By DONOVAN HARRELL
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger called for more bipartisanship and integrity from elected officials when addressing issues related to election security and accessibility.
Raffensperger, who famously denied former President Donald Trump’s requests to overturn the 2020 election, and Pitt Cyber Founding Director David Hickton discussed previous elections, election security, recent changes in the Georgia electoral process and more during a virtual conversation on Nov. 8.
The event, hosted by Pitt Cyber and the Institute of Politics, is a part of Pitt Cyber’s bipartisan “Protecting Democracy and Securing Our Elections” series, where experts gather to discuss election security, democracy and more.
Raffensperger has been Georgia secretary of state since January 2019, and he previously served in the state’s House of Representatives. In recent months, he’s called for vote reform in his state to promote more confidence in the election process.
As secretary of state, Raffensperger chaired the state election board until the state’s General Assembly passed a controversial bill earlier this year that, among other changes, created new voter ID requirements, shortened the time people can request absentee ballots and made it illegal for people to approach voters in line, even people offering food and water. There hasn’t been any evidence of widespread voter fraud in previous elections.
Opponents say this bill disproportionately limits voting access for African-Americans and promotes more widespread voter suppression.
With this new bill, the General Assembly will appoint the chair of the state election board, and the governor will have to approve the appointment.
Hickton and Raffensperger discussed events leading to the 2020 presidential election, ballot counting, and the now-infamous conversation with Trump.
Raffensperger said there was a wave of disinformation that was spread after the election, with claims that there was widespread voter fraud. As the ballots were being counted on election day, once the votes shifted in Biden’s favor, people started to question the results, he said.
He officially certified the vote count two weeks after the election. Raffensperger said he also audited every single paper ballot by hand and did a 100 percent recount.
“The advantage of doing a hand recount, we found three counties that had issues,” he said. “We found those issues in some counties that went to the benefit of now-President Biden and some went to the benefit of President Trump. But overall, it did not change the initial results that President Trump came up short.”
Raffensperger said that even though no election is perfect, there weren’t nearly as many issues with the vote count as Trump had raised. Trump claimed that thousands of dead people had votes counted, when in reality, there were less than five; that thousands of felons voted when there were less than 74; and that 66,000 votes came from underage voters, even though they all turned 18 before the election.
Raffensperger said the call with Trump lasted an hour and 10 minutes. He said he made sure he was presenting precise, accurate numbers with Trump since everything he said could be used in court if necessary.
When Hickton asked Raffensperger how he felt about the call, Raffensperger said he was mainly focused on following the law and the constitution.
“I knew that there weren’t votes to find. And my job is to follow my oath of office, to follow the Constitution. And that’s what I did,” Raffensperger said. “It’s as simple as that. It wasn’t fun because we had a cascade of angry people that didn’t understand.”
Raffensperger didn’t say if he was threatened or not, “but I understand the power of some of the levers that the federal government has.”
“But I also knew that we stood on the facts, we stood on the truth,” he said. “And so I felt that, yes, I hear what he’s saying, I know that I follow the law. And at the end of the day, I always believe that truth wins out.”
He talks more about the call in his book, “Integrity Counts,” where he also shares his opinions on how to fix the political divide in the U.S.
“You really want to fix America? Here’s my big solution. It’s not really complicated,” Raffensperger said. “We need more integrity. We just need to lean back into those values we got from our parents, grandparents. We call them small-town values now, but, but I like to tell people, it didn’t matter if you were some kid from Brooklyn, New York, or from the coalfields of West Virginia, or cotton fields of South Georgia when we went to fight in WWII, you really had unified values … and that was just decency, integrity, honesty, be nice to each other, be respectful for all Americans.”
A recording of the event is available through the Protecting Democracy Series.
Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-383-9905.
Have a story idea or news to share? Share it with the University Times.