Georgia Secretary of State: Democrats 'Double Down on False Claims' About Elections

Brad Raffensperger compares President Joe Biden and Sen. Raphael Warnock to Donald Trump.


Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger held the line against former President Donald Trump's exhortations and veiled threats to "find" extra votes that would win Trump the state in the 2020 presidential election. Now, Raffensperger is claiming that election denial is a bipartisan problem.

In a Sunday op-ed for The Wall Street Journal entitled "Raphael Warnock, Election Denier," Raffensperger castigated the newly reelected Democratic senator and others for statements that cast doubt on the fairness of the state's recent elections.

In 2018, when Democrat Stacey Abrams lost the race for governor by less than two points, she responded by casting doubt on the entire system, delivering a nonconcession concession speech in which she "acknowledge[d] that former Secretary of State Brian Kemp will be certified as the victor" but said that in his role in that prior office, "eight years of systemic disenfranchisement, disinvestment and incompetence had its desired effect on the electoral process in Georgia." She said that "I cannot concede" because the election was not "right, true, or proper." She also announced the formation of a nonprofit organization, Fair Fight Action, which days later sued the state alleging voter suppression.

But in 2020, Democrats recaptured both the Senate and the White House. In testimony before the U.S. House in early 2021, Abrams acknowledged that the 2020 elections had been "audited, evaluated, and investigated," and found to feature "no evidence of widespread fraud." As Raffensperger pointed out in his op-ed, the judge who would later rule against Fair Fight Action's lawsuit summed up the argument as "When you lost, it wasn't a free election, but when you won, it was a free election."

"Just because people endured long lines," Warnock said in his victory speech this year, and "the rain and the cold and all kinds of tricks in order to vote, doesn't mean that voter suppression does not exist." Raffensperger singled out this rhetoric, saying it is of a piece with President Joe Biden's criticism of Georgia's 2021 voter law as "Jim Crow 2.0." In contrast, Raffensperger took a victory lap by touting how smoothly his state's midterms ran and how turnout hit record numbers in each of the last three cycles. He bragged that "Georgia voters saw lines shorter than 10 minutes on average across the state on Nov. 8."

But the secretary ignored this month's runoff election, which did see long lines in a number of polling locations. Raffensperger even seemed to acknowledge the issue last week when he told The New York Times that he would be asking the state legislature to open more early voting locations in the future.

Responding to Raffensperger's charge Monday on CBS Mornings, Warnock said, "The fact that people have had to overcome barriers doesn't mean those barriers don't exist."

Raffensperger's defense does paper over some very real issues: He claimed that the 2021 law "add[ed] absentee-ballot drop boxes to the Georgia Code for the first time." However, in doing so, it set a limit on the number of drop boxes a county is allowed to have, far lower than what most of the state's larger and more densely populated counties had previously used.

But in general, Raffensperger does have a point. While election denial is more visible among Republicans, Democrats are not immune to criticism on the subject either.

This is not to say that the sides are equivalent: When Stacey Abrams gave her nonconcession speech, she held no political power, whereas Trump pressured state officials and made his "rigged election" pronouncements as the sitting president. But the sentiment is harmful no matter who wields it. Raffensperger wrote that claims of fraud "would be laughable if they weren't so dangerous to public trust in elections." Indeed, no matter which side is sowing doubt, trust in the integrity of the electoral process is bound to be undermined.