Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has accused Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump backer, of suggesting the state toss out legal ballots during the state’s presidential recount.
“I explained our process, after it went through two sets of signature match, at that point they were separated. But then Senator Graham implied for us to audit the envelopes and then throw out the ballots for counties that had the highest frequency errors of signatures,” Raffensperger told CBS News on Tuesday.
“It sure looked like he was going down that road” of asking for legal votes to be discounted, Raffensperger said in an interview on Monday with The Washington Post.
Graham told the Post that Raffensperger’s accusation was “ridiculous”.
Raffensperger, a self-described conservative Republican who has “never voted for a Democrat” and was endorsed by Trump during his successful 2018 secretary of state campaign, is under increasing pressure from Trump and his allies as the state conducts a hand recount of ballots.
In the initial post-election vote count, President-elect Joe Biden held a 14,000-vote lead, which, if it holds, would make him the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since Bill Clinton in 1992.
Trump and his allies have been venting their outrage at Raffensperger over unsupported claims that mismanagement and fraud tainted the state’s presidential election. He has also received death threats, according to The Washington Post, including a text message that read: “You better not botch this recount. Your life depends on it.”
Trump spent the weekend attacking him on social media, at one point calling him “a so-called Republican (RINO)”, the acronym for “Republican in name only”.
Georgia Secretary of State, a so-called Republican (RINO), won’t let the people checking the ballots see the signatures for fraud. Why? Without this the whole process is very unfair and close to meaningless. Everyone knows that we won the state. Where is @BrianKempGA?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 14, 2020
Raffensperger punched back, disputing Trump’s claims that he made it easier for Democrats to cheat using mail-in ballots. The secretary also called US Representative Doug Collins, who is running Trump’s Georgia recount effort, a “liar”.
Collins, responding to Raffensperger’s “liar” label, fired back Monday on Twitter: “In a year of political division in Georgia, few things have unified Republicans and Democrats — one of them is Brad Raffensperger’s incompetence as Secretary of State.”
Raffensperger — currently in quarantine after his wife tested positive for COVID-19 — has insisted he is an impartial administrator of Georgia elections with no desire or agenda to sway the outcome.
Trump and his allies claimed Raffensperger did not do enough to root out “illegal” votes.
“The secretary of state has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections,” Georgia Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — both of whom failed to win enough votes to avoid January runoffs with their Democratic opponents — said last week in a statement, without offering any evidence to back up their assertion. “He has failed the people of Georgia, and he should step down immediately.”
Raffensperger has sought to weather the beating by appeasing Trump supporters. After the Trump campaign asked for a hand recount of all five million votes cast in Georgia, Raffensperger chose the presidential election for an audit, which Georgia law now requires for one statewide race each election cycle. He also insisted that all votes — not just a sampling of ballots, as is the norm for audits — be recounted, and that the tally be conducted by hand.
Raffensperger has not shied away from his partisan label throughout all of this, but told CBS News that he “wants to make sure we have a lawful process, because I think that integrity still matters.”
“I, as a Republican, wish the results would go another way, but I think at the end of the day, what you’re going to see is this audit is going to verify what the machines counted. And then we’ll certify it.”
On Monday, Floyd County discovered 2,600 ballots that had not been originally counted and will be added to the recount’s final tally. It is expected that the heavily-Republican county will deliver Trump another 800 votes, bringing Biden’s statewide lead down to just above 13,000 votes.
BREAKING: A recount in Georgia’s presidential race found more than 2,600 ballots in Floyd County that hadn’t originally been tallied, likely helping President Donald Trump reduce his 14,000-vote deficit to Joe Biden.
— AJC (@ajc) November 16, 2020
Raffensperger has held firm in saying that he has seen no evidence of widespread fraud or voting irregularities — and that he expects Biden’s lead to hold up once the audit is complete.
“We knew that it was a silly argument,” Raffensperger said of the fraud allegations, in an interview on Monday with radio station WDUN. “But the hand recount puts that to bed.”