As Georgia election officials continue counting ballots from last Tuesday’s presidential election, the state’s two U.S. senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, issued a blistering press release accusing Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of overseeing a vote-tabulation process that they say, without evidence, is amiss.
“The management of Georgia elections has become an embarrassment for our state,” the senators’ statement read.
Loeffler and Perdue also called on Raffensperger to resign. All three are Republicans.
In a Facebook post, Raffensperger rejected Perdue and Loeffler’s broadside.
“Earlier today Senators Loeffler and Perdue called for my resignation,” he wrote. “Let me start by saying that is not going to happen. The voters of Georgia hired me, and the voters will be the one to fire me.”
He also wrote that “from an election administration perspective,” the general election “was a resounding success.”
Georgia officials were still counting a small number of remaining absentee, provisional and overseas ballots on Monday. While a winner of the state’s 16 electoral votes has not been projected yet, President-elect Joe Biden held an 11,592-vote lead over Donald Trump as of this writing. If Biden’s lead holds, he will be the first Democrat in 28 years to win the historically GOP-friendly state.
Loeffler, who ran in special election for her Senate seat, and Perdue, whose six-year term is about to expire, are both headed toward runoff elections against Democratic opponents next January. In their press release, the senators cited “too many failures in Georgia elections this year,” but did not list any specific shortcomings or wrongdoings.
Raffensperger, who was elected in 2018, has this year overseen the implementation of a new $104 million voting system that replaced Georgia’s old digital-only voting machines with new devices that combine a touchscreen interface that print out paper bar codes to be scanned at polling places. Additionally, as many other states did, Georgia vastly expanded its use of absentee ballots in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While several polling places reported having issues with the new voting machines and electronic poll books last Tuesday, state and federal officials said those instances were technical glitches caused by user error and remedied over the course of Election Day.
Georgia officials are counting nearly 5 million votes total, including more than 1.3 million absentee ballots, according to the United States Election Project. And despite some political actors’ insistences that election results be determined only with what’s been tallied on election night, counting millions of ballots takes time, and lead changes during the process are not uncommon.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, on its “Rumor Control” page, points out that accurately counting votes can be a laborious process that doesn’t always have a quick resolution.
“Election results reported on election night are always unofficial and are provided solely for voters’ convenience,” CISA says. “In fact, no state requires that official results be certified on election night itself. Fluctuations in unofficial results reporting will occur during and after election night as more ballots are processed and counted, often including military and overseas ballots, and validated provisional ballots.”
Election officials in Fulton County, which contains most of Atlanta, over the weekend reported a technical issue that required fewer than 350 votes to be rescanned as the county’s final vote totals were being double-checked and reported to the state.
Raffensperger’s response to Perdue and Loeffler also said that any claims of unlawful voters were investigated, citing Fulton specifically.
“The process of reporting results has been orderly and followed the law,” he wrote. “Where there have been specific allegations of illegal voting, my office has dispatched investigators.”
In giving his latest update on the counting process Monday, Gabriel Sterling, the statewide voting system implementation manager in Raffensperger’s office, defended election officials.
“What I don’t like seeing is people undermining this system that was put together so hard by the office and county election directors,” he told reporters in Atlanta. He also said an upcoming post-election audit — as required by state law — will reveal some errors, as, he said, “every election…is imperfect.”
Raffensperger also wrote that while he personally supported the Republican slate, the audit is not expected to change the final outcome at the presidential level, and that Perdue and Loeffler should focus on their upcoming runoffs.
“Does it rise to the numbers or margin necessary to change the outcome to where President Trump is given Georgia’s electoral votes[?] That is unlikely,” he wrote. “As a Republican, I am concerned about Republicans keeping the U.S. Senate. I recommend that Senators Loeffler and Perdue start focusing on that.”