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Raffensperger: Spread of election misinformation bipartisan endeavor
Olivia Morgan
Elections & Registration Director Olivia Morgan chats with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Monday morning at the Effingham County Elections & Registration Office in Springfield. Raffensperger is visiting election officials throughout the state to discuss election security. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger believes Republicans and Democrats have finally achieved bipartisanship. 

Unfortunately, it is the spread of misinformation about a series of close elections that has united sizeable swaths of both parties, he said.

Raffensperger, who has faced death threats against himself, his family and his office in recent days, discussed the situation during a visit to the Effingham County Elections & Registration Office on Monday.

“At the end of the day, in 2020, we had the most secure and accurate election in Georgia’s history,” Raffensperger said. “All five million ballots were counted three times — the first time in the original count, then we did a 100 percent risk-limiting audit with a hand recount which proved the accuracy of the count and also proved that the machines were accurately counting it, and that no votes were flipped.”

Former President Trump and many of his Republican supporters still don’t believe the final tally of the presidential election that showed Democrat Joe Biden taking the state by about 12,000 votes. In January, Trump called Raffensperger and pressured him to change the total, a dubious move that was brought up during the president’s second impeachment trial.

Republicans, possibly deterred by Trump’s accusation of a “rigged election,” went on to lose both U.S. Senate runoffs in January by margins of 54,944  and 93,272 votes.

“I know that many people were disappointed in the results and, as a Republican, I was also,” Raffensperger said. “I think it’s fair to say that Republicans were surprised and that it was easier for the Democrats to adjust to that new reality than it was for us. I understand that.

“It was a tough election cycle.”

 Democrats, led by unsuccessful 2018 gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, have also questioned the legitimacy of Georgia elections. She lost to Republican Brian Kemp by 54,723 votes.

“She said in her great ‘non-concession speech’ that she couldn’t concede —  and she listed her reasons,” Raffensperger said. “All of it was unfounded but what it did was create doubt and start to destroy confidence in elections.”

Abrams' relentless allegations of voter suppression have been mostly repudiated in court. President Trump’s legal challenges to the 2020 results have also fallen on mostly deaf ears.

“If you go back as far as 2016 when President Trump had a surprise victory, all of a sudden the Democrats were talking about Russian collusion,” Raffensperger said, “so (election attacks) and the spread of misinformation have been bipartisan.”

In an effort to restore confidence in Georgia elections, the General Assembly passed SB 202 last spring. It imposes voter identification requirements on absentee ballots, limits the use of ballot drop boxes, expands early in-person voting, bars officials from sending out unsolicited absentee ballot request forms, reduces the amount of time people have to request an absentee ballot, makes it a crime for outside groups to give food or water to voters waiting in line (although poll workers are still allowed to), gives the state legislature greater control over election administration, and shortens runoff elections, among other provisions.

As a result of SB 202, Georgia boasts 17 days of mandatory early voting, up from 16 days, including two mandatory Saturdays and two optional Sundays. Sunday voting days are now a permanent part of state law.

In addition, all 159 counties must have at least one election drop box. Thirty-five counties didn’t have one in 2020.

Counties can add an additional drop box per 100,000 in population.

Raffensperger said SB 202 gives Georgians plenty of ways to access the ballot box regardless of what Democrats and the national media allege.

“I’m really here today to give a shout out to all the county election directors and the election workers,” he said. “When you think about all the challengers your county election workers had to face and overcome last year because of COVID-19, I don’t know where to begin but finding new poll workers had to be number one.”

The pandemic precluded many poll workers from participating in the 2020 election because they are of an advanced age and susceptible to the disease.

“Prior to the pandemic, the average age for a poll worker was 72,” Raffensperger said.

The secretary of state, who intends to seek a second term next year, applauded election directors for finding new poll workers, keeping them and voters safe from COVID-19, and keeping wait times on election day low despite using new voting machines.

“They work really hard,” he said, “so we just have to make sure that we understand last year was a successful November in Georgia — not for the results that perhaps my Republican friends wanted, I get that — but we had a safe and secure election.”