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Georgia's Election Chief Is Pressured To Invalidate Legally Cast Ballots

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Republican overseeing Georgia's elections says his fellow Republicans are pressuring him to throw out legal votes. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is conducting a recount. President-elect Biden leads Georgia by about 14,000 votes, which is a lot more votes than a recount usually changes. Raffensperger acknowledged on CNN yesterday how this is likely to turn out.

(SOUNDBITE OF CNN BROADCAST)

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: I understand how contentious it is. We're going to follow the process. We follow the law. The results will be what they are. I'm going to be probably disappointed because I was rooting for the Republicans to win, obviously. But I have a process. I have a law that I follow. Integrity in this office matters.

INSKEEP: But the secretary of state says some prominent Republicans have been asking him if he can do a little more for their side. He also spoke with Amy Gardner of The Washington Post, who is on the line. Good morning.

AMY GARDNER: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What exactly do some top Republicans want the secretary of state of Georgia to do?

GARDNER: They're asking him to look for fraud. They're asking him to speak more forcefully about the likelihood that the only way President-elect Biden and his allies could have won Georgia is by cheating. And Raffensperger has broadcast loud and clear that he's not going to do that, that he hasn't found any evidence of widespread fraud that would be difference-making. He's promised to investigate every allegation of fraud. And he's clear that fraud happens in small amounts every election. But he's taken steps since his election in 2018 to make Georgia's elections more secure. And so he's a little bit angry about these attacks.

INSKEEP: He told you that Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina made a particularly unusual request.

GARDNER: Lindsey Graham wanted to speak to him by phone. They spoke on Friday. And he was asking him about how the signature matching system works in Georgia. You're required - the poll workers have to check your signature on your absentee ballot against a signature on file. And if it doesn't match, the ballot is rejected. And Lindsey Graham suggested to Secretary Raffensperger that there must be signatures that get accepted that shouldn't be accepted because of political bias in certain counties. And would it be possible in counties where there were high rejection rates to actually throw out all of the ballots in those counties?

INSKEEP: Meaning let's focus - this is essentially what Lindsey Graham is saying - let's focus on Democratic counties and throw out a bunch of votes in Democratic counties. That's where he's going with this.

GARDNER: As Secretary Raffensperger said, that's what he heard. And Lindsey Graham - Senator Graham, by the way, was approached by reporters on Capitol Hill last night after the story broke and vigorously denied that he was seeking to have legal ballots thrown out. He said that was ridiculous.

INSKEEP: Although it seems to me from Lindsey Graham's statement, he acknowledged some essential parts of this story. He, a senator from a different state, for some reason was calling the secretary of state in Georgia to talk about this recount.

GARDNER: And to specifically talk about the signature matching process, what the rejection rate was, whether there was a possibility that ballots that had been accepted shouldn't have been. And his call came on the same day that a lawsuit was filed on behalf of President Trump addressing this very same issue and on the same day that President Trump tweeted about this very same issue.

INSKEEP: And you mentioned the lawsuit. Of course, there have been many lawsuits across the country. And none of them have changed a vote or gone anywhere so far. How, as far as you can tell, is Secretary of State Raffensperger handling the pressure on him?

GARDNER: So my first inkling that he was getting a little irritated by the pressure he was receiving from the Republicans came last week when he held a press conference updating the public on the election, surrounded himself with local election officials and celebrated their hard work. These are the same people that his fellow Republicans were calling criminals, essentially, for having allegedly stolen the election, despite no evidence for that. This week, it's a little different. His wife, Tricia, and he have received death threats. His wife has COVID, and he and his entire senior management team are in quarantine at home while they oversee a statewide recount. And he's angrier now. So I think his tone has changed, and he's fed up.

INSKEEP: Amy Gardner, thanks for your reporting.

GARDNER: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Amy Gardner is a national political reporter for The Washington Post. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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