Just 15 years ago when Georgia Republicans took the majority for the first time since Reconstruction, election integrity was a top priority for the new generation of Republican leaders who governed under the Gold Dome. The Georgia Legislature became the second in the nation to adopt a strong voter Identification law to weed out fraud every time we vote.

This year the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented number of people, as many as 50 million or one-third of the total vote casting their ballots by mail, making this — contrary to pronouncement made by self-serving election officials — the least secure election in American history.

Since Nov. 3, it has been obvious that this election is much closer than the 2016 election which Democrats spent four years questioning the legitimacy of the outcome. Voting administrators and law enforcement officials have had a month to commence investigations of the accuracy of Georgia’s vote count, which has been at issue in 2018 and many elections before then.

Last Thursday at a state Senate hearing, attorneys for President Donald Trump presented an array of evidence that needs to be explored as it calls into question how Georgia should instruct its electors to the Electoral College on Dec. 14. It found:

· 66,246 votes were cast by voters under the age of 18 in Georgia. Individuals under 18 may not vote in our country.

· 40,279 votes were cast by Georgians who moved to another county yet failed to re-register in their new county of residence in time for the election. As a result, they were ineligible to vote at the time of the election in either county.

· 15,700 votes were cast in the state by former residents who moved out of the state – something not allowed.

· 10,315 deceased voters cast ballots in our state. How did they do this from the grave?

· 2,423 were not registered to vote yet cast ballots.

· 2,056 felons voted which is not allowed as felons lose the right to vote. Were any of these felons re-certified to vote?

· 1,043 votes were cast by people who used a PO Box as a return address — also not allowed.

This evidence does not include a security tape from the State Farm arena where the Fulton County elections workers were counting ballots. They sent home elections monitors late at night, saying they were done for the evening. They then started counting ballots in the middle of the night when no one was there to monitor. Where did these ballots come from, and are they legitimate?

For those who say there is no fraud, the question becomes, when is there enough evidence of potential fraud to warrant an investigation? Clearly that standard has been met, given that the Georgia vote tally is the closest of any state in the country.

It seems only when a Democrat like Stacey Abrams is losing an election is there any consensus that their needs to be a legitimate probe of an election.

Trump may or may not have won the race in Georgia. But we will never know if we do not pursue these serious allegations.

In the 1940s, the Atlanta Journal documented 48 fraudulent votes in the Talmadge Senate race – earning it journalism’s most coveted prize in the journalism – the Pulitzer Prize – for reporting voter fraud in Telfair County.

Reporter George Goodwin documented how Talmadge won a special election for governor and after initially finishing third in the race, his home county came up with 48 extra write-in votes including many dead voters. After winning the election, the state Supreme Court rejected his claim to the governorship.

Abrams made many allegations of vote fraud, most of which were based on far less evidence than what has been provided by the Trump campaign. Why is the media now applying a different standard? What is at stake in this election is not just the governor of Georgia, but the President of the United States.

Our forefathers died on battlefields to protect our right to fair and free elections. It’s time that elected officials – elected to represent the interests of the people – start asking tough questions and trigger serious investigations to get honest answers. The very essence of our Republic — and the confidence Georgians have in it — depends on it.

Bill Loughrey is the former staff director of the Federal Election Commission and is author of Political Will: Dominating Force in American History. He also was the chairman of Speaker Newt Gingrich’s High-Tech Advisory Committee.

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