BY: QUINN SCANLAN, ABC NEWS
(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Sunday that President Donald Trump lost the state of Georgia.
He defended the integrity of the general election, saying that while they have more than 250 investigations underway, so far, his office has yet to find evidence supporting “systemic fraud” that would change the outcome.
“We’ve never found systemic fraud — not enough to overturn the election. We have over 250 cases right now … but right now we don’t see anything that would overturn, you know, the will of the people here in Georgia,” Raffensperger, a Republican, told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos during an interview on “This Week.”
“There’s no doubt in your mind President Trump lost the state of Georgia, lost the election?” Stephanopoulos pressed.
“Yeah … sad but true. I wish he would have won. I’m a conservative Republican, and I’m disappointed, but those are the results,” the secretary said.
The state of Georgia will soon re-certify its election results for the second time, following the third count of the nearly 5 million votes cast in the presidential race. The state has already concluded a hand audit of every single vote cast for president, and despite it reaffirming the results of the first count — that President-elect Joe Biden flipped Georgia blue — the Trump campaign requested a machine recount of the votes, which they were legally allowed to do since the margin between Trump and Biden was less than 0.5% of all votes cast.
In the weeks since the election, Trump has continued to deny the results of the election, which was on full display at a rally in Valdosta, Georgia, Saturday night for the state’s two senators, who are in runoffs.
Trump continued his direct attacks on the secretary and Gov. Brian Kemp, calling for signature matching of absentee ballots to be done again and repeating his false assertions about mass voter fraud and election malfeasance, which state and local officials have repeatedly shot down as being untrue.
Raffensperger and one of his top deputies, Gabriel Sterling, also made direct pleas to the president this past week to stop spreading misinformation and condemn those making violent threats against election workers, which Trump has still not personally done. The president instead doubled down on his focus on and ire towards the Peach State’s election, which he lost by more than 10,000 votes.
Raffensperger told “This Week” that his family has received death threats, his wife has received “sexualized text” messages, and the threats have now also been lodged at election workers and members of his office. He said this was “irrational, angry behavior … unpatriotic.”
The secretary’s criticism wasn’t reserved for the president, but also levied at the Georgia Republican Party.
“At the end of the day, we as Republicans didn’t turn out enough voters. Our office, as secretary of state, is really just to look at what those votes — totals were, and we report the results. And that’s why it gets back to the state party (that) didn’t do their job, didn’t raise enough money and didn’t turn out enough people,” Raffensperger said.
Both of the state’s senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, are on the ballot again Jan. 5, facing Democratic challengers in runoff elections that will determine which party controls Congress’ upper chamber. Republicans have increasingly voiced concerns that rhetoric coming from Trump and his allies could suppress GOP turnout in that election.
Asked by Stephanopoulos if he thinks Republicans questioning the election will make it more difficult for the senators to prevail next month, Raffensperger joined those voicing concerns Sunday.
“These distractions, this disunity does make it more difficult” for Loeffler and Perdue to win, he said.
Both senators called on Raffensperger to resign weeks ago, but he said he is still supporting their campaigns.
“I’m a Republican. I vote for Republicans. So I wish them well,” he said.
The Georgia GOP, whose chairman is a plaintiff in an election contest lawsuit with Trump that’s seeking to have a new election ordered, has closely aligned itself with the president’s post-election pursuits and rhetoric, joining his call for the signatures to be re-verified or somehow audited, even though there is no way to match the absentee ballots back to the envelopes they were returned in because the state’s constitution affords voters the right to a secret ballot.
On “This Week,” Stephanopoulos asked Raffensperger to explain the signature matching process and why the criticism it’s receiving is, in the secretary’s view, unwarranted.
In explaining the process, Raffensperger defended how Georgia does signature verification for absentee ballots, saying his office actually strengthened the process and that election officials received training from Georgia Bureau of Investigation experts.
Anyone who applied for an absentee ballot via a paper application had their signature matched twice, he explained. The first time was upon receipt of the application and the second time was upon receipt of the ballot.
For the general election, Raffensperger also created an online absentee ballot application portal, which requires voters to have a Georgia state identification or driver’s license to use. Photo ID is required for in-person voting, and the secretary previously said he wants to also require it for absentee-by-mail voters, saying verification using ID is “objective” while signature matching is “subjective.”
This past week, the president also began calling for a special session of the state legislature. The Washington Post reported Saturday that Trump called Gov. Brian Kemp that morning to urge him to do this and to try to convince members of the legislature to override the will of Georgia voters and appoint new electors who would support Trump over Biden. A spokesman for Kemp confirmed a call took place, but would not confirm this was a topic of conversation.
Kemp has already certified the state’s electors for Biden and transmitted that certification to the National Archives, but he will have to do it again once the secretary’s office re-certifies the election based on the results of the recount.
The only way to call a special session in Georgia is by the governor calling for it or by three-fifths of the both chambers of the General Assembly agreeing to call one. In mid-November, the governor, in a statement co-signed by the speaker of the state House and the lieutenant governor, indicated this wouldn’t happen.
“Any changes to Georgia’s election laws made in a special session will not have any impact on an ongoing election and would only result in endless litigation,” according to the statement.
Pressed by Stephanopoulos about whether this may happen, Raffensperger said he doesn’t “believe that there’s a will in the General Assembly for a special session.”
“That’s beyond my office’s calling — that’s with the governor and the General Assembly, and I’m sure they’ll have conversations, but the end of the day, what they’re really trying to say is if they did that, they would be then nullifying the will of the people,” Raffensperger said.
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said in an interview on CNN Sunday, that he and Kemp have spoken often about this topic and that he “absolutely believes (it) to be the case” that Kemp will not call the legislature into a special session.
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