Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger attempted to clear up ongoing concerns about election irregularities related to the 2020 election during a town hall call Tuesday for residents of Northwest Georgia.
There were widespread claims of election fraud following the 2020 presidential election and suggestions the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, but during the 30-minute call, Raffensperger said investigations into the matter have proven those claims to be false.
Raffensperger said investigators looked into every tip that was sent in, whether they were allegations that deceased people had voted or claims that residents who were not yet 18 cast ballots. After an audit and two recounts — including one 100% hand recount — they found only four instances in which someone voted in the place of a deceased person, and no one under 18 was found to have cast a ballot.
The four individuals who cast ballots for dead people will be brought before the state elections board and prosecuted, he said.
"Georgia is a leader in election integrity. In 2020, I was disappointed by the results as a Republican and have a number of friends who were also," Raffensperger said. "I understand that many of you are grieving that, but we checked everything out, and President Trump did come out short. I believe that is because 28,000 voters did not vote in the presidential election."
Instead, he said a majority of those voters voted down the ballot in every other race and elected not to vote for either Trump or Joe Biden, who won.
Raffensperger also addressed concerns about the accuracy of the Dominion Voting Systems machines used in 2020. Rumors were widespread following the election that the machines had flipped votes or were manipulated to do so by hackers connecting to the machines via the internet. This, he said, was untrue.
According to Raffensperger, the Dominion machines were only connected to Wi-Fi during early voting to ensure that voters were not voting in multiple precincts, but he said they were not connected to the internet at all on Election Day. All the equipment was also certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission before that day.
"The audit that we did and the hand recount of all 5 million ballots proved two things," he said. "One is the accuracy of the machine, and number two is that the machines did not flip the votes."
"The machines were solid. Nothing changed. They were not hacked," he continued.
Following the election, Georgia passed the Republican-led Election Integrity Act, also known as Georgia Senate Bill 202, in an effort to overhaul elections in the state. The act has drawn widespread criticism from Democrats like Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and Biden, who referred to it as "Jim Crow in the 21st century" in March. Raffensperger addressed that criticism Tuesday, arguing the Election Integrity Act was "very objective" and would ensure both ballot security and increased voter access.
The law lengthens the early voting period in all Georgia counties to three weeks, adds two mandatory Saturday voting days, mandates that at least one absentee ballot drop box is available in all counties and attempts to reduce voter wait times to less than one hour, he said. All drop boxes are required to be under the visual surveillance of an election worker, he said, and any precinct that has wait times longer than one hour will be required to split in half or add additional equipment prior to the next election.
"It also adds another accountability measure," he said. "The state election board can now perform a review and step in if a county habitually and continually fails like Fulton County has since 1993. We now can come in and actually replace that election board."
No ballot stuffing was found in Fulton County, as was hinted at following the election, according to Raffensperger. He said State Farm Arena was under 24/7 surveillance on Election Day, including during a "40- to 50-minute window" in which election workers thought they were done for the day. He said they packed ballots into designated ballot boxes at around 10 p.m. on Election Day because they believed they were finished with their count for the evening. After learning other precincts were planning to continue working later into the night, they pulled those ballots back out of the boxes so they could as well.
During that time, monitors from both the Republican and Democratic parties left to visit other precincts. A monitor from the state also left to visit another tabulation center. Video surveillance, however, was ongoing during their absence.
"That video surveillance has been looked at. Agents have also come in and interviewed every employee who came through that night," he said, noting that no evidence of fraud was uncovered. "It has been over a year, and we are still punching down that rumor."
One caller asked Raffensperger about a $5 million grant provided by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg, questioning whether those funds were used to target Democratic voters and urban counties. Raffensperger said that was not the case and that the funds were instead distributed statewide.
"We used the grant funding to push back on election disinformation online and to promote our voter fraud hotline," he said. "It did not go to any single county. It was a statewide effort."
Raffensperger is up for re-election this year and faces a primary challenge from Republican Congressman Jody Hice, who has been endorsed by Trump.
Hice's communications director, Sarah Selip, said she could not comment when contacted by the Times Free Press on Tuesday. Kaitlyn Branson, a representative for Hice's campaign, did not respond to emails Tuesday.
Contact Kelcey Caulder at email@example.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.