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Georgia Officials Warn Against Temporarily Moving There To Vote

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, in Atlanta.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, in Atlanta.

A Facebook live video shows Republicans in Bay County discussing how to register to vote in the state's Senate runoff elections without actually living there.

Updated Dec. 4, 2020: Georgia elections officials are investigating a Panama City-based attorney after he tried registering to vote in the state using brother's address in the Hiram suburb of Atlanta.

Bay County GOP members discussed ways to help Republicans maintain control of the Senate at the local party headquarters shortly after Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s declared victory.

Most of their ideas were typical and legitimate. They spoke about donating to campaigns, calling voters, traveling across the state border to knock on doors.

But part of their meeting was spent talking about how they could register to vote in another state without actually leaving Florida permanently.

Panama City Beach attorney Bill Price speaks at the Bay County GOP Headquarters on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020 in a video posted on Facebook.
Bay County Republican Party - Facebook Page
Panama City Beach attorney Bill Price speaks at the Bay County GOP Headquarters on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020 in a video posted on Facebook.

In a passionate speech that streamed live on Facebook, local attorney Bill Price announced he intended to move to Paulding County, Georgia and vote in the state’s Senate runoff elections before returning to Florida.

The video remained publicly available online for at least another week after this story was first published. It's since been deleted.

“We have to win that election in Georgia,” Price said. “And so I’m moving to my brother’s house in Hiram, Georgia, and I’m registering to vote.”

“I’m changing my voter registration right now, and I’m inviting two million people to be my roommates if they want,” he joked. “We’ll make room for you at the dinner table.”

Price then shared his brother’s address with fellow GOP supporters at the meeting and anyone watching online. "It’s only for a couple of months," he said. "You might have to get some mail.”

Price also said in the video that he intended to switch his voter registration back to his address in Bay County after the Georgia runoff elections. "There won’t be a lot of furniture," he said. "I like to travel light."

Georgia’s Secretary of State’s Office - which oversees its elections - has been warning out-of-state residents not to move to the state for the sole purpose of voting in January.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger issued this warning in a recent press release: “If you illegally participate in our elections, you might be spending a lot more time in Georgia than you planned.”

It’s afelony offense in Georgia for someone to register to vote in the state with the intent of leaving after the election. Anyone who's convicted could face up to 10 years in prison and up to a $100,000 fine.

At a recent press conference, state elections official Gabriel Sterling spoke about the subject following reports of activists across the political spectrum discussing plans to temporarily move to the state to cast a ballot.

“You have to believe you’re staying in Georgia,” Sterling said. “You can’t be a canvasser for Bloomberg. You can’t be a canvasser for the Koch brothers and decide, ‘Hey, I’m going to vote here while I’m here.’”

Sterling also referenced past Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang’s tweet announcing his move to the state to campaign for his party’s candidates. Yang afterward stated that he’s not voting in the state’s runoff elections.

Permanent residents that recently moved to the state, however, may register to vote before the Dec. 7 deadline. Early voting in the Senate runoff elections begins on Dec. 14. Election Day is on Jan. 5.

Local Attorney Bill Price hasn’t yet responded to a request for an interview.

Bay County GOP Chairman Debbie Wood - who was also at the meeting - clarified with WFSU News that Price misspoke about registering to vote in another state's runoff elections. “We only do things that are within the legal guidelines,” she said.

Wood says Price was still fired up after President Donald Trump's election loss.

“I think that perhaps he has re-thought that whole stand about moving up there. But with that being said, his enthusiasm is there. He will be knocking on doors. He will be making phone calls.”

Wood told WFSU News that she was considering removing the video from the local GOP's Facebook page, but that she was focused primarily on campaign efforts in Georgia.

According to Atlanta-based station WSB-TV, the video came down after Georgia's Office of Secretary State obtained a copy and started an investigation.

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.