votes, they could potentially be awarded delegates to the nominating conventions. Any delegates awarded before the campaign suspension would still be counted, as well.

How ironic that one of Cobb County’s biggest advocates for Donald Trump would be telling voters that a vote for anyone but Trump or Haley will “not be counted”

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