Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger hasn’t exactly had it easy since he took office in 2019.
His own party censured him June 5 at the Georgia GOP convention for failing to stop what some Republicans believe was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election which saw the state “turn blue” for the first time since 1992.
Two Republican candidates, Jody Hice and David Belle Isle, have already announced they’ll run against Raffensperger in the 2022 primary. And, the licensed civil engineer and businessman said he and his family, and a handful of other elections officials in the state, have gotten death threats as recently as April.
Democrats, meanwhile, claim the state’s Election Integrity Act of 2021 is an effort to suppress voter turnout, with former Democrat candidate for governor Stacy Abrams calling it Jim Crow 2.0.
Raffensperger, in the area Tuesday to honor longtime Bulloch County elections official Pat Jones and meet with regional election officials, called such claims “disinformation,” while saying the 2020 election was “the most secure, most accurate and most verified in history.”
Similarly, he said efforts by “cyber criminals and overly aggressive political operatives” led to the passage of the Election Integrity Act of 2021.
“We have to continue to improve to stay ahead of bad actors,” Raffensperger said, noting the state’s new requirement replacing signature matches on absentee ballots with photo ID and birth date will make the absentee ballot process more secure.
Raffensperger also disputed reports the Election Integrity Act, or Senate Bill 202, newly bans the provision of food, water or other gifts to voters standing in line to vote, noting previous election law also limited political groups from providing such items within 150 feet of a polling place, Raffensperger said.
In addition, SB 2020 requires that precincts shorten waits in line to one-hour to less, and the secretary of state said if that doesn’t occur, the precinct will get additional equipment or be split in half to accommodate voters.
Despite being censured by Republicans last week, Raffensperger said he remains a conservative and “I’ve been a Republican all my life.”
He also called on both parties to tone down what he called “unpatriotic behavior.”
“People on both sides need to hold their own accountable for their behavior and knock it off,” he said. “It’s appalling.”
The threats, Raffensperger said, have tapered off, but the last one against his family came April 24.
“We don’t have as many as we used to get post-election,” he said. “I’m an elected official, so I understand why it can happen. But my wife and kids, that should be off limits. We really need to start holding ourselves accountable, and that means looking in our own back yard as well as at the far fringes on both sides.”
Raffensperger said the biggest surprise for him coming out of the 2020 election was the behavior of some of those in his own party.
“I always thought Republicans wore the white hats,” he said, adding those in office who condoned violence or threats on both sides were wrong.
“When BLM was tearing up and destroying cities, you never heard Democratic leadership say that was wrong, that needed to be stopped. Likewise it needs to be stopped if it happens on my side of the aisle,” Raffensperger said.
He added that Republicans need to unite for the 2022 elections, not “continue to look back and work backwards.”