Brad Raffensperger, who defied Trump, warns on future elections

November 2, 2021
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and former President Donald Trump.
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WASHINGTON – The Georgia election official who defied pressure by Donald Trump to “find” votes and overturn his 2020 election loss in the state says the brutal condition of American politics could lead to more protests and violence like the Jan. 6 insurrection by Trump supporters.

In an interview with USA TODAY for his new book, “Integrity Counts,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger criticized attempts to forge “new revisionist history” about the Jan. 6 insurrection. People are trying to cast it as a largely peaceful protest rather than what it was, he said: A violent attempt to re-install Trump in the White House.

“What really bothers me the most is that people are now trying to minimize what happened on January 6,” said . “I find that really, highly objectionable … People need to know people did that.”

Disagree, he said, but do it “respectfully.”

“That’s what we’re called to be,” Raffensperger said, not like the kinds of people who triggered the attack on the U.S. Capitol: “It’s not to call people all sorts of names and threaten them with violence. That’s what the mob does.”

Asked if he fears another Jan. 6, Raffensperger said: “I’m not a fortune teller. I don’t see the future. I just … you know … one day at a time.”

Threats to election officials

Raffensperger, who is running for reelection, bemoaned ongoing physical threats to election officials nationwide, as well as proposed legislation in various states that would in essence give parties a chance to steal elections after the balloting is done.

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Election officials from across the country told a congressional panel last week they’ve been taunted with abusive language and received direct threats to their safety since the 2020 election. 

The bipartisan group of witnesses, who spoke to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee last Tuesday, warned of experienced administrators, such as volunteer poll workers and elected local officials, quitting their jobs as a result.

Raffensperger, who has received similar threats this year, pointed out how many volunteers are doing their civic duty. .

More:America’s public servants are being terrorized with death threats. The ’emotional toll’ is lasting.

“If you think about a poll worker, have people really thought about who a poll worker is,” he said. “That’s the person that you see at the grocery store; that’s the person that you see at church; that’s your neighbor; that could be your aunt; that could be your grandmother.”

The FBI is reportedly ramping up investigations of threats against election officials as a part of a larger task force launched this summer by the Department of Justice, which noted a rise in threats against election workers, administrators, officials and others associated with the electoral process.

“We need those poll workers,” Raffensperger said. “If you scare them off, you intimidate them so they don’t want to do this job, you still have to vote. How can you do that without any poll workers?”

Georgia and national election changes

Georgia was one of the first states to overhaul its election protocols in the wake of the 2020 presidential contest, which made it the center of the national voting rights debate for months.

Raffensperger defended most of the new law, which he insists expands voter’s access overall. But he has remained critical of election changes in Georgia, and across the country, that have shifted some election administration aspects to highly partisan bodies.

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Previously the Georgia secretary of state served as chair of the State Election Board, but the new law demotes the office to a nonvoting member of the panel. The new chair will be elected by the legislature.

At least seven other battleground states have made similar changes, which critics warn politicize the election administrative process.

“I understand that some people would like to have partisan hacks running some of these spots on both sides of the aisle,” Raffensperger said. “Partisan yes men or yes women, but we do have a Constitution, we do have laws.”

Ahead of the 2022 midterms there also has been a rise of Republican secretaries of state candidates in crucial battleground states who are wedded to Trump’s false claims about last year’s election.

Raffensperger said any sitting secretary of state who thinks they can violate the law on behalf of their preferred candidate will be “hauled before the Justice Department.”

“That person will end up facing jail time,” he said. “And so we will continue to follow law, follow the Constitution… I hope it never comes to that.”

Trump won’t ‘ever call me again’ 

Raffensperger will be in many history books himself as the recipient of an infamous Trump conference call.

On the call, which included aides and attorneys, Trump demanded that Raffensperger help him “win” Georgia: “So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.”

At one point, Trump told Raffensperger and his aides: “I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”

More:They can’t let ‘stolen’ election claims go: Now Trump has endorsed liberal Stacey Abrams

More:Donald Trump endorses rival to Georgia Republican elections official Brad Raffensperger

In the interview with USA TODAY, Raffensberger would not say whether he thought Trump acted illegally with his demands. Nor did he comment on the ongoing investigation of Trump by Fulton County prosecutors, though he did say he provided them documents.

Georgia’s top election official again refuted Trump’s claims about alleged voter fraud. The simple truth, he said, is that Biden won Georgia, in part because many voters did not check any box for the presidential candidates while voting for other Republican candidates up and down the ballot.

The “hard, brutal truth” is that “President Trump came up short,” Raffensperger said.

Trump vowed revenge on Georgia elections officials who defied him, particularly Raffensperger and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. The ex-president is backing a Republican primary opponent to Raffensperger, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice.

Raffensperger opens his book with events leading up to Trump’s phone call. He then moves to memoir mode with a recounting of his life as a structural engineer, businessman, local city council member and state legislator. He won election as secretary of state in 2018, replacing Kemp after he won election as governor.

The end of the book centers on a complete transcript of the Trump conference call, interspersed with comments from Raffensperger.

As he echoed an array of false rumors and gossip about the election, Trump at times appeared to threaten Raffensperger and his staff with prosecution if they did not do his bidding. At one point, he said: “When you talk about no criminality, I think it’s very dangerous for you to say that.”

In the book, Raffensperger writes: “Observation: I felt then – and still believe today – that this was a threat. Others obviously thought so, too, because some of Trump’s more radical followers have responded as if it was their duty to carry out this threat.”

Raffensperger told USA TODAY he wrote the book “to set the record straight,” and encourage political leaders to act more “respectfully” and “peacefully” in the conduct of elections.

“We need to hold our side accountable,” he said.  “They need to hold their side accountable.”

He also said: “I hope for the best for America. I know we’re going through a challenging time.”

Trump is getting involved in races across the country, endorsing allies in a host of Republican primaries. Raffensperger said those kind of divisions can’t be good for Republican Party, and the GOP as a whole needs to “think about what our message is, what our priorities are, and grow the tent … Not keep on making the tent smaller.”

If he wins his primary, Raffensperger isn’t expecting any help from Trump.

“I don’t think he’ll be calling me again,” Raffensperger said.



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