Perdue says he wouldn't have certified Biden's Georgia win as Republican effort to bypass future election results intensifies

David Perdue, the former U.S. senator and Trump-endorsed candidate for governor in Georgia, said Wednesday that he would not have certified Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election in his home state, the latest move from state-level Republicans casting doubt on the integrity of future races.

Perdue, who served one term representing Georgia in the Senate before losing in a January runoff to Democrat Jon Ossoff, announced his intention to primary sitting Republican Gov. Brian Kemp this week. Kemp is among the Georgia Republicans who affirmed the election results, which were counted three times and showed a close win by Biden.

In an interview with Axios, Perdue said he wouldn’t have done the same.

Then-Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., holds a microphone as he speaks at a campaign rally in December 2020.
Then-Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., at a campaign rally in Cumming, Ga., in December 2020. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

In the weeks following his loss to Biden, Trump called for a special session of Georgia’s Legislature to challenge the results, which Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said at the time would amount to “nullifying the will of the people.” Trump is also backing state Rep. Jody Hice, who has regularly promoted election conspiracy theories, in a Republican primary challenge against Raffensperger.

GOP officials and pundits across the country have been calling the 2020 results into question despite being unable to provide credible evidence of fraud. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll released in August found that a majority of Republican voters believe Biden did not legitimately win the election. A number of states with Republican-majority legislatures have passed laws making it more difficult to vote, while others are taking steps to allow the party to have more direct control over election results. The proliferation of election conspiracy theories also helped inspire the deadly Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol, the main purpose of which was to try to stop Biden from becoming president.

Earlier this year, Kemp signed a bill passed by Georgia’s Republican-controlled Legislature that limited voting while also transferring powers away from the secretary of state and instead giving them to a State Election Board controlled by the same partisan Legislature. Under the law, the board can also suspend local election officials with whom it disagrees.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at a news conference about the state's Election Integrity Law on April 10, shortly after it passed.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp at a news conference about the state's Election Integrity Law on April 10, shortly after it passed. (Megan Varner/Getty Images)

The Perdue comments came hours before Biden kicked off a virtual Summit for Democracy on Thursday. Protect Democracy, a left-leaning legal advocacy organization, has been sounding alarms about state-level maneuvering all year.

“It raises the specter of much more post-election litigation, much more chaos, and in a chaotic post-election period it creates many more opportunities for state legislatures to unlawfully step in and try to change the results, like we saw some legislators clamoring to do last year,” Jess Marsden, counsel for the group, told Yahoo News in June.

Republicans in Wisconsin, where Biden won by 20,000 votes, are looking to dismantle the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission and take direct control of voting in the state. Last month the Trump-aligned sheriff in Racine County recommended charges against five election administrators for election fraud and misconduct in office stemming from the 2020 presidential election. Ron Johnson, the Republican Wisconsin senator who has promoted conspiracy theories about the election, COVID-19 and the Jan. 6 violence at the Capitol, said last month that state Republicans should fully take over federal elections.

"I think the state Legislature needs to reassert its authority [and] make sure that, in the federal elections, our election clerks follow state law, not guidances that are contrary to state law," Johnson told Wisconsin Public Radio. The push to overhaul the system came after a nonpartisan report from the Wisconsin Elections Commission found no evidence of fraud in the 2020 results.

People wait in line to vote in Georgia's 2020 primary election.
Voters in Georgia's primary election on June 9, 2020, in Atlanta. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

“The outrageous statements and ideas Wisconsin Republicans have embraced aren’t about making our elections stronger, they’re about making it more difficult for people to participate in the democratic process,” the state's Democratic governor, Tony Evers, said last month.

Few states’ 2020 results have seen more scrutiny than Arizona’s, where Republicans in the state Senate have backed a months-long partisan investigation into voting in populous Maricopa County, alienating GOP leadership there. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed off on the 2020 results despite Trump’s objections, but term limits mean he will not be able to seek reelection in 2022. The current frontrunner to replace him on the Republican ticket, former local news anchor Kari Lake, has made a host of baseless claims about the 2020 election. She has been endorsed by Trump, and is aligned with Perdue on how she would have handled last year’s close race if she had been governor.

"Considering how much already at the time information we had about serious irregularities and problems with the election, I would not have certified it right then," Lake said in an October interview with the far-right One America News Network, which helped fundraise for the Maricopa investigation.