Investigation opened into Herschel Walker’s wife’s residency

ATLANTA (AP) — State election officials opened an investigation into the residency of potential U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker’s wife after a newspaper reported that records show she voted in Georgia despite living in Texas.

The Secretary of State’s office opened the investigation into Julie Blanchard on Aug. 10, according to a case sheet obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request. The case sheet has few details but the case category is listed as “Elections-Residency Issue.”

The records appear to contradict a statement from Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger who, the day after the investigation was opened, was asked during a press conference whether his office had begun an investigation into Blanchard.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had reported Aug. 10 that Blanchard requested a ballot be sent to her in Westlake, Texas, for the presidential election and returned it. Blanchard also owns a home in Atlanta.

“We haven’t opened one yet. We just heard about that a few days ago,” Raffensperger said in response to the question at the Aug. 11 press conference.

Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said Thursday that the investigation was initially opened and then moved forward once it got approval.

“It is standard practice for the secretary of state’s office to open an initial investigation into complaints,” she said in a statement. “That is a policy the Secretary put in place upon taking office, and upon his approval this particular investigation was approved to move forward into a full investigation.”

Walker is considering a run for U.S. Senate in Georgia as a Republican. A longtime friend of former President Donald Trump, Walker has joined in Trump’s baseless assertions that the 2020 election was stolen by fraudulent votes.

“Play by the rules.....the American people demand ONLY LEGAL BALLOTS be counted. Anyone manipulating this election should be prosecuted,” Walker wrote on Twitter in November.

No one answered multiple calls to a number listed for Blanchard on Thursday, and the voicemail was full.

Trump has been encouraging Walker, a former running back for the University of Georgia and the Dallas Cowboys, to run next year for the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Democrat Raphael Warnock. Several other Republicans have already entered the race for the seat.

Walker and Blanchard married in Texas in May, according to public records.

“If we’re residents in both places, is that legally wrong?” Blanchard told the newspaper on Aug. 9. “If you have multiple homes, you can’t vote where you have a home?”

Blanchard told the newspaper on Aug. 10 that she considers herself a resident of Georgia, where she has a driver’s license, owns a car and does business. She didn’t answer a question about whether she spends more time in Georgia or Texas, the newspaper reported.

Blanchard and Walker purchased their Texas property in 2011, deed records show, and Tarrant County, Texas, grants a homestead exemption — a property tax break given to homeowners on their primary residence — according to public records. However, only Walker, and not Blanchard, is listed on the current tax bill.

One of the 15 rules used in Georgia law to determine where a voter lives for residency purposes is where they claim a homestead exemption. In general, Georgia law says that a voter’s residency is where the person intends to live permanently or where their “habitation is fixed.”

Georgia records show Blanchard doesn’t currently claim a homestead exemption on her Fulton County property.

Before 2020, Blanchard hadn’t voted in Georgia since 2008. Her Georgia voter registration was canceled in 2017 because of inactivity, and she re-registered in 2019. It’s unclear if she was re-registered when she renewed her Georgia driver’s license. Drivers are automatically registered to vote in Georgia unless they specifically decline. The newspaper reports Blanchard isn’t registered to vote in Texas.