Republicans are at each other’s throats in Georgia, where the Secretary of State brushed back attacks from his state’s two U.S. senators after his handling of last week’s election.
“As a Republican, I am concerned about Republicans keeping the U.S. Senate,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement Monday afternoon. “I recommend that Senators Loeffler and Perdue start focusing on that.”
The sparring between the three Republicans comes not only as president-elect Joe Biden appeared to eke out in the Peach State, but also as Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue failed to win the majority of the votes to avoid a January runoff. Control of the Senate is expected to be at stake.
But at the moment, top Republicans are too busy doing their best ‘Lord of the Flies’ impression. In a blistering joint statement Monday afternoon, Loeffler and Perdue said Raffensperger “has failed the people of Georgia, and he should step down immediately.”
“The management of Georgia elections has become an embarrassment for our state,” they said in the statement. The two senators did not offer evidence to back up their claims of “mismanagement and lack of transparency,” by Raffensperger or the unfounded accusation that “he has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections.”
Roughly an hour later, Raffensperger issued a lengthy statement of his own where he made clear he would not resign. “If I was Senator Perdue, I’d be irritated I was in a runoff. And both Senators and I are all unhappy with the potential outcome for our President,” Raffensperger said in the statement.
But the chief elections official in Georgia went on to defend the November contest as “a resounding success,” and added that “the process of reporting results has been orderly and followed the law,” while also calling the criticisms about transparency” laughable,” given the consistent updates provided to reporters.
“Was there illegal voting?” Raffensperger said. “I am sure there was. And my office is investigating all of it. Does it rise to the numbers or margin necessary to change the outcome to where President Trump is given Georgia’s electoral votes? That is unlikely.”
A spokesman for Gov. Brian Kemp, also a Republican and the former secretary of state in Georgia, offered a less fiery statement after Raffensperger snapped back at the two senators in what amounted to the governor telling Raffensperger to do what Kemp’s successor has already made clear he’s doing.
“Given the close outcome and the record number of mail-in and absentee ballots cast in this election, this needs to be a wake up call to the Secretary of State’s office to take a serious look at any and all voting irregularity allegations that have been made,” Kemp’s press secretary Cody Hall tweeted.
The GOP bickering in Georgia was turned up to maximum volume after a leading official from the Republican-led Georgia’s Secretary of State’s office began a press conference Monday ticking through misinformation and falsehoods that have attempted to undermine the integrity of the state’s presidential election, disproving them one by one.
‘The facts are the facts regardless of outcomes,” Gabriel Sterling, the statewide voting system implementation manager in Georgia, said before disproving both conspiracy theories and explaining issues that have arisen. “And that's one of the things we're focusing on here is getting our count accurate and right, giving accurate information so that [at] the end of the day everybody, regardless of whose side won and whose side lost, understands that in Georgia, we had an actual accurate outcome."
Sterling also highlighted the attack that “Georgia suddenly flipped from Republican for years to Democrat,” before cutting that to pieces as well, saying “anybody who has been here is aware of the fact that none of this was sudden.”
“None of this is really overly surprising to the pundits who track what's going on in Georgia,” he said.
As of Monday morning, Biden led Trump in the state by 10,353 votes according to data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. Just after 4 p.m. Monday, Biden’s lead had grown slightly, totalling 11,589 votes.
Biden continued to cut away at Trump’s lead in the state after election day, as the GOP led elections office repeatedly made clear they were committed to accurately showing the will of the state’s voters.
A Democrat has not won the state in a presidential election since Bill Clinton did so in 1992, but the 2018 race for governor showed a shift in the state due to the close race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and current Gov. Brian Kemp.
During the press conference Monday Sterling, a Republican, criticized those “trying to undermine the system that was put together so hard by the secretary's office and those county elections directors.” But he did say he expected to find some illegal votes were cast in the election. That isn’t likely to be on the widespread level that Trump and others have appeared to hope for however as they offer no accurate evidence to back their claims in other close swing states.
“We are going to find that people did illegally vote,” Sterling said. “That’s going to happen. There are going to be double voters. There are going to be people who did not have the qualifications of a registered voter to vote in this state. That will be found. Is it 10,353? Unlikely.”
Given the tightness of the race, Raffensperger told reporters during a press conference Friday morning “out of approximately five million votes cast, we’ll have a margin of a few thousand,” before predicting “with a margin that small, there will be a recount in Georgia.”
Sterling pledged that the state will continue investigating concerns about the vote, but noted that "it doesn't mean anything happened. It doesn't mean anything didn't happen.”
“What we have to find is evidence of something happening,” he said. “And that's the main goal of our investigators when they go out there.”
Even though Biden does not need to win Georgia to have secured the 270 electoral votes needed to become president, a victory in the state would be a major source of pride for both the president-elect and Democrats in Georgia who have been determined to flip the state blue in recent years. It would also likely help create a surge in momentum as Democrats try to win control of the Senate through Georgia’s two January Senate runoffs.
But Trump has yet to concede the election as his campaign continues to make claims of widespread voter fraud that they have not been able to prove. Trump has long been focused on mass voter fraud costing him at the ballot box, including back in 2016 when he lied and claimed falsely that millions of illegal votes cost him the moral victory of a popular vote win over Democrat Hillary Clinton, even as he defeated her in the electoral college vote.
And on Sunday night, the Trump campaign announced that Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) would “lead the campaign’s recount team in Georgia, where a recount will begin as soon as the canvassing has concluded.”
Collins, an ardent Trump ally, ran in an open contest for one of the state’s two U.S. Senate seats, only to fall short of making it to the January runoff.
“During the coming recount, we are confident we will find evidence of improperly harvested ballots and other irregularities that will prove that President Trump won Georgia fairly again on his way to re-election as President,” Collins said in a statement provided by the Trump campaign.
But so far, the kind of issues Collins is alleging aren’t being backed by Georgia officials. During a press conference Friday, Sterling said “We're not seeing any widespread irregularities, we're not seeing anything widespread. We are investigating any credible accusation with any real evidence behind it.”
Days later during an appearance on CNN Monday morning, Georgia’s GOP Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said his office was “in close communication,” with both the attorney general's office and the secretary of state's office, "and made sure that if there's any sort of systemic examples of fraud or voter disenfranchisement across the voting base, to let us know."
“We've not had any sort of credible incidents raised to our level yet,” Duncan said. “And so we'll continue to make sure that the opportunity to make sure every legal ballot is counted is there, but at this point we've not seen any sort of credible examples.”