- Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger said he has been under pressure from members of his own party, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, who he accused of encouraging him to find ways to throw out legal ballots.
- Graham denied the allegations but confirmed that he had asked Raffensberger about the state’s signature verification system.
- Around the same time, President Trump also claimed that signatures were not being matched in the recount he requested. The signatures were already verified twice and are not re-verified during recounts to protect voter privacy.
- Raffensberger has continually defended the integrity of the election, even as he and his wife have been receiving death threats since the two Republican Senators in runoffs asked him to resign and claimed, without evidence, there were irregularities in the election.
Raffensberger Says He’s Under Pressure
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger accused Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Sc.) of encouraging him to throw out legal ballots in an interview with The Washington Post Monday.
Since Election Day, Georgia has become the center of the political world. Not only is the state home to the two Senate runoffs that will determine control of the chamber, but it is also nearing the end of a historic hand-recount of 5 million ballots. President Donald Trump requested that recount after former Vice President Joe Biden was projected to win the state by about 14,000 votes.
In the interview with The Post, Raffensperger said that as the state’s top election official, he was under enormous pressure from his own party.
That effort was launched two weeks ago when Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — the two incumbent Republicans facing runoffs — took the unprecedented step of asking Raffensperger to resign and claimed, without any evidence, that there were irregularities in the election process.
Raffensberger defended himself and denied the unfounded claims, arguing that there was no credible evidence that there had been any election fraud on a scale large enough to sway the outcome of the election.
But since then, the pressure has only mounted, with Raffensberger also telling The Post that both he and his wife started receiving death threats right after the senators sent that letter.
President Trump has also helped escalate the situation. In a tweet over the weekend, Trump called Raffensberger a republican in name only (RINO), and claimed that the top election official “won’t let the people checking the ballots see the signatures for fraud. Why? Without this the whole process is very unfair and close to meaningless. Everyone knows that we won the state.”
Most of the claims in that tweet, which was flagged by Twitter, are either misleading or downright false. First of all, recounts are meant to review ballots, not signatures. Absentee voters do not even sign the ballots but the envelopes they come in, which are permanently separated from the ballots after they are verified to protect voter privacy.
Beyond that, the process for verifying the envelope signatures in Georgia is exceedingly thorough. Signatures were already verified twice by election officials: once when absentee voters applied for the ballots, and then again when they sent them in.
Lindsey Graham Allegations
However, Raffensberger alleged in his interview with The Post that Sen. Graham echoed Trump’s claims and pressed him about the state’s election process during a call on Friday.
“In their conversation, Graham questioned Raffensperger about the state’s signature-matching law and whether political bias could have prompted poll workers to accept ballots with nonmatching signatures, according to Raffensperger,” The Post reported.
“Graham also asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures,” the report continued. “Raffensperger said he was stunned that Graham appeared to suggest that he find a way to toss legally cast ballots,”
When asked by reporters about the call, Graham confirmed that he had in fact called Raffesnberger to ask about Georgia’s signature-matching requirements but denied that he had suggested that Raffensperger throw out legal ballots, calling the accusation “ridiculous.”
“The main issue for me is: How do you protect the integrity of mail-in voting, and how does signature verification work?” he added.
When asked about Graham’s response during an interview with CNN last night, Raffensberger stood his ground.
“It’s just an implication that look hard and see how many ballots you can throw out,” he said of Grahams remarks.
Response and Backlash
Many social media users condemned Graham and said that he should be investigated. Some pointed out the apparent hypocrisy in the fact that a sitting Republican was being accused of attempting to influence the election results after Trump and his cronies have spent weeks spreading totally false claims of Democrats committing fraud.
Others also argued that if the allegations are true Graham should resign, and claimed that his actions were potentially illegal under both federal and state law.
“Why is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee calling Georgia’s Secretary of State to discuss mechanics of an ongoing ballot count?” Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, tweeted. “Such a call would be implicitly coercive in the best case, even without Graham’s alleged suggestion about throwing out lawful votes.”
Graham, for his part, continued to defend himself, telling reporters Tuesday morning that he also had similar conversations with election officials in Nevada and Arizona. He also said he was simply doing this because he is a senator who is concerned about election integrity.
Both the Arizona and Nevada Secretaries of State said they had not spoken to Graham, and when pressed later, Graham said he spoke to the Governor of Arizona, not the state’s election official, and said he could not remember who he had spoken to in Nevada.
Notably, most Republicans stayed silent on the accusations on Monday and Tuesday, and the few who did mention the Georgia election again attacked Raffensberger. In a tweet Monday, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) said the state needed accountability and claimed “Georgians have lost confidence” in Raffensberger’s ability to lead.
Raffensberger Denounces Attacks
Raffensberger has continually hit back against the attacks and defended the integrity of the signature verifications, absentee ballots, and voting machines.
In a series of posts on Facebook, he debunked false claims made by Trump and explained that Georgia has had no-excuse absentee voting the last 15 years. He also said under his control of the election process, absentee ballots had been strengthened and secured for the first time since they were put in place.
Among other points, Raffensberger noted that he had outlawed absentee ballot harvesting, required mail-in ballots to be uploaded to an online portal with photo ID for each voter, and trained election officials on signature matching.
The state of Georgia has had no excuse absentee ballots since 2005— only those who request a ballot can vote absentee….Posted by GA Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Sunday, November 15, 2020
**Lin Wood Lawsuit** My team secured and strengthened absentee ballots for the first time since 2005. As Secretary of…Posted by GA Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Sunday, November 15, 2020
As for the integrity of the recount, Raffensperger said in the interview with The Post that he believed it would simply “affirm” the results of the initial count. He also added that the hand-count will provide evidence that the voting machines the state used — which have been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories spread by the president and his supporters — were accurate.
Raffensberger even told The Post that some counties in the state have already reported that their hand recounts matched the machine’s tallies exactly. However, he did also confirm that election officials in Floyd County did discover about 2,600 eligible votes that had not been included in the first tallies because election workers had failed to upload them off a memory stick.
While Raffensberger’s office did say the votes probably would have been discovered, it still called for the resignation of the county election director.
“The Floyd County situation was unfortunate,” a spokesperson told reporters, noting that the process had gone smoothly in most other large counties. The spokesperson also said that a good chunk of the newly discovered ballots were cast for Trump, which officially brings Biden’s lead from around 14,200 to around 13,300.
Biden is still expected to ultimately be called as the winner of the state, and even if there is another unexpected curveball in the Georgia recount, he still has enough electoral votes by far to secure the presidency.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal) (CNN)
Mississippi Asks Supreme Court To Overturn Roe v. Wade
The Supreme Court’s decision to consider Mississippi’s restrictive abortion ban already has sweeping implications for the precedents set under the landmark reproductive rights ruling, but now the state is asking the high court to go even further.
Mississippi’s Abortion Case
Mississippi filed a brief Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade when it hears the state’s 15-week abortion ban this fall.
After months of deliberation, the high court agreed in May to hear what will be the first abortion case the 6-to-3 conservative majority will decide.
Both a district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit had ruled that Mississippi could not enforce the 2018 law that banned nearly all abortions at 15 weeks with exceptions for only “severe fetal abnormality,” but not rape and incest.
If the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law, it would undo decades of precedent set under Roe in 1973 and upheld under Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, where the court respectively ruled and reaffirmed that states could not ban abortion before the fetus is “viable” and can live outside the womb, which is generally around 24 to 28 weeks.
When the justices decided to hear the case, they said they would specifically examine the question of whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”
Depending on the scope of their decision on the Mississippi law, the court’s ruling could allow other states to pass much more restrictive abortion bans without the risk of lower courts striking down those laws.
As a result, legal experts have said the case will represent the most significant ruling on reproductive rights since Casey nearly three decades ago, and the Thursday brief raises the stakes even more.
When Mississippi asked the justices to take up its case last June, the state’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch (R), explicitly stated that the petition’s questions “do not require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey.”
But that was before the court’s conservatives solidified their supermajority with the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett — who personally opposes abortion — following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
New Filing Takes Aim at Roe
With the new filing, it appears that Fitch views the high court’s altered makeup as an opportunity to undermine the constitutional framework that has been in place for the better part of the last century.
“The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion,” Fitch wrote in the brief, arguing that American society has changed so much that the previous rulings need to be reheard.
“Today, adoption is accessible and on a wide scale women attain both professional success and a rich family life, contraceptives are more available and effective, and scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability,” she added, claiming the power should be left to state lawmakers.
“Roe and Casey shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date,” she continued. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this Court returns abortion policy to the states.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Mississippi’s sole abortion provider in the suit against the state’s law, painted Fitch’s effort as one that will have a chilling effect on abortion rights nationwide.
“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the group said in a statement Thursday. “Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country.”
The Supreme Court has not yet said exactly when during its fall term it will hear oral arguments on the Mississippi case, but a decision is expected to come down by next June or July, as is standard.
An anticipated ruling just months before the 2022 midterms will almost certainly position abortion as a top issue at the ballot box.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Politico)
Republicans Boycott Jan. 6 Committee After Pelosi Rejects Two of McCarthy’s Picks
The House Minority Leader said that unless House Speaker Pelosi reinstated the two members, Republicans will launch their own investigation into the insurrection.
Pelosi Vetoes Republicans
Republicans are boycotting the select committee to investigate the insurrection after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) rejected two of the five GOP members Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) picked to serve on the panel Wednesday.
In a statement, Pelosi cited the “statements and actions” of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) and Jim Banks (R-In.), whose nominations she said she was opposing “with respect for the integrity of the investigation.”
Jordan and Banks — both staunch allies of former President Donald Trump — have helped propagate the previous leader’s false election claims, opposed efforts to investigate the insurrection, and voted not to certify the election for President Joe Biden.
A senior Democratic aide also specifically told The Washington Post that Democrats did not want Jordan on the panel because he reportedly helped Trump strategized how to overturn the election and due to the fact he spoke to the then-president on Jan. 6, meaning there is a possibility he could be called to testify before the very same committee.
The aide also said that Democrats opposed Banks’ selection because of a statement he issued after McCarthy chose him.
In the statement, the representative compared the insurrection to the racial justice protests last summer, implied that the rioters were just normal American’s expressing their political views, and claimed the committee was a political ploy “to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”
Notably, Pelosi did say she would accept McCarthy’s three other nominees — including Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Wi.), who also voted against certifying Biden’s win.
McCarthy Threatens Separate Investigation
McCarthy, however, refused to select new members, and instead opted to remove all his appointees from the would-be bipartisan committee.
In a statement condemning the move, the minority leader said that Pelosi’s action “represents an egregious abuse of power.”
“Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility and shows the Speaker is more interested in playing politics than seeking the truth,” he said.
“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”
Pelosi defended her decision during a press conference Thursday, where she said that Banks and Jordan were “ridiculous” choices for the panel.
“When statements are ridiculous and fall into the realm of, ‘You must be kidding,’ there’s no way that they’re going to be on the committee,” she added.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
More Republican Are Pushing COVID Vaccinations, But the Party Remains Divided on Its Messaging
The renewed effort to encourage vaccination comes as the surge in COVID cases caused by the delta variant continues to disproportionately impact Republican-led states with low vaccination rates.
GOP Leaders Ramps Up Vaccination Push
In recent days, more Republican leaders and prominent conservatives have ramped up efforts to encourage members of their party to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the U.S. continues to see massive surges from the delta variant.
Some, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), have been pushing Americans to get vaccinated for months — a call he reiterated again on Tuesday. Many others, however, have been reticent to do the same until recently.
Most notable on that list is Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), the no. 2 Republican in House leadership, who just got his first dose over the weekend after resisting vaccination, claiming he had antibodies from previously contracting COVID. Scalise explained he changed his mind because of delta and encouraged others to do the same.
“There shouldn’t be any hesitancy over whether or not it’s safe and effective,” he said.
The top leader is set to continue pushing that advice. Earlier this week, the GOP Doctors Caucus announced that it would hold a news conference Thursday alongside Scalise and the third-ranking House Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), to encourage vaccination.
Rank and File Republicans Continue To Cast Doubt, Spread Misinformation
There are still plenty of Republicans working to undermine the renewed push to get their party vaccinated.
While many have painted vaccination as a matter of freedom of choice, others have sought to downplay the virus. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose state currently accounts for 40% of all new COVID cases, dismissed the spikes as the result of a “seasonal virus” on Monday.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk — who has had COVID twice — echoed that in a statement to reporters on Tuesday, where he argued that COVID is just something everyone has to live with.
“This is something we deal with in our lives on a daily basis; ever since I’ve been born, there’s sicknesses, there’s flu, there’s different diseases,” he said.
Some members of the GOP have used their positions of power to actively fight against vaccination. That includes Sen. Ron Johnson (Wi.), who has openly said he is not vaccinated. He has also been widely condemned for promoting unproven treatments and false information about vaccines during interviews and congressional hearings.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), who has repeatedly refused to share her vaccination status, has also drawn ire for sharing misinformation and continually comparing COVID prevention efforts to the Holocaust.
Greene was temporarily suspended from Twitter earlier this week for sharing false information on Monday, but she continued to utilize her spotlight to spread misinformation about vaccine-related deaths and side effects during a press conference the following day.
While those who downplay the coronavirus and spread false information about vaccinations are certainly not representative of the entire Republican Party, they are some of the most visible.
Greene and many of her counterparts who push anti-vaccine narratives have frequently been accused of acting in inflammatory ways to get more press — a strategy that more often than not tends to work in their favor.
As a result, Republicans who want to encourage people to get the jabs will have their work cut out for them. Even many of those who have not openly expressed skepticism themselves have still let it flourish in the party for so long by not publicly pushing back against claims from members who sow disinformation.
The GOP’s broader failure to unify around a singular message on vaccines shows clearly among the party’s base.
According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News, poll 86% of Democrats have received at least one shot, but just 45% of Republicans have done the same. While just 6% of Democrats say they are not likely to get the vaccine, 47% of Republicans said they probably will not, and 38% said they definitely will not.
Meanwhile, Republican-led states with low vaccination rates are suffering the most from the new spike in cases and the rapid spread of the delta variant.
Arkansas, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country at just 35%, is currently reporting the highest per-capita cases in the U.S. Hospitalizations have gone up 85% in the state in the last two weeks, placing some hospital systems on the brink of collapse — a problem also faced by parts of Missouri, which has the third-highest COVID cases nationwide.