Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger gives an interview inside a voting machine warehouse Dec. 2019.
Caption
Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger gives an interview inside a voting machine warehouse Dec. 2019.
Credit: Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger knew the Nov. 3 election would be high stakes and garner national attention, but not like this.

His office prepared for record turnout, close margins and a statewide audit of results — but the death threats, calls to resign and an avalanche of pressure from fellow Republicans to put his thumb on the scale were not part of the plan.

Neither was overseeing the post-election process from home quarantine, where his wife is recovering from a mild case of the coronavirus. But through all of this, the 65-year-old engineer has (mostly) stayed calm.

"I love the saying 'Calm breeds calm, panic breeds panic,' and we're just calmly moving forward doing our job," he said. "We want to make sure that every vote is recorded correctly."

Just a few hours before the release of the results and documents behind the first-ever risk-limiting audit of the election, Raffensperger was more like the mild-mannered man obsessed with the process than the bomb-thrower who earlier this week unloaded on fellow Republicans who spread misinformation about the election and falsely insisted President Donald Trump won the state he lost by about 13,000 votes.
 

"I'm not going to have any zingers," he said, likening his response to the election brouhaha to a quote from Harry Truman about not giving his detractors hell, just the truth.

He told The Washington Post that Sen. Lindsey Graham tried to get him to find a way to toss absentee ballots, gave WSB-TV a soundbite about President Trump depressing his own turnout by attacking mail-in voting and repeatedly blasted U.S. Rep. Doug Collins as a "failed candidate" and a "liar" about the election.

But on this day, Raffensperger wanted to discuss the process behind one of the smoothest-run elections in recent memory that saw an average Election Day wait time of two minutes for much of Nov. 3.

"We had so much on our plate: We had COVID, we had new machines, but we really managed those lines so well," he said. "From that standpoint, it was very successful."

The challenging part has come post-election, a time that normally flies under the radar as county officials tally votes and handle administrative tasks to close out the election. This time, a statewide risk-limiting audit had to be conducted that would require both more work and the implementation of a new process.

But a tight margin of about 14,000 votes in the presidential race stacked upon early signs the president and top Republicans would not accept the results. So Raffensperger decided to audit the presidential race, and, given the vast number of ballots needed to conduct an RLA on that contest, also decided that all 5 million votes would be hand counted as part of that process.

"For those folks that are questioning the accuracy of the Dominion voting system, that's why we decided to do a hand count," he said. "We weren't relying on that QR code, we weren't relying on the scanner, we were relying on the human readable text, and that's what we did: We put that to bed."

During the audit process, four counties discovered batches of votes that were either never scanned or never uploaded into the results, and after accounting for those Biden's lead shrunk slightly to just under 13,000.

"It doesn't mean that those counties have systemic problems, but it does raise a concern, and that's why we must implement a reconciliation process that prevents those errors from occurring in the future," he said.

Still, Raffensperger said the results of the audit will confirm the right winner won, and that his job is to "report facts."

"I've been saying that half of America will be happy and half of America will be sad with these results," he said. "And I would be disappointed when I put on my Republican hat, but these will be the results and it will be what it is because that is the will of the Georgia voter."

The audit report will include all of the documents created during the manual recount of every vote cast, including tally sheets that show how pairs of humans accounted for each batch of ballots in every county, a measure of transparency that Raffensperger said should give people more trust in Georgia's elections.

"It's very important that there's integrity in the election process, and there'll be integrity in our office," he said. "I believe that integrity still counts."

While his political future is uncertain (being asked to resign by U.S. Senators and trashed by the sitting president opens the doors for a 2022 primary challenger), Raffensperger said that he is proud of the way Georgia's elections have been conducted.

"It's really been a big rumor whack-a-mole, and that's where facts will win out," he said. "You can't argue with cold, hard facts."

One day before certifying the most consequential election of his lifetime, does he have any regrets? Not a chance.

"I've been a lifelong Republican and so, you know, people can do what they want," he said. "At the end of the day, I'm going to stand on the principle of integrity."