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Sen. Lindsey Graham has been condemned for allegedly pressuring Georgia’s Secretary of State to throw out legal ballots during the state’s presidential recount.
President-elect Joe Biden won the state of Georgia by more than 14,000 votes, but a recount is currently underway due to the closeness of Biden’s victory over Donald Trump.
Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told the Washington Post that Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, had called him last week and asked whether Raffensperger could discard ballots.
Graham allegedly questioned Georgia’s signature-matching law, asking whether poll workers with political biases could have allowed ballots with nonmatching signatures.
Raffensperger said that Graham asked if the Secretary of State was legally able to throw out every mail-in ballot in a county with a higher rate of nonmatching signatures.
“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” Raffensperger said.
CNN later spoke to Gabriel Sterling, a staffer for Raffensperger, who appeared to corroborate his account of the call, noting that Raffesnperger and Graham had discussed whether a court could “throw [out] all these ballots.”
Graham denied Raffensperger’s account of their conversation, calling it “ridiculous.”
“If he feels threatened by that conversation, he’s got a problem,” Graham told The Hill. “I actually thought it was a good conversation.”
He claimed that, rather than pressure Raffensperger to throw out votes, he was trying to better understand Georgia’s recount process.
“I never said that. I said, ‘Do you have power as secretary of state to require bipartisan verification of the signature?’” Graham said, adding that he was informed that “right now they don’t.”
Raffensperger disputed Graham’s defense, CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer, “It was just an implication of, ‘Look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out.'”
Democrats have slammed Graham over the allegations, and he has faced calls to resign as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and even as senator.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) tweeted that “Senate Republicans shouldn’t be applying pressure on election officials to overturn the will of the people,” and said that Raffensperger’s account of the call was “deeply troubling and unacceptable.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) responded to the Post‘s report with a tweet calling it “insane and illegal.”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) urged the Justice Department to get involved, tweeting: “Did Lindsey Graham illegally pressure the Georgia secretary of state to rig the election after the fact? The justice department should find out.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) tweeted, “This is what happens when Trump runs the country and his party like a mob boss. Shameful isn’t even the word.”
Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) all noted that Graham’s alleged attempts at having legal ballots thrown out flew in the face of his support for Donald Trump’s baseless accusations that the presidential election, which Trump lost, was subject to voter fraud or malfeasance.
“So basically asking him to commit voter fraud,” Tlaib tweeted, while Jayapal wrote, “I’d like to report some voter fraud.”
“While Republicans publicly scream ‘voter fraud’ without evidence, this is what the Chair of the @senjudiciary is doing in private,” Pocan tweeted. “Who’s the fraud?”
Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington tweeted: “For the chairman of the Senate committee with oversight of our legal system to have reportedly suggested that an election official toss out large numbers of legal ballots is appalling. Senator Graham should step down from his chairmanship immediately.”
Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, asked why the chairman of the Judiciary Committee was “calling Georgia’s Secretary of State to discuss mechanics of an ongoing ballot count? Such a call would be implicitly coercive in the best case, even without Graham’s alleged suggestion about throwing out lawful votes.”
Shaub also took issue with Graham’s rebuttal of Raffensperger’s claims about their call.
“Even if one were to accept Graham’s version of the story, the call’s a scandal that should lead to his immediate resignation,” he tweeted. “The republic won’t survive Senate committee chairs calling election officials from their own party to discuss vote counting before a final verdict.”
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