Anger has erupted over claims Republican leaders have been putting pressure on election officials to throw out ballots in an expected Georgia presidential election recount.
In a wide-ranging interview published by the Washington Post Monday (local time), the Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger said he has come under increasing pressure in recent days from fellow Republicans to find ways to disqualify non-Trump ballots.
Georgia proved incredibly close in the presidential race, with challenger Joe Biden managing to flip the state for the Democrats for the first time since 1992. But his winning margin, which currently sits at just over 13,200, is close enough to allow for a recount.
South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham has allegedly implied that Raffensperger could oversee the tossing of ballots using state counties’ signature matching laws on absentee ballots as the reason.
Graham asked him whether political bias might have caused elections workers to accept ballots with non-matching signatures and whether Raffensperger could throw out all absentee ballots in counties with higher rates of non-matching signatures.
The Georgia secretary of state said he was shocked by Graham ostensibly floating the idea.
“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” he told the Washington Post.
Graham, a longtime Republican senator, denied the claim, calling it “ridiculous”.
“What I'm trying to find out was how do you verify signatures for mail in ballots in these states ... I thought it was a good conversation, I'm surprised to hear him characterise it that way,” he said in a statement.
In a later interview with CNN, Raffensperger stood firm on his recounting of events.
“He asked if the ballots could be matched back to the voters,” he said. “And then he, I got the sense it implied that then you could throw those out ... if you look at the counties with the highest frequent error of signatures. So that's the impression that I got,” he said.
“It was just an implication of, 'Look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out'.”
Raffensperger also told the Washington Post that he and his wife have received death threats in recent days.
“Other than getting you angry, it’s also very disillusioning,” he said.
Accusation prompts furious response
The accusation levelled at Graham has sparked fury among Democrats and many voters online.
“Turns out the GOP was crying voter fraud on the Democrats’ part while they were doing it themselves. This is shameful and illegal,” one chided on Twitter.
Norman Ornstein, a political scientist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, said it was “a real test” for the Senate Ethics Committee and suggested it warranted expulsion or censure of Graham if the “apparent illegal and immoral pressure” was confirmed.
“Lindsey Graham should be expelled from the Senate for trying to subvert free and fair elections,” said Ari Berman, Author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.
Democratic Virginia congressman Don Beyer was also quick to call out the potential scandal.
“If true, Senator Lindsey Graham’s attempted election fixing is a major scandal,” he tweeted this afternoon.
Zac Petkanas, a former Hillary Clinton adviser fumed online, calling for the resignation of Graham, saying “anti-democratic authoritarianism is part of the Republican Party's DNA now.”
We have a real test for the Senate Ethics Committee, one I expect they will fail, over Lindsey Graham's apparent illegal and immoral pressure on GA Sec of State to toss legal ballots. Worthy of expulsion, at least censure.
— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) November 17, 2020
If true, Senator Lindsey Graham’s attempted election fixing is a major scandal. https://t.co/UISsl5batn
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) November 17, 2020
Cong. Doug Collins was an Air Force chaplain, Sen. Lindsey Graham was a John McCain acolyte. Both now are pressuring Georgia's Republican Secretary of State to throw out legal ballots to fix the presidential recount for Trump. It won't work & they have forfeited their integrity.
— Albert Hunt (@AlHuntDC) November 17, 2020
News that Lindsey Graham tried to overturn the election needs to be a radicalizing wake up call for (small d) democrats
It's a clear sign the fever will not break when Trump leaves office
The illiberal anti-democratic authoritarianism is part of the Republican Party's DNA now
— Zac Petkanas (@Zac_Petkanas) November 17, 2020
Audit finds more votes in Georgia
County election officials around the state worked through the weekend on a hand tally of the votes in the presidential race as part of a legally mandated audit to ensure the new election machines counted the votes accurately.
Once the tally is complete and the results are certified, the losing campaign can request a recount, which would be done using scanners that read and tally the votes.
Election officials said Monday that the hand tally had turned up more than 2500 votes in one county that weren’t previously counted but that that won’t alter the overall outcome of the race.
The unofficial breakdown of those votes was 1,643 for Trump, 865 for Biden, according to Gabriel Sterling, a top elections official.
“The reason you do an audit is to find this kind of thing,” Sterling said.
He said the issue appeared to be an isolated problem after a file didn’t upload properly and that there were “no fundamental changes” in other counties.
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