Georgia secretary of state race pits Hice against Raffensperger : NPR


Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., speaks with supporters throughout a marketing campaign occasion on the Flying Machine restaurant in Lawrenceville, Ga. Hice, one of many nation’s preeminent election deniers, is working for Georgia secretary of state.

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Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., speaks with supporters throughout a marketing campaign occasion on the Flying Machine restaurant in Lawrenceville, Ga. Hice, one of many nation’s preeminent election deniers, is working for Georgia secretary of state.

Alyssa Pointer for NPR

Over cheeseburgers, onion rings and fried rooster salads, individuals shared what they’d heard. One thing “crooked” was happening throughout the nation.

In California, for example, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom hadn’t really received his recall election final yr by the three million votes that was reported.

“They discovered bins of ballots months later, all for the opposite man,” somebody whispered.

The TV over the bar on the Flying Machine restaurant in Lawrenceville, Ga., was turned to Fox Information, and Republicans gathered to speak about what they have been speaking about for a lot of the previous yr and a half: voter fraud.

DeKalb County Republican Chair Marci McCarthy speaks throughout a marketing campaign occasion for Hice on the Flying Machine restaurant in Lawrenceville, Ga.

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DeKalb County Republican Chair Marci McCarthy speaks throughout a marketing campaign occasion for Hice on the Flying Machine restaurant in Lawrenceville, Ga.

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“What number of really feel that the 2020 elections had been a bit sketchy?!” requested DeKalb County GOP Chair Marci McCarthy, to cheers. “All people ought to be elevating their arms!”

The restaurant occasion was the twelfth and last cease in a three-day “election integrity” tour placed on by one of many nation’s preeminent election deniers, Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga.

Hice objected to the 2020 election outcomes on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, simply hours after it had been stormed by a violent pro-Trump mob.

And now, the previous pastor is working to supervise voting in Georgia because the secretary of state.

“If ever the sacred belief of the voice of the individuals is ever compromised or violated, then we as a republic are in severe, severe bother,” Hice instructed the group on the Flying Machine. “And I consider with all my coronary heart that was damaged in Georgia on this final election cycle.”

Downtown Lawrenceville, Ga.

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Downtown Lawrenceville, Ga.

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There has by no means been proof to assist that declare. No main or widespread points with the 2020 election had been uncovered wherever in the US, and paper ballots in Georgia had been recounted a number of occasions, together with as soon as by hand throughout a risk-limiting audit.

But in keeping with current polls, a majority of Republican voters nationwide nonetheless consider there have been issues. Which is why the incumbent within the Georgia secretary of state race, Brad Raffensperger, is now going through a number of Republican major challengers.

On the again of Hice’s marketing campaign posters, there’s a cowboy boot and the phrases “Boot Brad.”

Beneath siege from his personal social gathering

A soft-spoken former engineer, Raffensperger did not enter politics till he was in his mid-50s. He was elected to his first time period as secretary of state in Georgia in 2018, and fewer than three years later, he acquired a cellphone name that modified his life.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in Dalton, Ga.

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Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in Dalton, Ga.

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“All I need to do is that this — I simply need to discover 11,780 votes,” stated former President Donald Trump, successfully asking Raffensperger to overturn the election leads to Georgia in his favor.

The secretary declined. “Properly, Mr. President, the problem that you’ve got is the information you will have is unsuitable,” Raffensperger stated.

However specialists fear that election-denying candidates like Hice can be extra keen than Raffensperger was to subvert the need of the voters in future races, on account of their willingness to unfold election misinformation.

An NPR evaluation discovered that there are no less than 20 such Republican candidates in secretary of state races throughout the nation this yr.

“The explanation why Trump’s try and overturn the 2020 election failed is as a result of there have been state officers who refused to substantiate his claims of fraud,” stated Franita Tolson, an election regulation skilled on the College of Southern California. “These of us actually are gatekeepers.”

Hice outdoors a marketing campaign occasion in Lawrenceville, Ga.

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Hice outdoors a marketing campaign occasion in Lawrenceville, Ga.

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Hice instructed NPR in an interview that he thought it was applicable for Trump to name Raffensperger after the election. And he declined to reply whether or not he would have responded in a different way to Trump’s request.

“The president was, from the best way I listened to it, clearly saying [to Raffensperger], ‘There have been apparent issues on this election and do your job and examine,’ ” Hice stated. “That is an affordable request.”

Over the previous 15 months since that decision, Raffensperger, the chief election official in Georgia, has hung out virtually daily correcting the identical misinformation Trump cited when he made his ask.

Within the name, for example, Trump falsely stated 1000’s of lifeless individuals voted in Georgia in 2020.

“There have been 4. That is one, two, three, 4. Not 4,000,” stated Raffensperger at a Rotary Membership Q&A he attended final week in Dalton, Ga.

Downtown Dalton, Ga.

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Downtown Dalton, Ga.

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At these types of occasions, Raffensperger would not elevate his voice or actually venture a lot emotion in any respect. It is a stark distinction from Hice’s sermonizing about voter fraud, which Raffensperger says is by design.

Republicans in 2020 had been too “spun up” and polarized about voting by politicians like Trump, he stated, which led to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

Simply weeks earlier than that riot, a member of Raffensperger’s workers warned at a press convention that somebody was “going to get killed” because of the misinformation swirling across the election.

“Our total society gasped and realized that [Jan. 6] was a bridge means too far,” Raffensperger stated in an interview with NPR. “I feel now we’re making an attempt to determine, how will we go ahead? We’ve to have conversations which can be respectful, primarily based on fact. I feel once we do this, I feel that we will begin transferring ahead.”

Raffensperger speaks with individuals following a Rotary Membership assembly the place he was a visitor’s speaker, at Mack Gaston Neighborhood Middle in Dalton, Ga.

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Raffensperger speaks with individuals following a Rotary Membership assembly the place he was a visitor’s speaker, at Mack Gaston Neighborhood Middle in Dalton, Ga.

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A distinct sort of race

When Raffensperger was first elected secretary of state, the place was nonetheless regarded as a sleepy, bureaucratic place. Many, if not most, voters throughout the nation could not title the one who held the place in their very own state.

However 2020 turned the election neighborhood the other way up. Raffensperger has turn into a family title, and now individuals greater than ever have to be listening to down-ballot races, says Adrienne Jones, a political science professor at Morehouse School.

“You want a recreation plan. It is advisable to know what the secretary of state is. … It is advisable to know who the judges are,” she stated. “It is received to turn into a extra energetic, full-bodied engagement.”

One signal that persons are sensing the urgency is the cash.

The race in Georgia, and secretary of state races in different swing states, are flooded with marketing campaign donations in a means they by no means have been earlier than, in keeping with ongoing evaluation from the Brennan Middle for Justice.

Hice leads the Georgia discipline with $1.6 million raised to this point, in keeping with the Brennan Middle’s evaluation.

Larry Norden, the senior director of the elections and authorities applications on the Brennan Middle, says it is a good factor that voters are paying consideration.

However he additionally worries in regards to the existential stakes being placing on these types of races, contemplating most voters have to believe in election outcomes for a democracy to operate, and never everybody’s candidate can win.

“The therapy of election officers,” Norden stated, “and secretaries of state particularly, as one thing greater than umpires … however really staff gamers who can tilt the sphere a technique or one other, will not be good for American democracy.”

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