Ga. GOP senators say elections chief should resign over unnamed ‘failures’

By: - November 9, 2020 5:59 pm

Trump supporters bow their heads in prayer outside the Georgia Capitol Saturday at a rally where many questioned Georgia’s election results. Monday, both of Georgia’s U.S. Senators called for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to resign over unspecified voting irregularities. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Georgia’s GOP senators called on the state’s top election official to resign Monday as some Republicans continue to make general claims of voting irregularities in a state where President-elect Joe Biden holds a slim margin of victory.

The surprising joint statement from Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler said the “management of Georgia elections has become an embarrassment for our state,” but didn’t offer specifics. Both Perdue and Loeffler are in a Jan. 5 runoff in two high-stakes elections that will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate.

“Georgians are outraged, and rightly so,” the statement read. “We have been clear from the beginning: every legal vote cast should be counted. Any illegal vote must not. And there must be transparency and uniformity in the counting process.

“We believe when there are failures, they need to be called out — even when it’s in your own party,” they continued in the statement. “There have been too many failures in Georgia elections this year and the most recent election has shined a national light on the problems.”

Minutes later, President Donald Trump, who watched his 118,000-vote lead in the early hours of Wednesday morning dwindle, tweeted this: “Georgia will be a big presidential win, as it was the night of the Election!”

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, though, says he has no plan to resign.

“I know emotions are running high,” Raffensperger said in a statement. “Politics are involved in everything right now. If I was Senator Perdue, I’d be irritated I was in a runoff. And both Senators and I are all unhappy with the potential outcome for our President. But I am the duly elected Secretary of State.”

Biden still led President Donald Trump in Georgia Monday afternoon by nearly 11,600 votes, giving him a narrow margin of victory of about 0.2%. That’s within the threshold needed for a recount, which is expected to happen once the state finishes its audit process and certifies the results.

The Associated Press called Pennsylvania for Biden on Saturday, giving the Democrat the electoral votes needed to become the 46th president in January. The race in Georgia, which has 16 electoral votes, has not been called.

While some Georgians set off fireworks Saturday and celebrated Biden’s win nationally, others rallied outside the state Capitol and cried foul. North Georgia Congresswoman-elect Marjorie Taylor Green was there and has been among the most vocal critics of the state’s election.

Trump has leaned into the judicial system in competitive states where he trails, but so far in Georgia, one lawsuit targeting absentee ballots in Chatham County has been dismissed. The Republican National Committee has sent lawyers to the state to sniff out irregularities.

Biden’s slim lead in the once reliably red state that hasn’t helped send a Democrat to the White House since 1992 and the historic surge in absentee voting during a pandemic have fueled suspicions among Trump’s supporters.

The process of counting votes has been slow-going partly due to the 1.3 million paper ballots submitted either by mail or deposited in a drop box by voters who preferred to steer clear of polling places during a pandemic. And as more of these ballots were counted, the president’s early lead steadily shrunk. Nearly 5 million people voted.

As of Monday afternoon, about 40% of Georgia’s 159 counties had certified their election results.

“Given the close outcome and the record number of mail-in and absentee ballots case in this election, this needs to be a wakeup call to the Secretary of State’s office to take a serious look at any and all voting irregularity allegations that have been made,” said Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s spokesman, Cody Hall. “Georgians deserve to have every legal vote counted in order to have full confidence in the outcome of our elections.”

Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system implementation manager, defends the way the secretary of state ran the 2020 election in a Capitol press conference Monday. Stanley Dunalp/Georgia Recorder

Raffensperger, who was elected in 2018, and his voting system implementation manager, Gabriel Sterling, have held frequent press briefings that have been carried on national TV. Both officials – who are Republican – have repeatedly tried to assure voters that all claims of irregularities would be investigated.

“Was there illegal voting? I am sure there was,” Raffensperger said. “And my office is investigating all of it. Does it rise to the numbers or margin necessary to change the outcome to where President Trump is given Georgia’s electoral votes? That is unlikely.”

Raffensperger frustrated his Republican colleagues earlier this year when he sent out unsolicited absentee ballot applications to all active voters for the June primary in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the general election, his office set up an online portal where voters could more easily request a ballot, but voters had to initiate the request this time.

During the primary, Georgia’s election made national news for its long lines and wait times, as the state’s new $104 million election equipment underwent its first real test. Poor poll worker training, though, was ultimately blamed for much of the trouble. And this time, Election Day went smoothly for the most part.

In his response to Perdue and Loeffler, Raffensperger said his office will investigate double voters, just as it did in the primary. He said he deployed a monitor to Fulton County, which he called “one of our longtime problem Democrat-run counties.”

“My job is to follow Georgia law and see to it that all legal votes, and no illegal votes, are counted properly and accurately,” Raffensperger said. “As Secretary of State, that is my duty, and I will continue to do my duty. As a Republican, I am concerned about Republicans keeping the U.S. Senate. I recommend that Senators Loeffler and Perdue start focusing on that.”

A group that has been critical of Raffensperger in the past pounced on the senators’ joint statement. Fair Fight Action is the voting rights group former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams founded after her near-miss 2018 election.

“With their bizarre press statement, @KLoeffler and @sendavidperdue have become full participants in Donald Trump’s crybaby campaign to undermine our democracy,” spokesman Seth Bringman tweeted. “Voters decided, and President-Elect Joe Biden won Georgia.”

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Jill Nolin
Jill Nolin

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.