Months after a tight race that led to victory in a runoff election, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger spoke at Wednesday’s UGA College Republicans meeting, touching on his office’s responsibilities, new voting machines, Russia and Stacey Abrams.
“It’s just been a fantastic honor, and it’s also been a very exciting three months as we’ve been working on a lot of interesting things,” said Raffensperger, who took office in January.
Raffensperger, a Republican, shared with attendees in the Zell B. Miller Learning Center that the secretary of state is responsible for more than overseeing Georgia’s elections. He is also responsible for the registration of corporations and for business and professional licensing.
Raffensperger also mentioned House Bill 316, recently signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp, which Raffensperger said allows for physical recounts using paper ballots and audits. The law changes current voting machines, opting for machines that print out a ballot after a user selects candidates via a touch screen. An optical scanner then takes a photograph of the printout and records and submits the vote.
This new system, Raffensperger said, increases security and confidence, mentioning that the Russians tried to “mess with our minds and create that doubt in us.” The 2016 U.S. elections were marked by attempts by Russian officials to interfere with the electoral process.
“When you have that paper ballot, you have an audit, it gives us a piece of confidence that we got it right,” Raffensperger said.
To be successful at overseeing elections, Raffensperger said being objective and nonpartisan is vital.
“As secretary of state, our job is just to sit there and call the strikes and call the balls,” Raffensperger said. “And we get that right, then we just have to live with the consequences of who ended up being elected whatever election that was.”
Raffensperger mentioned the difficulty of installing new voter machines across the state and of preparations for upcoming elections including the 2020 presidential election, which Raffensperger said should be “interesting.”
During the meeting, Raffensperger anticipated both Democrats and Republicans being energized and he expressed his support of President Donald Trump.
“We want to show that [the 2016 election of Trump] wasn’t a fluke,” Raffensperger said. “What it was, is the American people stood up and said, ‘I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I want to make a change.’ And so that’s what we’re looking for in 2020.”
Taking questions after talking for approximately 15 minutes, Raffensperger was asked about former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’s refusal to concede the 2018 election to Kemp.
“We need to understand that Brian Kemp won that election,” Raffensperger said. “She did not win that election, just mathematically she did not win.”
Raffensperger said he thinks Abrams will run for president in 2020 with the hopes of being picked as a vice presidential candidate. He said Abrams continues to keep her name in the public to raise money “as she continues to harangue and talk about the last election.”
“At some point, I think people start saying, that looks a little churlish, that looks a little like a poor sport,” Raffensperger said.
Raffensperger’s appearance at the UGA College Republicans meeting brought out a large crowd, including freshman economics and statistics major Ethan Zakrewski, who enjoyed hearing about the role of the secretary of state.
“It was interesting … to hear the sort of centrist aspect of the way he was talking, and to hear how he still prizes, above all else, party aside, making sure votes get counted, making sure everything is handled as efficiently and as effectively as possible,” Zakrewski said.