Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger isn’t one to call attention to himself. But the last two years have thrust Raffensperger and his family under the white-hot glare of national scrutiny and contempt from members of his own Republican party.
The millionaire, civil engineer-turned-politician garnered unaccustomed attention after he refused to acquiesce to former President Donald Trump’s demand to alter the 2020 presidential election results, drawing the ire of Trump and his followers. They attacked his work, his reputation, and even his family, who endured death threats along with Raffensperger. But the self-described “principled conservative” insists the unrelenting vilification from some members of his party and the public hasn’t changed or hardened him.
Raffensperger, 66, who is seeking a second term as secretary of state in a crowded race, turned to the Bible to explain his outlook on life now.
“I’m at a point in my life where the Lord’s changed me. He’s healed my heart,” Raffensperger said Feb. 10 during a 90-minute discussion with Atlanta journalists Nicole Carr of ProPublica and Mark Niesse of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“I understand that sometimes, people are clamoring for a king. And it never worked out too well for Israel. In Judges 7:7, Gideon only had 300 men. So in my race, I’m looking for 300 people to come alongside me in a big way. I think there’s a big groundswell of other conservatives looking for a good, honest, decent human being that’ll do their job” he said.
Raffensperger has also written a book, Integrity Counts, published last November, in an effort to make sense of his two-year ordeal and the changing political landscape that is America now.
The wide-ranging virtual conversation, part of the Atlanta Press Club’s 2022 Newsmaker Series, covered: the controversial election reform law Georgia Election Integrity Act (SB 202) that passed last year, the upcoming midterm elections, and the ongoing fixation for some members of his party on the former president.
Here are some of the highlights. Raffensperger’s comments have been edited for clarity and brevity. :
How will the new elections law affect midterm voting?
Under SB 202, we now will have photo ID. That’s going to improve security and voter confidence, because so many allegations were made about the signature match [on absentee ballots].
We’re also holding counties accountable. During the November [municipal] elections, the average wait time was two minutes [on] election day. The longest I saw on the leader board was about 15 minutes. That’s great progress. If a county can’t seem to run an election, we now have accountability. There’s a review panel looking at Fulton County right now. … If they don’t improve, their board can be replaced and then have a new election director put in place. So accountability is a good thing.
Now if you want to vote absentee, you request your ballot, and you have to get it in 11 days before [the election], so that the county can process it. They can mail you your ballot, then you can mail it back in or drop it off into a dropbox.
We’ve actually increased early voting to up to 19 days for any county that wants to have two additional Sunday voting days. That‘s 19 days, versus President Biden’s home state of Delaware, which has 10 days. We have kept no-excuse absentee voting. In Delaware, you need a doctor’s permission slip to vote absentee.
So it’s, like I said, easy to vote in Georgia. We have record registrations, record turnout.
Can counties recruit enough poll workers after the harassment many received last year?
I’m not concerned about the poll workers. First of all, they take an oath to follow the law and to do their work. They also go to a poll-worker training. Those are really skilled professionals that are volunteering. They may get $120 to $150 a day as they’re working. Those are your citizens. Those are the people you meet at the grocery store. You see them at Rotary, Kiwanis, and your church groups. They’re out there at the ball field. Those are good citizens working hard to do the job.
Would Raffensperger seek Trump’s support in his upcoming bid for secretary of state?
I won’t be having his support, because he’s already supported Congressman Jody Hice. I’m running on my own merits.
With so many candidates running for secretary of state, especially within your own party, what are your chances?
I follow the law and the Constitution. Our Constitution was given to us as God-inspired. So we have a higher authority, and it’s God. We don’t have a king. What people are looking for is principled conservatives, not people who just holler rhetoric and flame emotions, but who actually get the job done.
So we have new, verifiable paper ballots. We do risk-limiting audits. We’ve updated the voter rolls. We’re updating our voter registration data. We’ve banned ballot harvesting. We’ve investigated hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of cases where people have double-voted or voted in two states. So I’ve shown that I’m going to make sure we have good, honest, fair elections.
How is the Georgia Republican party doing when many still believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump?
There are lots of us out there who are principled conservatives. Our party’s diverse. We have a diverse group of opinions, just like the Democratic Party. At the end of the day, what people want is a government to work for them.
What does Raffensperger want his legacy to be?
That I was an honest person. I did what was right. Every morning I can look in the mirror at myself. But more importantly, I can look at my wife, Tricia, look at my kids and grandkids, and know that I did what was right.
And that’s good enough. Eventually, we’re going to be held accountable, either in this life or the next life that comes after it. That’s what is really important to me. So with the Lord and Tricia by my side, walking in faith, walking with integrity, that works for me.
Listen to Raffensperger’s conversation in its entirety here.