Since the certification of the general election, President Donald Trump has had Georgia on his mind — particularly Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Republicans Kemp and Raffensperger found themselves at odds with the president after certifying that the results of Georgia’s election were not tainted by widespread voter fraud.
Displeased with the results of a third recount in Georgia, Trump took to Twitter in late December to claim that the people who run Georgia are a “complete disaster” and “virtually controlled” by Stacey Abrams and the Democrats.
Some Georgia Republicans say failure to side with the president could negatively impact both Kemp and Raffensperger's future in politics.
“I believe that their decisions, I believe it will affect their future, I really do. Whether that [next election] allows [them] a second term, that’s up to voters of the state of Georgia to determine,” said Gordon Rhoden, chairman of the Athens Republican Party.
Joan Rhoden, Gordon Rhoden’s wife and member of the Athens GOP, said political leaders in Georgia will be held accountable for the decisions they made during this election.
“If leaders cannot make, under oath, responses to some of the questions [about the election] that are very legitimate, then there’s a problem — and that, again, is across the board, all across the nation,” Joan Rhoden said.
Despite Kemp and Raffensperger’s efforts to assure Georgians that the general election results are valid, Republicans remain concerned. This is due in part to the president and his lawyers alleging, without evidence, that Georgia’s election results were a “goldmine” of fraud.
“We have ballot boxes where things are dumped into a ballot box and you don’t know who put it there. There’s supposed to be cameras but there’s no one there to watch 24/7 to see exactly what’s put in,” Joan Rhoden said.
According to the Georgia Election Code, ballot boxes are continuously recorded or recorded by motion detection. The footage from these cameras is kept until the “conclusion of any contest involving an election on the ballot in the county jurisdiction, whichever is later, and shall be made available to Secretary of State investigators upon request.” The boxes are also securely fastened to the ground and ballots are collected at least once every 24 hours.
Clarke County poll worker Sandra Metz said she was concerned that voters don’t have to show their ID to cast an absentee ballot.
She also expressed concern in a Georgia State Senate hearing on Dec. 30 that the system of requesting absentee ballots could be abused by people using stolen personal information, such as a social security number and driver’s license number to request and submit ballots that do not belong to them.
Per information put out by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, in order to vote by absentee ballot, Georgians must be registered to vote and are required to submit an absentee ballot request before they receive their ballot. In order to complete and have their ballot counted, Georgians must fill in various personal information including their driver’s license number, if issued one, and signature.
On Dec. 5, Trump tweeted that he would win “easily and quickly” if Kemp and Raffensperger called for a signature audit of these ballots, to which Kemp responded that he had already called for a signature audit three times.
Signature match audits compare the signature on a person’s absentee ballot to the signature on file at a Board of Elections. According to information from the secretary of state’s office, a signature match audit conducted on over 15,000 randomly selected ballot envelopes from Cobb county found only two signatures identified as “problem.”
Though Trump has publicly retracted his support for Kemp, Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have declined to make specific statements about the governor.
In December 2019, Kemp appointed Loeffler to replace retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson. By appointing Loeffler, Kemp may have gone against the wishes of the president, who reportedly wanted the appointment to be Rep. Doug Collins.
With Kemp’s continuing support for Loeffler, Perdue and Trump alongside his defense of Georgia’s election results, an intra-party conflict burdens Georgia Republicans ahead of the senate runoff.
In a joint statement issued Nov. 9, both senators called for Raffensberger to resign from his position for failing to deliver “honest and transparent elections.”
Raffensperger defended himself and the results of the election in an op-ed piece published by USA Today entitled “My family voted for Trump. He threw us under the bus anyway.”
In his op-ed, Raffensperger emphasized the importance of integrity and impartiality in overseeing the election.
“By all accounts, Georgia had a wildly successful and smooth election,” Raffensperger wrote.
Raffensperger wrote that all Georgians, whether their favored candidate won or lost, had cause to celebrate a successful election process. However, many of his fellow Republicans disagreed.
“I do think that the trust of the Secretary of State has been greatly diminished over this [recount],” Gordon Rhoden said.
Gordon Rhoden also believed Raffensberger and other politicians used a condescending tone toward Republicans asking for a recount.
“It’s not just because we didn’t get our way, I hate being treated like I’m a school kid,” Gordon Rhoden said. “I do believe that there’s going to be a reckoning day for Secretary of State Raffensberger.”
With faith in Raffensperger waning and the president’s persistent allegations that Georgia’s election results are fraudulent, a cloud of uncertainty looms over the Republican party.
“Are we using the same voting machines [in the upcoming election]? Why should we trust using the same voting machines?” Gordon Rhoden said.
The Republican turnout in Georgia may be affected by these questions, but Gordon Rhoden said only time will tell.
“We’re all tired, but I really believe that the closer it [the Senate run-off election] gets, the more ramped up things will become, and I don’t mean that in an ugly way,” Gordon Rhoden said.