Our friends across the state line from Tennessee in Georgia have quite the Republican primary brewing. And we're not talking about the race for governor.
No, in the Peach State, one of the top races that will be contested on May 24 is the GOP primary for secretary of state, which is not an elected office in the Volunteer State.
The man whose fate is on the line is Brad Raffensperger, the incumbent secretary of state who became Public Enemy No. 1 to then-President Donald Trump when he refused to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia over what the president's supporters alleged were voting irregularities.
His critics say, among other things, his decision to send absentee ballot applications to every active voter and allow for the first time the use of absentee ballot drop boxes fostered some amount of illegal voting — enough to swing Georgia into the Biden column.
Raffensperger, for his part, can point to three vote recounts, including a hand count, certifying the victory for the now-president.
Muddying the water is the recent release of the new documentary-style film "2000 Mules" by conservative filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza alleging mass absentee ballot fraud across the country. Its premise is that 2,000 people, or mules, in five states collected and delivered absentee ballots in a practice known as "ballot harvesting."
In ballot harvesting, as long as the proper absentee ballot sent out is returned and verified, no one can know for sure who filled it out.
"2000 Mules" alleges that 242 people in Atlanta were among the mules.
Georgia law prevents voters from delivering anyone's ballot but their own or that of a member of their family or the caregiver of a disabled person.
Raffensperger, in a recent debate, said his office investigated a piece of video in the movie showing a Gwinnett County man putting ballots in a drop box and found the man was delivering ballots only for members of his family.
We offer no full-throated defense or accusation of guilt of the secretary of state in the 2000 race but can state emphatically that not enough voter fraud has been found across the country to change the result of the election.
Nevertheless, Raffensperger is asking voters to look elsewhere.
It's illegal immigrant voters they should be concerned about, he says.
If illegal immigrant voters are casting ballots in Georgia, then Raffensperger is right to make the issue a central one in his campaign. But he admits they are not.
His office, in fact, caught more than 1,600 illegals who have tried to register to vote over the past 25 years, but none did so successfully. Still, he says, the state needs a constitutional amendment saying noncitizens can't vote. Never mind that a state law already says that.
Raffensperger's tactic is simple bait and switch, his three opponents say. Don't look too closely at what happened in the 2000 election; look over here at what could happen if all those people flowing over the Southern border come to Georgia and try to vote.
One of those opponents, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, is Trump's pick for the office because, well, somebody has to take out the guy who took out Trump.
Raffensperger is trying to convince Georgia voters of something even the Republican-dominated state legislature wasn't interested in. Legislation that would have put on the ballot a constitutional amendment prohibiting noncitizens to vote failed in the Georgia General Assembly this year.
Such is politics these days in the Peach State, which not only went for Biden in 2000 but, in a runoff two months later, elected two Democratic U.S. senators. That has made it ground zero for Trump ever since.
Not only is he backing Hice, one of three GOP opponents of Raffensperger, but he also enticed former one-term U.S. Sen. David Perdue to take on Gov. Brian Kemp in the Republican primary and practically pulled former University of Georgia standout football player Herschel Walker into the race to take on U.S. Sen. Rafael Warnock, who won the 2021 special election to serve out the remainder of the term of the retired Johnny Isakson.
Should Raffensperger win — he and Hice were neck and neck in an Atlanta Journal Constitution poll last month, though 40% of GOP voters were undecided — and should Kemp dispatch Perdue — the latest poll had Kemp up by 16 points — Georgia voters could spell out a message to the 45th president that "we're fine without you, thanks."
So, later this month, our friends across the border may play a part in an election for what used to be a fairly innocuous secretary of state post, but they also could be making a bigger statement to the electorate across the country.