Georgia election officials again defend result against presidential do-over

By: - January 5, 2021 5:00 am

Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system implementation manager, refutes claims from President Donald Trump that illegal votes and other alleged election misconduct caused him to lose the presidential election. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

The fallout of President Donald Trump’s released recording with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger continued Monday with calls for investigations and tensions flaring heading into today’s intense U.S. Senate election runoffs.

Raffensperger said Monday that the hour-long phone conversation with the president over the weekend shines more light on the persistent false allegations that rampant  fraud caused Trump to lose the Nov. 3 presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden by fewer than 12,000 votes.

During the recording, Trump pressed Raffensperger to find enough votes to overturn the election results or run the risk of damaging future political aspirations and potential criminal charges. 

The call led many Georgia Democrats and political law experts to question whether Trump broke any laws by pressuring the secretary of state to change the certified results. And state election officials said they worry that Trump and his allies’ frequent unfounded fraud accusations continue to cast a shadow over today’s Senate runoffs by discouraging people from voting.

“There are people who fought and died and marched and prayed to get the right to vote,” Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system implementation manager, said during a Monday afternoon press conference at the state Capitol. “Throwing it away because you have some feeling that it may not matter is self-destructive ultimately and a self-fulfilling prophecy at the end. So everyone who cares about the future of the nation should come out and vote. It’s vitally important.”

Raffensperger also called out Trump on Monday for the debunked conspiracy theories. The audio did not become public until after Trump tweeted Sunday morning that Raffensperger did not have the answers to the president’s questions about thousands of alleged illegal votes and other alleged election misconduct.

“We believe that truth matters, and we continue to fight to get our message out, but it’s fighting the rumor mill whack-a-mole daily,” Raffensperger said on ABC’s Good Morning America.

Raffensperger said Monday that he would not ask the state election board to investigate whether Trump violated any laws during the call because of a conflict of interest. 

State election board member, Democrat David Worley, requested Raffensperger to open an investigation and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis released a statement saying she was disturbed by the call and would take on the case if asked. 

Georgia State University Law Professor Anthony Michael Kreis said there is enough in the audio recording to warrant a more in-depth look. 

“The president should not be held to a different standard than any other person would be if they’ve made similar requests and demands of the secretary of state,” Kreis said. “But, you know, the real crisis here is that the president of the United States is trying to throw out thousands of lawfully cast votes.”

On the eve of the runoffs, Republican Sen. David Perdue criticized Raffensperger for publicly releasing the call and GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler said she will object to the presidential election certification on Wednesday.

Their challengers, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, called Trump’s attempts a threat to democracy. 

The legal battles over the election results continue to linger in courtrooms, with Trump’s latest lawsuit against Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp asking a judge to force them to decertify the election results. 

So far, more than 3 million Georgians have already voted in the historic runoffs that will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. While President-elect Biden spent Monday afternoon rallying in Atlanta, Trump returned to Dalton that evening to support the incumbent Republican senators and take more shots at fellow Republicans Raffensperger and Kemp and the results of his presidential election.

“There’s no way we lost Georgia,” Trump said. “That was a rigged election and we’re still fighting it.”

 

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.

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