Opinion | Republicans Should Be Defending Georgia’s Election Process
There has hardly ever been a tougher time to be the chief election administrator of a state. In most states, that role is held by the secretary of state, and running an election is just one of the many responsibilities that commands that person’s time and attention. Yet these public servants have ably run an election amid a pandemic, especially Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state of Georgia.
I first met Mr. Raffensperger a few weeks after his election in 2018, at a gathering of new state secretaries. As a former president of the National Association of Secretaries of State and chair of the Republican Association of Secretaries of State, I have met a lot of election administrators, from the mediocre to the excellent. I was impressed by Mr. Raffensperger. He approaches his job with pragmatism. Unlike most secretaries of state, he is an engineer by training and approaches election administration from the perspective of a “numbers guy.”
Too many secretaries of state see themselves as governors in waiting, but Mr. Raffensperger was enthusiastic about fixing the nuts and bolts of the election machinery. In just two years in office, he has improved Georgia’s election security in several ways.
First, he replaced outdated, paperless voting systems with accessible, paper-based voting systems, which allowed for audits of elections in Georgia. For this election, given the closeness of the vote, Mr. Raffensperger is planning a hand recount, but going forward, Georgia will establish risk-limiting audits, which use statistical sampling to confirm results.
He also joined the Electronic Registration Information Center, which will enable Georgia to keep its voter lists more up-to-date, removing people who have died or moved out of the state. And he further cleaned up the Georgia voter rolls by establishing an automated verification and registration system to make elections more efficient and reduce the opportunity for voter fraud.
After the presidential primary, which featured long lines and wait times at polling places, Mr. Raffensperger worked with local election officials to streamline the voting process. While many states, including Georgia, had long lines for early voting, on Election Day in the state the average wait time was just two minutes. Throughout his tenure, his office has been remarkably accessible and transparent. He and his team hold regular briefings, answering questions from the news media and the public.
It is hard to believe that Mr. Raffensperger has ended up a target of Republican politicians. He ran as a Republican and won as a Republican. His campaign was based on ensuring that “only American citizens are voting in our elections.” Since taking office, he has accomplished the things Republicans want in the secretary of state’s office, including more accurate voter rolls and more efficient management that saves taxpayer money. To his credit, he acknowledges that no statewide election is perfect: A handful of cases of voter fraud pop up, and in Georgia, he refers such cases to investigators.
It is clear that these Republican critics are trying to scapegoat Mr. Raffensperger for President Trump’s apparent loss in Georgia and several other key states. They do so despite not being able to offer any meaningful proof of systemic fraud or administrative errors that would change the outcome.
Instead of attacking him, Republicans should be celebrating Mr. Raffensperger for running an election that was free of widespread malfeasance, despite record turnout, a pandemic, threats from hostile foreign countries and a persistent lack of funding.
With two coming Senate elections, Republicans should be encouraging him to keep up the good work. When I was secretary of state of Kentucky, Senator Mitch McConnell was my friend and mentor. It was his example that led me to run for the U.S. Senate; I want him to continue to serve as majority leader in the U.S. Senate, which means I want Republicans in Georgia to win.
But by attacking Mr. Raffensperger, Republicans are sending the message that Republican votes don’t matter. That Republicans in office tolerate election fraud. That the outcome of the election depends on something other than how many votes each candidate gets. I’ve run for public office three times and worked on countless Republican campaigns, and this is not the message I would take to my supporters.
I have a better message: Trust Mr. Raffensperger. Trust the election results. Focus on holding the Senate.
Trey Grayson is a former secretary of state of Kentucky and co-chairs the advisory board of the Secure Elections Project.
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