Credit: Stephen Fowler | GPB News
Raffensperger: Georgia Certified Election Because 'Numbers Don't Lie'
After a premature press release touting its completion, Georgia has now certified its election results, cementing President-elect Joe Biden's victory over President Trump by 12,670 votes.
According to the official results, 5,026,684 total ballots were cast in the Nov. 3 contest, or 69.6% of the state's 7.2 million active voters. At 5 p.m. Gov. Kemp is set to give a speech on the next steps in the electoral process.
Earlier Friday morning, before signing off on 159 counties' worth of documents, a weary Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger delivered a short but emphatic speech reminding Georgia that "numbers don't lie" when it comes to who won.
The Republican has faced calls to resign, death threats and the attention of the nation over the last two-and-a-half weeks of post-election counting. While he is a supporter of President Donald Trump who wished the president would have won the electoral college and Georgia's 16 votes, it is not his job to alter the outcome, he said.
"Working as an engineer throughout my life, I live by the motto that numbers don’t lie," he said. "As secretary of state, I believe that the numbers that we have presented today are correct. The numbers reflect the verdict of the people, not a decision by the secretary of state’s office or of courts or of either campaign."
As his staff put the finishing touches on certification documents, Raffensperger pledged to build voters' trust in the voting system that many top Republicans attacked, without evidence, for not being fair or accurate.
"Close elections sow distrust; people feel their side was cheated," he said. "We saw this from the Democrats in 2018. We see this from Republicans today."
To that end, Raffensperger said he wants to focus on three reforms to how voting works in Georgia, and shared his plans with GPB News on Thursday.
The day-to-day operations of elections happen at the county level, and sometimes those counties fall short, he said. Raffensperger said he wants the ability for his office to intervene in the way those local offices are run.
"I think we need to have the ability to come in and make sure that we can actually replace boards and replace county election officials," he said in an interview. "And the audit revealed that in some counties, not all the votes have been counted. It doesn't mean that those counties have systemic problems, but it does raise a concern."
The elections director of Floyd County in northwest Georgia was fired Thursday after a major error left about 2,500 ballots uncounted until earlier this week, discovered during the audit. The office led by Robert Brady also had issues with earlier elections this year, so the board voted to remove him. Three other counties — Fayette, Walton and Douglas — also discovered votes that were not uploaded to election results.
Raffensperger also said he wants to reform the absentee ballot process, which saw an explosion of growth because of the COVID-19 pandemic this year. The state also expanded access to mail-in voting through an online request portal and 24/7 monitored secure drop boxes. But the chief election official said there needs to be more security around the process and will call for some sort of photo I.D. component, though he declined to give specifics. The online request portal verifies a request using a Georgia state I.D. or driver's license number.
"We want to take away any concern that you could have about fraud," he said in an interview. "And we need to do that with an objective measure, not subjective, whenever we can."
A federal judge declined a motion to halt Georgia's certification process because of an 8-month-old settlement dealing with the signature match process used to manually confirm absentee ballots and applications.
The third focus area deals with voter list maintenance. Raffensperger said in an interview that there needs to be stricter controls on challenging voter registrations of people believe to have died, moved away or otherwise be ineligible to vote.
"Federal laws don't allow us to update the voter rolls as often as we need," he said in an interview. "We will make sure it's a lawful process and you won't have people trying to game the system."
Georgia is now a part of the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, that allows states to better communicate voter registration information.
"Did someone leave Georgia and register in Texas or Florida or North Carolina... then why don't we notify those states?" he offered as an example in an interview.
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign has until Tuesday to request a machine recount of all 5 million votes because the president's Georgia vote total is within 0.5% of Biden's.