Raffensperger Defends His Record at Georgia Secretary of State Debate

Incumbent Brad Raffensperger defended his embattled tenure as Secretary of State managing Georgia’s contentious elections, as his Democratic challenger Bee Nguyen attacked his efforts on Tuesday in their only scheduled debate. They were joined by Libertarian Ted Metz at the event sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club at the Georgia Public Broadcasting studios.

Raffensperger was at the center of the 2020 election controversies. Then President Donald Trump’s telephone call urging him to find additional Trump votes, was cited in the first article of Trump’s second impeachment. Raffensperger and his deputy Gabe Sterling have both testified before Congress.

Raffensperger positioned himself during the debate as someone who had stood up to Trump—who was not mentioned by name—as well as to Democrats, including Stacey Abrams, who claimed the 2018 election, in which she lost the governor’s race to Brian Kemp, was rigged.

“I have had to stand up to incredible pressure,” he said in his closing statement. “Many people faltered. I didn’t.”

Brad Raffensperger, the Republican incumbent Georgia Secretary of State, at the Atlanta Press Club debate on Oct. 18, 2022. (Photo REUTERS/Dustin Chambers/POOL.)

“I’ve been pushing back election deniers after the 2018 race and after the 2020 race,” he later told reporters, expounding upon the issue.

Nguyen, a state representative, attacked the Republican incumbent. “The Republicans and Mr. Raffensperger have made it harder for Georgians to vote,” with the passage of the state’s Election Integrity Act. Also called Senate Bill 202. it tightens up on absentee ballot use, requiring voter ID, and cutting the use of unsupervised dropboxes for delivering ballots. These measures, she said, make voting harder, particularly for minorities.

Raffensperger returned again and again to facts showing that voting had not become harder, citing record turnouts for May primaries and yesterday, the first day of Georgia’s early voting for the Nov. 8 election. The 131,000 people who voted on Monday more than doubled the number from the last election, he said.

Nguyen, for her part, pointed to glitches in voting on Monday as evidence that Georgia’s electoral system still has problems. There were lines 2½ hours long in Chatham County, and the electronic voting system went down at one location in the Atlanta metro area, prompting workers to tell voters they had to go elsewhere to vote, she said.

Raffensperger told reporters after the debate that the glitch at the South DeKalb Mall was internal and not the result of a hack or other threat to election security.

He said he uses early voting, and—for those who do—long lines are not a problem. If he comes to the polls and sees a long line, he returns another day, he said.

Raffensperger defended the provisions of the voting reforms that allowed the state to purge the voter rolls of erroneous entries, such as voters who have moved or died. He acknowledged one provision, allowing citizens to challenge registrations they think improper, had resulted in 65,000 challenges.

“Eleven to 13 percent of Georgians move every year,” Raffensperger said. “It’s very important to update voter rolls.” He said, however, that he would support revision of the bill to eliminate “frivolous challenges that gum up the works.”

Questioner Matt Brown of the Washington Post asked Raffensperger if fears about illegal votes were overblown, as an investigation had found only four deceased voters.

Raffensperger said they’d found 1,634 non-citizens who attempted to register. “I think you should have to be a citizen to vote,” he stated.

Raffensperger told The Epoch Times after the debate that an investigation begun last year by his office continues into allegations of absentee ballot irregularities made by the True the Vote activist group. It was delayed because a vacancy on the state Elections Board delayed issuing a necessary subpoena, he said, but the process is now moving again. He wouldn’t comment further, saying it is an active investigation.

Epoch Times Photo
Bee Nguyen, Democratic nominee for Georgia Secretary of State, speaks at the Atlanta Press Club debate on Oct. 18, 2022.. (Photo REUTERS/Dustin Chambers/POOL.)

Nguyen worked the contentious abortion issue into the debate, noting that Raffensperger as a state legislator had supported restrictive abortion laws. The Secretary of State regulates professions such as nursing, she said.

“It’s important for nurses and other health care workers to decide if they want to trust a staunch anti-choice secretary of state, and that women in Georgia should decide if they want to trust a staunch anti-choice secretary of state,” Nguyen said. “I’m the only candidate who’s pro-democracy and pro-choice.”

Raffensperger shrugged off the issue as irrelevant to the office. “Job One is to know the job, and you don’t know the job.”

Metz, retired from a career in information technology, including database voting, said he believes paper ballots are the way to go. He noted their use in France, where 42 million ballots get counted without controversy within hours of the polls closing there, proving the system can work reliably on a large scale. He said that the Dominion electronic voting system used by Georgia and other states is highly flawed and vulnerable.

Dan M. Berger

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