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Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger Gives Thumbs Up to New Voting Bill

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger supports a last-minute bill the legislature passed giving the Georgia Bureau of Investigations jurisdiction over election fraud allegations, he said Thursday at an Athens Area Chamber of Commerce event.

On the heels of last year’s controversial Senate Bill 202, legislators this year considered more election regulations, including allowing anyone to inspect paper ballots. But a Senate committee stripped House Bill 1464, leaving only a provision allowing people to take a two-hour break to vote early. In the waning hours of the legislative session’s last day Apr. 4, House and Senate lawmakers agreed to reinsert the provision giving the GBI jurisdiction over election fraud.

Opponents have called the bill an effort to intimidate voters away from the polls. In a breakfast speech at the Athens Country Club, Raffensperger said he welcomes the GBI’s involvement. In the aftermath of the tightly contested 2020 election, he called in the GBI to assist his office’s 22 investigators in auditing Cobb County’s absentee ballots.

Those investigators found just two signature mismatches out of 15,000 ballots, Raffensberger said, both because someone signed a ballot for their spouse. He also knocked down other right-wing conspiracy theories about the election, won narrowly by President Joe Biden, noting that investigations found that just four dead people and about 70 felons had voted illegally out of a record 5 million voters, and that Donald Trump and his top lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, doctored video of vote counting at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The GBI, FBI and Bobby Christine, Trump’s hand-picked U.S. attorney, all investigated and found no wrongdoing.

“There’s all this disinformation, but here’s what happened: 28,000 voters skipped the presidential election but voted down-ballot,” Raffensperger said, laying the blame for Trump’s defeat at the feet of his campaign. He also criticized Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams for contesting the election results in 2018.

“Maybe campaign consultants need to quit finding scapegoats and accept the fact that their campaign came up short,” he said.

The ex-president famously pressured Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” to tip Georgia to Trump. Raffensperger said it was not hard to find the courage to resist. “It’s not exciting—I’m sorry, I’m an engineer—but my job is to follow the law, follow the Constitution,” he said.

Since then, Trump has been on a “revenge tour,” holding a rally in Commerce last month to promote Gov. Brian Kemp’s Republican opponent, former Sen. David Perdue, as well as U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who’s running against Raffensperger on a platform of promoting the lie that the election was stolen.

While Democrats have lauded Raffensperger for standing up to Trump, the secretary of state has also vexed them by supporting SB 202, which critics say could chill voter turnout by requiring photo ID to vote by mail, limiting drop boxes and prohibiting passing out food and water to voters in line. Raffensperger said those regulations will promote election security and restore confidence in elections. A provision allowing the state to oust local elections boards, he said, was aimed at Fulton County, which has had frequent election problems for decades. Raffensperger also said his office is currently investigating potential “ballot harvesting” at drop boxes—the illegal practice of collecting ballots from multiple voters and turning them in.

Raffensperger also said the country needs more organizations like chambers of commerce and rotary clubs to bring people together to work toward common interests. “It’s really simple how we fix society,” he said. “We have to get back to the values our parents raised us by.”