By Beau Evans
Capitol Beat News Service, Elections
U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both Republicans in tight runoff races to hold their seats, called on Georgia’s Republican secretary of state Monday to resign as state election officials continued brushing aside unproven claims of ballot fraud.
The joint call from Perdue and Loeffler came shortly after the top elections manager in Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office dismissed a string of theories on ballot harvesting and computer glitches that President Donald Trump’s allies floated recently to sow doubt in Georgia’s election results.
As of Monday afternoon, President-elect Joe Biden maintained a lead over Trump in Georgia of about 10,600 votes, leaving the state on the cusp of flipping to a Democratic presidential nominee for the first time since 1992. State officials have until Nov. 20 to certify the election results and a recount is also likely.
In a joint statement, Perdue and Loeffler called Raffensperger’s management of the election “an embarrassment” that lacked “transparency and uniformity in the counting process.” Without citing any evidence of fraud or improper ballot counting, the two senators pressed Raffensperger to resign.
“We believe when there are failures, they need to be called out – even when it’s in your own party,” Perdue and Loeffler’s statement read. “There have been too many failures in Georgia elections this year and the most recent election has shined a national light on the problems.”
In a long response statement, Raffensperger said he understood “emotions are running high” but that Georgia’s elections had run smoothly despite slow results and issues in some counties. He called the senators’ claims on transparency “laughable” and said if any illegal votes were found in the coming weeks, they would not likely change the election results.
“As a Republican, I am concerned about Republicans keeping the U.S. Senate,” Raffensperger said. “I recommend that Senators Loeffler and Perdue state focusing on that.”
Earlier on Monday, the state’s election system manager, Gabriel Sterling, during a news conference debunked claims of ballot harvesting or ballot tampering with specific explanations for how some temporary counting discrepancies resulted from human error, not software glitches or partisan sabotage.
Sterling, who is a Republican, has held multiple news conferences – often twice a day – since the Nov. 3 election to update the public on the ballot-counting process in Georgia and to outline details of issues seen in some counties, which he said were expected in a high-turnout election and quickly fixed.
“The facts are the facts, regardless of outcomes,” Sterling said Monday. “In Georgia, we had an actual, accurate outcome.”
Sterling acknowledged that investigators may uncover double-votes or other illegally cast ballots in the coming days as an audit of the results kicks off Wednesday – though it’s unlikely investigators would turn up enough improper ballots for Trump to bridge Biden’s lead, he said.
“Our job is to get it right for the voters and the people of Georgia, and for the people of the United States, to make sure the outcomes of this election are correct and trustworthy,” Sterling said. “And at the end of the day, no matter which side of the aisle you’re on, no matter which candidate you supported, you can have trust and believe in the outcome of these things.”
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Republican, also said Monday morning on CNN that Georgia officials “have not had any sort of credible incidents raised to our level yet” regarding voter fraud or improper ballot counting.
The runoff races between Perdue and Democratic nominee Jon Ossoff, and between Loeffler and Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock, have already thrust Georgia into the national political spotlight with control of the U.S. Senate potentially hanging in the balance.
Wins for both Ossoff and Warnock in the Jan. 5 runoffs would likely tip the Senate in Democrats’ favor along with control of the U.S. House and the presidency, clearing the way for Biden and Democratic lawmakers to enact their priorities with little resistance for at least the next two years.
Republican and Democratic leaders across the country are poised to pull out all the stops in Georgia with huge campaign donations and high-profile backers expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
While Democrats aim to build on momentum that appears to have swung the state for Biden, many Republican leaders have homed in on the integrity of the election to cast doubt on the overall ballot-counting process in Georgia and other states with tight races.
Notably, outgoing U.S. Rep. Doug Collins has signed on to lead the Trump campaign’s push for a recount, which can legally be requested since the vote margin between Trump and Biden in Georgia stands at less than 0.5%.
Collins, who finished third and out of the running for the January runoff against Loeffler, said in a statement Monday he feels “confident” his team will discover ballot harvesting and other issues in Georgia’s election but did not provide any evidence for why he feels that way.
Trump also took to Twitter shortly after Perdue and Loeffler’s joint statement Monday afternoon to claim he will win Georgia’s 16 electoral votes, despite the fact he is losing in the state.