At the beginning of January 2021, then President Donald Trump will be tries to convince Georgia’s Foreign Secretary Brad Raffensperger wants to overturn the state’s election results. Raffensperger rejected Trump’s demands as well as his unfounded allegations of election fraud. Raffensperger is now facing an area code for Rep. Jody Hice in 2022, the Trump approved for Georgia’s Foreign Minister.
In this episode of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, we continue our conversation about challenges to democracy in America by speaking to Raffensperger, whose new book “Integrity matters“Will be released in November. He describes his experience, which was targeted by Trump and his supporters. Raffensperger also criticizes the other Republicans in Georgia for not speaking out against Trump’s false claims of electoral fraud and for removing him as chairman of the Georgia electoral committee that year. And he explains why he did the new electoral laws which Georgia Republicans have passed since the 2020 election. We ask him what all this means for democracy.
Below you can read selected, easily edited excerpts.
Galen Druke, host of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast: Were you or your family afraid? [because of the threats directed at you after the 2020 election]?
Brad Raffensperger: I think we are worried. Apparently we left our house for a few days because they were talking about a big rally up front. And that was only boiled up by people in positions of power, including the president.
GD: Have things settled down on your side? Are people no longer threatening election officials or administrations?
BR: We don’t see that. In the book was the last text – the sexualized texts Tricia got, probably around Easter day. In the name of Jesus – yes, in the name of Jesus – someone threatened her “every day we pray for your death” …
GD: Is that your wife? So that continued after January 6th?
BR: Oh yes, that continued after January 6th.
GD: I know that you supported the electoral changes in Georgia overall this year. But those laws meant that you would no longer be the chairman of the state electoral committee responsible for overseeing the elections in Georgia. This chairmanship is now elected by the state parliament. Does this make the Georgia elections more susceptible to legislative interference?
BR: Well, what it really does is it is currently reducing the accountability of the state electoral board.
GD: Well, responsibility for possibly crazy things being done?
GD: Why do that at all?
BR: Well, and that is one aspect that I did not support. Because when the State Secretary chairs the state election committee, I am accountable by the voters. And so I understand that I am reporting to the voters. Now actually the chairman of the state election committee reports to the General Assembly. If you don’t like the decision you’ve made, who do you call? How are you accountable? It’s so fuzzy that anyone can start pointing a finger, and it becomes like Washington, DC, “Oh, I didn’t. It was that person, it was that person… “How do you hold someone accountable? But when the country’s electoral board is headed by the foreign minister, as has been the case here in Georgia since the beginning of time, you suddenly know that you have to be accountable.
GD: Did you see this as personal retribution?
BR: Oh yeah, [inaudible]. You know it was like that. It was really a blame. People didn’t know who and what had happened, and nobody wanted to take responsibility and really tell everyone the truth and tell the facts here: President Trump did not get any votes from 28,000 voters. You skip. 28,000 people skip the presidential election.
GD: Why don’t Georgia Republicans tell this truth?
BR: Moral courage. Lack of moral courage. And General Patton said that this is probably one of the most missing aspects of humanity.
GD: I mean, that’s a pretty big charge against the Republican MPs in your party for lack of moral courage. Is that why you ask yourself whether this is the party for you?
BR: Oh no it doesn’t. It’s both parties. And we have to be honest about that. People don’t want to be on the left of a lot of the hate speech they hear from their hard left, and people don’t want to be on the hard right. I’m a Capital C Conservative. But sometimes you have to tell people, I think with kindness and gentleness, but you have to tell the truth.
GD: In a way, it sounds like there are compromises in the way electoral and voter laws are drafted. In Georgia, for example, Republicans originally proposed abolishing postal voting for absentee voting. They also thought of banning voting on Sundays, which of course it does – a lot of the Souls-to-the-Polls programs work on Sundays because that’s when people go to church. And that is especially true for Black Georgians. Do you understand why the Democrats had such a negative reaction to this bill in the first place when such provisions were included?
BR: And as it went through the process and calmer minds prevailed, thoughtful people spoke into what you saw and they also had a variety of committee hearings so everyone could be heard including Democrats and all that stuff you just mentioned was deducted from the bill and what came out –
GD: But where are they going with it anyway?
BR: Well, I think in some cases they really did submit bills just to appease angry people. But at the end of the day it never saw the time of day because people realized that we are not really going to implement some of the proposed measures.
GD: Do you think that would have disenfranchised people?
BR: Well we’re done with additional days of early voting. We made the Sunday vote available for any district that wants to keep the Sunday vote. Now all 159 districts are required to have 17 days early voting, and any district can hold Sunday votes if they so choose. So that actually made it more accessible.
GD: what happened there? Are there people in the Republican Party in the state assembly who tried to make it difficult for the Democrats to vote at the beginning?
BR: There were many thoughtful, solid, and serious lawmakers who put their votes to good use. And what came out at the end of the day was solid legislation. And much of that other stuff, that chaff, has been separated from the proposed solid wheat.
GD: Is this the stuff you would speak out against if it were ever suggested again?
BR: It died on the floor. I don’t think we’ll see it again.
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