(NewsNation) — Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is defending a controversial Georgia voting law that Republicans say will boost election “security” and “confidence” but which Democrats have decried as “anti-democratic.”
In his first public interview since testifying before the Jan.6 investigative committee two weeks ago, Raffensperger defended the bill, S.B. 202, on NewsNation’s “Dan Abrams Live” on Wednesday.
The bill, also called the “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” has been attacked by Democrats as a Republican effort to gain partisan control over the making of election rules, alleging the new law will give partisan state legislatures the ability to overturn the wills of county election boards.
Republicans, however, laud the bill as a step toward restoring faith in elections in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims he won the 2020 election and a subsequent riot at the Capitol by supporters who believed his lie.
Raffensperger tries to seize the middle ground between both sides in his defense of the bill. He claims the bill actually provides more access to elections.
The bill will require a photo ID be submitted for an absentee mail-in ballot to be accepted by the state, rather than the old way of confirming a voters ID through a signature match process, which Raffensperger argued was too “subjective.”
“The Election Integrity Act of 2021 really helped us sure up security and also confidence,” Raffensperger said. “We now have photo ID for all forms of voting, so our absentee voting is still no-excuse absentee voting, but it shored up with photo ID … that is something they have been using in Minnesota for over 10 years. They like it up in that state, which happens to be a blue state. We like it here in Georgia because it’s secure and also then shores up confidence.”
The amount of time people will have to submit an application for an absentee ballot is also reduced. Rather than being able to submit an application up to the Friday before an election, they will now have to submit that application at least two Fridays before an election. Some local election officials who felt overwhelmed in previous elections liked this provision, according to reporting by Georgia Public Radio.
Democrats contend the bill will give too much power to the Republican-controlled Georgia state legislature to determine how election rules are set and how investigations into possible election fraud can occur.
Currently, the disqualification of any voters or ballots is done by a county election board. This bill will provide the State Board of Elections with the ability to determine if a county board of elections is performing adequately. This is a frightening proposal to Democrats who fear it gives the legislature, which has significant control over the State Board of Elections, too much power.
Raffensperger believes these fears to be unfounded, insisting “due process” will be involved in election fraud investigations.
“They can’t do anything without a hearing, so there is due process, lawyers can be brought in on both sides, so everyone will have their opportunity to have their voice heard,” Raffensperger said.
The law removed the Secretary of State as the election chair in the state, instead handing that power to a person appointed by the legislature. The legislature also chooses all the members who sit on the State Board of Elections. Democrats select one member, Republicans another, then the House and Senate each select one of their own.
In Georgia, this effectively leaves Republicans with four of the five selections for the State Board of Elections.
“I’ve been clear, I did not support that part of me being removed as the chair,” Raffensperger said. “But be that as it may, the state election board cannot nullify an election; their job is to really look into infractions that happened.”
Despite his protests to being removed as the State Board of Elections chair, Raffensperger spoke confidently of the legislature’s selected replacement, former federal Judge William S. Duffey Jr.
“He comes out of being a federal judge and a U.S. attorney, and so he doesn’t lean left or right. His job is to look straight down the middle and to just make sure we’re calling balls and strikes,” Raffensperger said. “I am very confident in his ability to do that.”