TheRepublican secretary of state in Georgia said he believes that President Donald Trump cost himself votes with his campaign to undermine mail-in voting.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Trump’s frequent and unsubstantiated accusations that mail-in voting is ripe for fraud likely contributed to 24,500 people who voted by absentee ballot in the state’s Republican primary not voting in the Nov. 3 election — possibly accounting for President-elect Joe Biden’s 13,000-vote advantage in the state.
“In effect, what you’re doing is you are suppressing your own voters,” Raffensperger said in a telephone interview. “I have no control over what campaigns do, and if they do ill-advised actions that suppress their own vote, what can I do?”
Raffensperger also said he believes that Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, tried to urge him to throw out absentee ballots. The state official criticized what he called a “campaign of misinformation, disinformation and outright lies about the process in Georgia.”
The Trump campaign has said it’s found widespread voting irregularities but has cited little evidence to substantiate its claims and none has emerged. Trump and his allies have also filed lawsuits in the state. One, alleging that fewer than 60 absentee ballots in Chatham County were improperly counted, has already been dismissed, while another that seeks to stop the state from certifying results is pending.
Raffensperger said that the state, which is conducting a hand recount of 5 million ballots cast in the election, is on track to complete that process by Wednesday night’s deadline and that he doesn’t expect significant changes in the vote totals. The state will also certify the results by Friday if a court doesn’t intervene. Trump can ask for a recount after that with ballots run through scanners, he said.
Trump’s campaign is pointing tothe discovery from the audit that Floyd County failed to count about 2,600 ballots as proof of irregularities and fraud, but state officials blamed human error and called for the county elections director to resign. The newly counted votes gave Trump a net gain of about 800 votes.
An additional 2,755 votes from a memory card also were not processed in Fayette County, adding 449 votes to Trump’s net total and reducing Biden’s vote advantage in the state to 12,929, Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, said on a call with reporters. There’s also a potential 224 additional votes in Walton County being verified, he said.
Gabriel said the audit so far shows that 57 counties had no difference in results, 21 changed by plus or minus a single vote and 32 counties had a vote difference in the single digits.
Graham, a South Carolina Republican, disputed Raffensperger’s accusation that he urged the Georgia secretary of state to toss ballots, first reported in the Washington Post, calling it “ridiculous.
“What I’m trying to find is how do you verify signatures on mail-in ballots in these states that are the center of attention,” Graham said.
But Raffensperger said Graham and Trump aren’t taking into account how the signature-matching system has been strengthened, including the addition of an online portal to allow photo identification to be used.
The secretary of state’s office has been batting down rumors and half-truths about the election almost daily, including from the Trump campaign, he said.
“It’s just an outright lie what people are saying,” Raffensperger said.
Georgia’s two Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, have called on Raffensperger to resign. Republican Representative Doug Collins, a close ally of the president who’s overseeing the recount for the campaign, has also criticized Raffensperger.
“I guess if you’re a shill for President Trump you can get away with it, no one holds him accountable,” Raffensperger said of Collins.
Raffensperger said the audit now being completed should give voters confidence in the results.
“The reason we’ve done an audit is that we make sure that every legal vote has been counted, and that should give people assurance that we’re making sure that it’s a thorough process so there can be no question afterwards,” he said.
— With assistance by Brett Pulley
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