As the ongoing recount of Georgia’s troubled election barrels towards the Friday deadline to certify the state’s election results, Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger defended the accuracy of the recount process and lamented Republican infighting despite taking a few swipes himself at members of his party.
Georgia is currently performing a laborious recount by hand of the about five million ballots cast in the general election this month, the results of which are due by midnight Wednesday evening.
Since the election, a litany of various glitches and discrepancies has prompted an outcry from Republicans against Raffensperger’s handling of the state’s election process.
Joe Biden’s previous razor-thin lead of about 14,000 votes over President Trump in the former Republican stronghold was shaved down this week after two counties discovered thousands of previously uncounted ballots, the majority of which favored Trump. Fayette County discovered 2,755 votes Tuesday that had not initially been counted. A day earlier, Floyd County found 2,600 previously uncounted votes. Biden’s lead in Georgia now sits at a minuscule 12,900 votes.
Georgia’s two Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, issued a scathing statement last week demanding the secretary of state’s resignation over what they said was unacceptably poor management of the state’s elections.
“I don’t think it’s helpful,” Raffensperger told National Review in an interview Wednesday about the recent attacks lobbed at him by members of his party, adding that party infighting only aids Democrats.
“I’m a conservative Republican, and sometimes we hear young people say that we eat our own,” he said. “We expect Democrats to take swipes at us all the time, but when we take swipes at each other, and that’s what we’re doing right now, the Democrats can just sit back and enjoy the show, buy a box of popcorn, and just see how much we destroy each other.”
“Our job is to unify and make sure we win those two Senate races,” Raffensperger added. “I want to make sure that we had a fair, honest election, that every legal vote will count, that every illegal vote will not count.”
Raffensperger emphasized that anyone who moves to Georgia to try to “game the system” and vote in January in Georgia’s two runoff Senate elections, which are expected to decide party control of the Senate, will be subject to prosecution.
“This will be Georgians voting for our Georgia senators,” the secretary of state vowed.
Another Republican who recently butted heads with the secretary of state was Senator Lindsey Graham, whom Raffensperger said asked him about Georgia’s law requiring ballots to having signature-matching verification and floated the possibility that poll workers could have acted on political bias and improperly processed ballots with signatures that did not match. The South Carolina senator then asked whether Georgia’s secretary of state had the authority to throw out the entirety of mail ballots from counties that had a higher rate of ballot signatures that did not match, Raffensperger said.
Graham called the allegation he was looking for a way to discount legal ballots “ridiculous” and said he was simply trying to understand the signature-verification system.
“If he feels threatened by that conversation, he’s got a problem,” Graham said. “I actually thought it was a good conversation.”
“That was the implication I took. He has a different one. So we’re moving on,” Raffensperger said of their conflicting accounts.
Raffensperger had stronger words this week for other Republicans who criticized his handling of the election, in particular Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, who has alleged widespread voter fraud and said the secretary of state’s missteps caused a recount to be necessary. Raffensperger responded by calling Collins a “failed candidate” and a “liar.”
On Friday, President Trump claimed victory in Georgia and criticized Raffensperger for his opposition to a federal lawsuit’s demand that the signatures on ballot envelopes be checked to make sure they match those on the ballots, saying that without that step, “the whole process is very unfair and close to meaningless.”
The secretary of state called the lawsuit “silly” and “unwarranted under existing law” and said his team has actually strengthened ballot-signature matching.
“At the end of the day the courts can weigh in if there’s anything there,” he said. “We just don’t believe that there’s any merit in that.”
Asked whether voters could trust that there were not additional troves of uncounted votes yet to be discovered, Raffensperger responded, “That’s why you do an audit” and assured that “we’re counting every single ballot.”
So far in the recount process, 60 counties have had no difference between the original vote tallies and the hand-count results, Raffensperger said. Another 30 counties had differences of plus or minus one vote, and another 20 or so counties had differences of less than ten votes. As of Wednesday morning, the state needed to finish the recount for about 50 counties, and “we’ll get that done here today,” the secretary of state assured.
Regarding Floyd County, Raffensperger said that the uncounted ballots were the result of a human error, not a computer issue. The county election official responsible was afterwards asked to resign.
The Associated Press has not yet called Georgia for Biden as the recount is still ongoing, but has projected Biden to be the winner of the presidential race based on his victories in other states.