Georgia GOP senators demand GOP election chief resign after failing to outright win their elections

“Trump is gonna cost the GOP the Senate,” one conservative commentator predicted ahead of Georgia's run-offs

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published November 10, 2020 9:45PM (EST)

David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Georgia's two Republican senators called on the state's Republican secretary of state to resign over unspecified "failures" as they echoed President Donald Trump's baseless claims sowing doubt in the results of the election.

Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who face run-offs in January after they both failed last week to clinch 50% of the vote needed to win their elections outright, said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican who was repeatedly praised by Trump, "has failed the people of Georgia" and "should step down." The statement, which Raffensperger called "laughable," came as numerous top elections officials refuted claims pushed by Trump and enabled by Republican leaders.

"The management of Georgia elections has become an embarrassment for our state. Georgians are outraged, and rightly so," the senators said. "We have been clear from the beginning: every legal vote cast should be counted. Any illegal vote must not. And there must be transparency and uniformity in the counting process. This isn't hard. This isn't partisan. This is American. We believe when there are failures, they need to be called out — even when it's in your own party."

Raffensperger said last week "there will be a recount" of the ballots cast in the presidential election. Though the secretary of state vowed that his office would investigate any reports of irregularities, he pushed back on baseless claims of fraud. 

Without citing any evidence, the senators calling on Raffensperger to resign claimed that there had been "too many failures" in the state's elections this year

"While blame certainly lies elsewhere as well, the buck ultimately stops with the secretary of State," they said. "The mismanagement and lack of transparency from the secretary of state is unacceptable. Honest elections are paramount to the foundation of our democracy. The secretary of state has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections."

Raffensperger responded to the call for his resignation by telling the Republican senators "that is not going to happen."

"I know emotions are running high. Politics are involved in everything right now," he said in a statement. "If I was Senator Perdue, I'd be irritated I was in a runoff. And both senators and I are unhappy with the potential outcome for our president. But I am the duly elected secretary of state. One of my duties involves helping to run elections for all Georgia voters. I have taken that oath, and I will execute that duty and follow Georgia law."

Raffensperger said that the allegation about a lack of transparency was "laughable" and called the election a "resounding success." Though Raffensperger believes there were some votes cast illegally, he added that it was "unlikely" the total rose to the "numbers or margin necessary to change the outcome."

"As a Republican, I am concerned about Republicans keeping the U.S. Senate," he added. "I recommend that Senators Loeffler and Perdue start focusing on that."

President-elect Joe Biden is on track to win the state, which would mark the first time a Democrat carried Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992. Loeffler, who was always expected to head to a run-off, will face off against Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, after placing second in the state's open primary. Perdue appeared headed for a win on Tuesday night before his total fell just short of the 50% needed to outright defeat Democrat challenger Jon Ossoff after mail-in votes in the Atlanta area were counted. The two races are expected to determine control of the Senate if Democrats lose the outstanding Senate elections in Alaska and North Carolina.

Though Trump has pushed baseless allegations about fraud without citing any evidence, Georgia's Republican officials have forcefully pushed back on the claim that anything was amiss about the result, where Biden leads Trump by about 11,400 votes.

Raffensperger said in his statement that his office had been extraordinarily transparent, and the reporting process had been orderly. He said his office had investigated allegations of illegal voting and sent a monitor to oversee elections in Fulton County, which includes much of Atlanta.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a fellow Republican, told CNN on Monday that he had seen no evidence of widespread fraud.

"We've not had any sort of credible incidents raised to our level yet," he said, "and so we'll continue to make sure that the opportunity to make sure every legal ballot is counted is there."

Gabriel Sterling, the head of the voting system for Raffensperger's office, told reporters on Monday that the baseless allegations about the state's elections were "disinformation" and "fake news."

"Hoaxes and nonsense," Sterling said. "Don't buy into these things. Find trusted sources."

Even as top election officials pushed back, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, another Trump ally, appeared to echo the president's unfounded claims sowing doubt in the count. But he stopped short of criticizing Raffensperger.

"Given the close outcome and the record number of mail-in and absentee ballots cast in this election, this needs to be a wake-up call to the secretary of state's office to take a serious look at any and all voting irregularity allegations that have been made," his office said in a statement. "Georgians deserve to have every legal vote counted in order to have full confidence in the outcome of our elections."

Republicans, including senior Trump advisers, acknowledged to the Associated Press that finding "proof" to back his fabricated allegations "isn't really the point."

Republicans privately admit that "they are in a tough spot, wary of crossing Trump and his most ardent supporters" and say they're "trying to give Trump the time and space he needs to come to grips with the election results," according to the AP.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll released on Monday showed that 70% of Republican voters do not think the election was free and fair as Trump has continued to push lawsuits, many of which have already been quickly rejected by judges in multiple states.

While some Republicans believe that enabling Trump to sow doubt in the election is key to holding on to his voter base ahead of two Senate-deciding run-off elections, others believe the party is self-inflicting potentially major long-term damage.

"Trump is gonna cost the GOP the Senate," conservative commentator Erick Erickson wrote. "His supporters are internalizing that the election in Georgia was stolen so why bother even trying."

Longtime Republican election lawyer Barry Richard, who represented George W. Bush in the 2000 Florida recount, said the groundless allegations pushed by Trump and his allies did little but undermine the system.

"Nothing that I've seen regarding the election raises a legal issue that could succeed. There is just is nothing there," he told the AP. "When these kind of lawsuits are filed it just breeds contempt for the whole legal system."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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