Georgia’s Governor Deputized GOP Vigilantes to Challenge 149,000 Voters

Maj. Gamaliel Turner was greater than upset. Assigned by the Pentagon to the Naval base at Port Hueneme, California, Turner had referred to as his hometown registrar in Columbus, Georgia, to seek out out about his lacking absentee poll.

The soldier’s poll wasn’t lacking. They hadn’t despatched the poll as a result of, he was instructed, “Mr. Turner, you’ve got been challenged.”

Challenged? Below a brand new legislation — SB 202 — signed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp final yr, self-appointed vigilante vote fraud hunters have, for the primary time, the correct to problem an infinite variety of different voters: “There shall not be a restrict on the variety of individuals whose {qualifications} such elector [voter] could problem.”

Limitless imply limitless. The person who challenged Turner efficiently blocked 4,000 different voters in Columbus. Up to now, the 159 counties in Georgia have despatched the Palast Investigative Fund a wide ranging 149,168 challenges filed in opposition to voters.

Our investigators contacted a number of hundred of those accused voters and they’re, overwhelmingly, like Maj. Turner, Black or younger.

And in reality, regardless of the governor’s hoo-ha that SB202 prevents voter fraud, not a single one in all these a whole lot of 1000’s of allegedly fraudulent voters has been charged, not to mention convicted, of the crime of trying to vote illegally.

A bearded man stands in front of a fighter jet
Gamaliel Turner, challenged voter, at Port Hueneme naval air station in California.

Who Challenged Maj. Gamaliel Turner?

The problem in opposition to Maj. Turner was issued by Alton Russell, the chairman of the Republican Social gathering of Columbus, Georgia, and an in depth ally of Governor Kemp on the social gathering’s state committee. Russell likes to decorate up like, properly, a vigilante, with pearl-handled six-gun, cowboy hat, boots — the entire get-up. Russell impersonates his hero, Doc Holliday, the gunman from the OK Corral shoot out. The gun, he assured us, is loaded.

“My identify is Alton Russell and I’m the Georgia Story Teller,” he says. “And I’m a bathroom paper salesman is the best way I make my residing. Wiping up!”

Governor Kemp’s vigilante voter legislation does present focused voters a technique to problem the problem. The voter can request a court-like listening to at their county registrar’s workplace the place they will show their citizenship and deal with. They’re responsible till they show themselves harmless of what’s, in spite of everything, a felony crime.

Turner, stationed in California, stated he replied to the Muscogee County (Columbus) bureaucrat, “So that you’re telling me, 2600 miles away…that if I need to vote that that every one I’ve to do is present up and show that as an American citizen that I’ve the correct to vote? AGAIN? You speak to fools like that! I’m not a idiot!”

GOP Chairman Russell picked on the flawed voter. Turner retained high-powered attorneys who went by way of a prolonged courtroom course of to get his poll counted, a unprecedented effort, and in Main Turner’s view, a really costly “ballot tax,” the charge charged to Black voters within the period of Jim Crow segregation.

Turner considers the blockade to his vote a brand new model of Jim Crow. “I do know, as a result of I used to be there,” he says. Certainly, he was there. His father, the Rev. Harold Turner, was assistant pastor to Reverend Abernathy and a co-founder of the Southern Christian Management Convention alongside Abernathy and Martin Luther King Jr.

An elderly man in a cowboy hat stands in his living room
Alton Russell, Republican Social gathering chairman for Columbus, Georgia, “The Georgia Story-Teller,” performs as vigilante Doc Holliday. Russell challenged 4,000 voters in his county.

Confronting Alton Russell

Alton Russell was in for a shock. He had agreed to carry out his Doc Holliday vigilante schtick at a big house close to Fort Benning, Georgia. The vigilante didn’t acknowledge, nor did he appear to know, that he was in Maj. Turner’s home, the very house Russell claimed the Main didn’t reside in.

Russell instructed us how Doc Holliday was stated to have shot some “African American boys” in chilly blood. (We checked: The Black “boys” have been Union troopers of the post-war occupation.)

Then we launched Russell to his host, Main Turner.

The Main defined to Russell how painful it was for a Black man to as soon as once more need to show that he’s a citizen even whereas he’s serving his nation. Russell stammered however refused to apologize for the expense — and heartache — he imposed on the Main even after Russell admitted he didn’t contact Turner to examine on the reality of Russell’s accusation.

Alton Russell wasn’t a lone ranger. I met with one other vigilante, Pam Reardon, who was working for Vice Chair of the state Republican Social gathering. Reardon personally challenged an astounding 32,000 voters. She admitted she by no means met a single one nor referred to as any. She defended herself by saying, “I didn’t converse to the 32,000 folks.” True, however she did problem their proper to vote.

I confirmed Reardon an image of a Black neighbor of hers whom she didn’t acknowledge however whose vote she challenged. In response Reardon instructed me to get out — in language too salty to print right here. I didn’t argue as a result of her husband lunged for me — and she or he had a shotgun prepared on the door.

An elderly father and his adult son embrace
Rev. Harold Turner and son, Maj. Gamaliel Turner, on the reverend’s house in Atlanta.

Voter Hit Lists

So the place did these Republican challengers — and to this point, they’re all Republicans — get this listing of “fraudulent” Georgia voters? Reardon’s and Russell’s hit lists have been created by True the Vote, the Texas group that put out a laughable however extremely influential movie 2000 Mules which claims a whole lot of Black Georgians forged 1000’s of unlawful votes.

True the Vote obtained their lists, they declare, no less than partially from the Nationwide Change of Tackle (NCOA) registry, which is publicly obtainable from the U.S. Postal Service. Most states use the NCOA to purge their voter rolls of people that’ve moved. However the states additionally, no less than in concept, examine to see if somebody merely put in a change of deal with for short-term functions, like the main, a soldier on task. The truth is, the State of Georgia had already purged those that moved from Georgia. So True the Vote challenges are geared toward those who the state accredited and left on the rolls.

True the Vote’s leaders are presently in jail in Texas for contempt of courtroom — refusing to disclose their supposed supply that helps their claims of an enormous felony voting ring.

Notably, True the Vote’s web site contains reward for the vigilante assaults from Georgia’s chief voting official, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. In a December 18, 2020 information merchandise on the positioning, entitled “True the Vote companions with Georgians in each county to preemptively problem 364,541 doubtlessly ineligible voters,” Raffensperger is quoted as saying:

“Although federal legislation restricts our potential to replace our voter registration lists, the Elector Problem is a automobile beneath our legislation to make sure voter integrity.”

Raffensperger’s assertion appears to encourage vigilantes to do what federal legislation prohibit the state itself from doing.

Raffensperger is working for reelection in opposition to Democratic State Rep. Bee Nguyen. “We’re seeing is these vigilantes who’re conspiracy theorists and are far proper and they’re difficult the eligibility of Georgians en masse.” Nguyen instructed Palast Fund reporter Zach D. Roberts that SB202 has created a “workaround” to keep away from federal legislation which prohibits eradicating voters from registration inside 90 days of an election.

To “work round” federal legislation could itself be against the law. Collusion by a state with a non-public social gathering to deprive residents of colour of the vote violates Part 1983 of the US Code. Barbara Arnwine of the Transformative Justice Coalition, who taught at Columbia Legislation Faculty, and lawyer Gerald Griggs, president of the state NAACP, say this vigilante assault seems to violate a number of federal legal guidelines together with the Civil Rights Act, the Nationwide Voter Registration Act and even the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.

Lawsuits are already flying, however Brian Kemp is unmoved. Courts are unlikely to behave earlier than Kemp’s Tuesday gubernatorial rematch with Stacey Abrams.

The Palast Fund has created an internet site,, the place Georgians could go to see if their identify is on a problem listing. However warning: based on College of Georgia legislation professor emeritus Al Pearson, even in the event you aren’t on the listing now, you possibly can be challenged on Election Day — or the day after.

In Atlanta, Main Turner launched me to his 95-year-old father, holding Rev. Turner’s hand on the very eating room desk the place the trendy voting rights motion was born. The most important was greater than upset that, many years after the Voting Rights Act, he nonetheless has to struggle for his poll. “The legislation says we have now the vote. However nobody ever stated you need to rely the vote. Neither I nor any of my folks have the reassurance that our vote was really counted.”

Notice: By Election Day, you possibly can see Greg Palast’s movie, Vigilante: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman, at Narrated by Rosario Dawson and launched by Martin Sheen.