Georgia's top election official says Lindsey Graham pressured him to throw out all mail ballots cast in certain counties
- Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told The Washington Post that GOP Senator Lindsey Graham pressured him to throw out entire counties' worth of ballots for signature issues.
- Raffensperger is facing attacks on his credibility and the integrity of Georgia's election from fellow Republicans after President Trump lost the state in the Electoral College.
- Raffensperger said that Graham asked if the signature verification process was subject to political bias and asked if Raffensperger could disqualify ballots.
- Graham denied Raffensperger's account of the conversation and said the notion he pressured Raffensperger to get ballots thrown out was "ridiculous."
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Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is facing death threats, public attacks from fellow Republicans, and even pressure to throw out all the mail ballots cast in entire counties, he told the Washington Post in an interview published on Monday.
Raffensperger, who was elected in 2018 to succeed now-Governor Brian Kemp, was criticized in June by some Democrats over long lines to vote and other issues in the state's primary.
But now, with Republicans losing Georgia in the presidential race for the first time since 1992 and having to fight to defend both the state's US Senate seats in runoffs, the state's chief election official says he's undergoing a barrage of attacks on his credibility and the integrity of Georgia's election from prominent elected officials from within his own party.
He told The Post that Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a powerful figure in the GOP, directly asked if he could disqualify thousands of mail ballots for mismatched signatures.
Raffensperger said Graham questioned whether ballots with mismatched signatures were wrongly accepted because of election workers holding political bias towards Democrats, and asked if Raffensperger himself could throw out all the mail ballots cast in counties with higher than average rates of ballots being flagged for signature issues.
As The Post noted, Raffensperger does not have the authority to categorically disqualify scores of ballots in entire counties. An effort to do so would require legal action in court, and for a judge to rule that the ballots were illegally cast or fraudulent.
Talking to reporters on Capitol Hill, Graham disputed Raffensperger's account of the conversation, telling The National Journal's Zach Cohen that Raffensperger "did a good job" explaining the signature verification process and called the notion that he pressured Raffensperger to get ballots disqualified "ridiculous."
"It seems to me that Georgia has some protections that maybe other states don't have, where you go into the portal to get your ballot. But I thought it was a good conversation. I'm surprised to hear he characterized it that way," Graham said, according to Cohen.
Georgia is one of around 30 states that uses signature matching to verify the authenticity of mail ballots. In that process, election officials compare the signature on the outer envelope with the voters' most recent signature on file. A mismatched signature is not necessarily indicative of fraud, as peoples' signatures sometimes change over time, and Georgia has an established cure process for voters to fix problems with their signature.
The intra-party battle began heating up shortly after Election Day when Republicans Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who are now advancing to January runoffs, called on Raffensperger to resign from office, claiming without presenting any evidence that he "failed to deliver honest and transparent elections."
There is no evidence of any widespread fraud or irregularities in Georgia. The state is currently conducting a comprehensive risk-limiting audit of the presidential race that is expected to confirm that President-elect Joe Biden decisively won the state in the Electoral College.
In a blunt response to Loeffler and Perdue, Raffensperger rejected their demand that he should step down and defended the integrity of the election. "As a Republican, I am concerned about Republicans keeping the U.S. Senate. I recommend that Senators Loeffler and Perdue start focusing on that," he wrote.
Rep. Doug Collins, who challenged Loeffler in the special jungle election to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson, has also attacked Raffensperger's credibility.
In his interview with The Post, Raffenspeger called Collins a "liar" and a "charlatan."
Raffensperger and Kemp have both been criticized on Twitter by President Donald Trump, who accused them of being RINOs (Republicans In Name Only), falsely suggested that a consent decree that Georgia entered into to standardize its signature verification procedures is "unconstitutional," and spread unfounded conspiracies attacking Dominion Voting Systems, the vendor that provides Georgia's ballot marking device voting machines.
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