No one doubts that Brad Raffensperger has a thankless job at the moment, but maybe that’s why he should refrain from picking unnecessary fights in the middle of a recount. After accusing Lindsey Graham of pressuring him to throw out ballots in the presidential recount, Raffensperger retreated on an interview with Fox’s Martha MacCallum this morning. Graham had asked about signature-matching procedures in relation to the Senate races, the secretary of state explained, and only “implied” that Raffensperger should discard ballots where signature matching had questionable results.
Pick this up at the 3:20 mark:
Atlanta’s CBS affiliate reports that Raffensperger “stood firm” in his allegation against Graham, but their headline is rather amusing: “Raffensperger Says He Inferred Lindsey Graham Hinted He Should Discard Ballots.” He inferred a hint?
“He asked if the ballots could be matched back to the voters,” Raffensperger told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” Monday evening. “And then he, I got the sense it implied that then you could throw those out for any, if you look at the counties with the highest frequent error of signatures. So that’s the impression that I got.”
He later added, “It was just an implication of, ‘Look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out.’ ”
Raffensperger’s comments come after he told The Washington Post on Monday that Graham had cast doubt on Georgia’s signature-matching law in a conversation on Friday, and had also floated the possibility that biased poll workers could have counted ballots with inconsistent signatures.
That headline is an embarrassing attempt by Atlanta’s CBS affiliate to rescue Raffensperger’s story. He told the Washington Post a somewhat different story, at least as the Post reported it:
In their conversation, Graham questioned Raffensperger about the state’s signature-matching law and whether political bias could have prompted poll workers to accept ballots with nonmatching signatures, according to Raffensperger. Graham also asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures, Raffensperger said.
Raffensperger said he was stunned that Graham appeared to suggest that he find a way to toss legally cast ballots. Absent court intervention, Raffensperger doesn’t have the power to do what Graham suggested because counties administer elections in Georgia.
So Raffensperger’s changing his tune a bit, or at least the tenor of it. An inferred hint is a pretty thin basis for a high-ranking official to claim interference. For his part, Graham says he’s mystified, as he thought the conversation was friendly:
Reached by the newspaper Monday evening, Graham denied Raffensperger’s characterization of events while acknowledging that the two did speak.
The South Carolina Republican explained that he sought out Raffensperger on his own to understand the signature-matching law.
“The main issue for me is: How do you protect the integrity of mail-in voting, and how does signature verification work?” he said, adding that, “If he feels threatened by that conversation, he’s got a problem. I actually thought it was a good conversation.”
Why would Graham ask about this in the first place? Well, for one thing, Graham currently chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal law enforcement. Both Democrats and Republicans acted to expand federal jurisdiction over election processes after the 2016 election and foreign interference claims, plus Georgia is operating under a federal consent decree (although that’s not related to the signature issue).
On top of all that, the Senate has the final authority whether to accept election results for senatorial elections, just as the House does with its elections. The Judiciary Committee would be at least one of the committees that would have to investigate irregularities in case of challenges to results, if not the committee with the highest jurisdiction on those issues. Why is it a surprise that the Judiciary chair wants to make sure that the proper processes are followed and asks questions of the official in charge of that?
Thankfully, the recount is nearly over, Raffensperger tells MacCallum. Perhaps at that point, he can get off of national television and do his job in the runoffs, and quit complaining about oversight of his performance.