Georgia secretary of state, 'a Republican through and through,' defends the integrity of his state's election — and his own

Marquise Francis
·National Reporter & Producer

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is on a mission to prove to both Republicans and Democrats that his office can be trusted to run an honest election.

“I’m a Republican through and through and never voted for a Democrat,” Raffensperger told Yahoo News in a video interview Monday. “But this office runs on integrity, and that’s what voters want to know, that this person’s going to do his job.”

With the deadline of Nov. 20 fast approaching for his office’s laborious hand “re-tally” of 5 million Georgia votes in the presidential election, and less than two months before the critical pair of Senate runoff races, Raffensperger wants to assure Georgians that the candidates with the most legal votes will win.

“I tell the candidates that are running, you best get at it and quit looking back and quit trying to talk about what the secretary of state’s doing,” he said. “You better be worried about your own campaign, because this is going to be a tight, competitive race.”

On Monday, Floyd County reportedly found 2,600 ballots during its audit that were not previously tallied. State officials said an entire memory card wasn’t unloaded. The card was apparently left in the machine. While the find does not change the final outcome in the Georgia race, it certainly raises some eyebrows. President Trump garnered more than 1,600 of these ballots, but President-elect Joe Biden still holds on to a lead of more than 13,000 total votes in the state. Raffensperger has asked the executive director of the Floyd County Board of Elections, Robert Brady, to step down permanently.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger holds a press conference on the status of ballot counting on November 6, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger holds a press conference on the status of ballot counting on Nov. 6 in Atlanta. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Despite the find, the secretary of state said the same Dominion Voting Systems machines used in the general election will “absolutely” be used in the Jan. 5 runoff.

“There’s nothing wrong with those voting machines,” he said. “Just because one candidate comes up short, they just have to realize that it’s not the machines. They didn’t get the vote out.”

From the moment Georgia, for many years a heavily Republican state, was called for a Democrat for the first time since 1992, Republicans nationwide called the election’s results into question.

Raffensperger and his office were singled out. Baseless claims included labeling Dominion, the maker of Georgia’s election system, a “radical left privately owned company” with ties to Venezuela. The company is based in Colorado.

As recently as Monday afternoon, Trump falsely claimed in a tweet that Georgia was not accurately checking signatures.

“Georgia won’t let us look at the all important signature match,” the president tweeted. “Without that the recount is MEANINGLESS. Open up unconstitutional Consent Decree.”

But Raffensperger said this is flat-out wrong.

“We strengthened the signature match,” he wrote in a scathing Facebook post Sunday. “We helped train election officials on GBI [Georgia Bureau of Investigation] signature match — which is confirmed twice before a ballot is ever cast.”

This post came two days after Georgia Republican Rep. Doug Collins, a staunch Trump ally, blamed the secretary of state’s office for the need for a recount.

“Frankly, the [Georgia] secretary of state’s office has caused this problem to develop,” Collins told Newsmax, a conservative news outlet, on Friday. “They’ve been continually problematic in this. And I will continue to call them out.”

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) questions witnesses at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.  (Photo by Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., at a House Judiciary Committee hearing. (Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)

In response, Raffensperger called Collins a “failed candidate” who is trying to make a cheap grab for employment.

“Doug Collins knows better than that,” Raffensperger told Yahoo News. “He’s a failed candidate, and I guess he’s looking for a job, but he’s just saying stuff that’s outright lies.”

Yahoo News reached out to Collins’s office, but it did not return our request for comment.

Raffensperger, 65, a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives, was elected to his post in 2018, succeeding Brian Kemp, who was accused of purging Democratic voters from the registration rolls before the 2018 gubernatorial election, in which he narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams. Abrams’s Fair Fight voting-rights group was credited with helping Biden this year.

Raffensperger said he contributed to Trump’s campaign numerous times and voted for him in 2016 and 2020, adding that he’s disappointed that members of his own party would think he would do anything but the right thing.

“For Republicans, I’ve been disappointed in some of the things that are being said right now, because they’re just not supported by facts,” he added. “[Collins] was in Congress when we had a Republican president in Trump, a Republican Senate and a Republican House. He did absolutely nothing for election integrity, because a lot of the issues that we have had have been federal laws that allowed us to clean up the voter rolls. And what did Doug Collins do in those two years that they had the House? He did nothing.”

On Monday, Raffensperger said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and other Republicans have gone as far as pressuring him to toss legal ballots, according to the Washington Post.

Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Monday night denied these claims, saying it’s “ridiculous” to have interpreted their conversation that way.

“If [Raffensperger] feels threatened by that conversation, he’s got a problem,” Graham told reporters. “I actually thought it was a good conversation. I never said that.”

Gwinnett County election workers handle ballots as part of the recount for the 2020 presidential election at the Beauty P. Baldwin Voter Registrations and Elections Building on November 16, 2020 in Lawrenceville, Georgia. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)
Gwinnett County, Ga., election workers handle ballots as part of the recount for the presidential election on Monday. (Megan Varner/Getty Images)

Raffensperger said his office has strengthened the absentee ballot process for the first time since 2005 with a verifiable paper ballot trail and by joining a service called the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, an objective way of updating your vote if you move from one state to another.

After ignoring calls to step down from the two Republican senators on the runoff ballot, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, Raffensperger is committed to seeing this voting process through.

“We’re making sure that at the end of the day you won’t be able to question the results,” he said. “Half the people like it, the other half won’t. I get it. And I may be one of those folks with a long face after it’s all said and done, but we’re going to walk that line of integrity.”

Below are key dates for Georgians to remember ahead of the state’s Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5, 2021:

Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images, Megan Varner/Getty Images, Erin Scott-Pool via Getty Images)

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