NEW YORK, USA, JUN 17, 2020: Silhouette of republican candidate Donald Trump and democratic candidate Joe Biden. 2020 United States presidential election. US vote, Concept photo for November 3, 2020

2020 election looms large over Georgia Secretary of State debate


Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s three Republican challengers accused him Monday to failing to adequately investigate allegations of voter fraud following the 2020 presidential election.

Raffensperger shot back during an hourlong debate livestreamed by Georgia Public Broadcasting that his office examined every allegation and found nothing that would have affected the results.

Raffensperger’s opponents in the May 24 Republican primary include U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro, former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle and T.J. Hudson, a former probate judge from Soperton. Hice has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, whom Raffensperger crossed in early January of last year when he refused in a taped phone conversation to try to “find” the votes necessary for Trump to overcome his loss in Georgia to Democrat Joe Biden.

But while Hice enjoys Trump’s backing, all three GOP challengers charged Raffensperger Monday with mishandling the aftermath of the 2020 election.

“This past election was an absolute disaster,” said Hice, who faulted the incumbent for sending our 6.9 million absentee ballot request forms to Georgia voters and installing drop boxes across the state to collect absentee ballots, both measures taken to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

Belle Isle said Raffensperger stood by and ignored accusations of voter fraud, allowing Biden to be certified the winner of Georgia’s 16 electoral votes.

“He has failed to be curious,” Belle Isle said. “He’s never questioned the results.”

Hudson said he’s the only one of Raffensperger’s challengers who has run elections. He blamed the incumbent for not distributing enough resources to local elections offices to properly monitor the distribution of absentee ballots.

“During a pandemic, I understand [using drop boxes],” Hudson added. “But that was on his watch.”

Raffensperger said his office investigated 10,315 claims of dead voters casting ballots and found only four were true. Investigators also didn’t turn up a single ballot cast by an underage voter, he said.

The secretary said his top priority moving forward is preventing non-U.S. citizens from voting.

“[Democratic gubernatorial candidate] Stacey Abrams is suing us right now so she can put non-citiznes on the voter rolls,” Raffensperger said. “I’m the only one trying to stop her.”

Despite their sharp disagreements the Raffensperger, all three challengers and the incumbent agreed on a couple of issues. All four said they support legislation the General Assembly passed last month giving the Georgia Bureau of Investigation the authority to investigate allegations of voter fraud without having to be brought into a case by local elections officials, the State Election Board or the attorney general’s office.

Legislative Democrats argued the bill would result in voter suppression because GBI involvement potentially could intimidate voters.

The Republican candidates also unanimously called for an end to the current practice of automatically registering Georgians to vote when they go on the state Department of Drivers Services’ website to renew their driver’s license. The DDS temporarily ended automatic registration when the agency revamped its website, but recently restored automatic registration.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

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