Georgia’s secretary of state says Lindsey Graham suggested he throw out legal ballots – The Guardian

The Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, has said that Senator Lindsey Graham asked whether it was possible to invalidate legally cast ballots after Donald Trump was narrowly defeated in the state.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Raffensperger said Graham, the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, questioned him about the state’s signature-matching law and asked whether political bias might have played a role in counties where poll workers accepted higher rates of mismatched signatures. According to Raffensperger, Graham then asked whether he had the authority to toss out all mail-in ballots in these counties.

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Raffspenger was reportedly “stunned” by the question, in which Graham appeared to suggest that he find a way to throw out legally cast absentee ballots.

“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” he said.

Graham confirmed the conversation to reporters on Capitol Hill but said it was “ridiculous” to suggest that he pressured Raffensperger to throw out legally cast absentee ballots. According to Graham, he only wanted to learn more about the process for verifying signatures, because what happens in Georgia “affects the whole nation”.

“I thought it was a good conversation,” Graham said on Monday after the interview was published. “I’m surprised to hear he characterized it that way.”

Trump has refused to accept results showing Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election, falsely blaming rampant fraud and irregularities that election officials in both parties have dismissed as meritless.

Georgia’s secretary of state announces election vote recount – video

Georgia, a reliably Republican state with 16 electoral votes, is currently conducting a hand recount of roughly 5m presidential ballots, which is expected to be completed by 20 November. Biden led in the state by about 14,000 votes after the initial tally.

This comes as Raffensberger faces mounting backlash from his own party after defending the state’s electoral process. The state’s two Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both locked in tight run-off elections to keep their seats, have called for Raffensberger’s resignation – calls that Raffensberger has dismissed.

Congressman Doug Collins of Georgia, who is spearheading the president’s effort to prove fraud in the state, has also been critical of Raffensberger, accusing him of siding with Democrats because he refused to endorse the false claim that the election was stolen from Trump. In the interview, Raffensberger called Collins, who has not contested the result of the special election race he lost to Loeffler, a “liar” and a “charlatan”.

Raffensberger said every accusation of voter fraud would be thoroughly vetted but there was currently no credible evidence that wrongdoing had occurred on a large enough scale to affect the outcome of the election. He also told the Post that the recount would “affirm” the results of the initial count and prove the accuracy of the Dominion voting machines, which Trump has falsely claimed deleted votes cast for him.

Voting rights and ethics groups condemned Graham’s comments, and some called for his resignation as chair of the Senate judiciary committee.

“Not only is it wrong for Senator Graham to apparently contemplate illegal behavior, but his suggestion undermines the integrity of our elections and the faith of the American people in our democracy,” said Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, in a statement. “Under the guise of rooting out election fraud, it looks like Graham is suggesting committing it.”