A staffer for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger (R) said on Tuesday that he participated in a controversial phone call with Sen. Lindsey Graham and confirmed that he heard the Republican senator ask if state officials could throw out ballots, reports CNN.
The explosive remarks from the staffer, election implementation manager Gabriel Sterling, corroborate Raffensberger’s recent claims about the phone call with Graham, who is one of President Donald Trump’s most outspoken allies.
Raffensperger, a Republican, told the Washington Post on Monday that top Republicans, including Sen. Graham, have applied pressure to have legally cast absentee ballots thrown out. Raffensperger said he has been under increasing pressure by fellow Republicans to find ways to invalidate votes in Georgia, where Joe Biden beat President Trump by a narrow margin. Issues have included matching signatures on absentee ballots and voting machines made by Dominion Voting Systems, which have both been the subject of baseless accusations.
Raffensperger expressed frustration over the situation, saying there has been no credible evidence of significant voter fraud in Georgia. He added that he and his wife have received death threats since the election. “Other than getting you angry, it’s also very disillusioning, particularly when it comes from people on my side of the aisle,” he told the Post.
He told the Post he spoke with Graham, the South Carolina Republican, on Friday, and was asked to “look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out” from counties that had higher rates of non-matching signatures.
Raffensperger does not have that authority and told the Post he was stunned that Graham would suggest that legally filed ballots be rejected.
When contacted by the Post on Monday, Graham denied asking for legal ballots to be excluded.
In response to a question from CNN about the incident, Sterling said on Tuesday, “What I heard was basically discussions about absentee ballots and if a potentially … if there was a percentage of signatures that weren’t really, truly matching, is there some point we could get to, we could say somebody went to a courtroom could say well, let’s throw (out) all these ballots because we have no way of knowing because the ballots are separated.”
“There is no physical ability for this office to do anything along those lines,” Sterling continued, referring to throwing out absentee ballots that have already been deemed legal by local election officials. “If somebody wanted to go that route, they could go the court route.”
Graham’s comments “might have gone a little to the edge of” what people deem acceptable, Sterling said, but added that he understands why Raffensberger and Graham might have interpreted the conversation differently.
“The President is going to continue to fight, his supporters continue to fight,” Sterling said. “Our job is to continue to follow the law, and we were answering process questions… that’s what we were doing on the call.”