Sen. Graham responds to scrutiny after call with Georgia Secretary of State

Updated: Nov. 17, 2020 at 6:02 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Sen. Lindsey Graham is calling accusations he pressured Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to throw out some legally cast ballots in Georgia, “ridiculous.”

In a Washington Post article detailing an interview with Raffensperger, the Secretary of State said Graham asked him if he has the power to throw away mail-in ballots in counties where they saw high rates of nonmatching ballot signatures.

“Look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out,” Raffensperger recalls Graham saying.

Since the original interview, Raffensperger has also repeated this same memory of the call to other reporters.

When asked about his conversations with Raffensperger, Graham said he didn’t pressure anyone to do anything illegal.

“That wasn’t my intent and that wasn’t the purpose of the conversation to throw out ballots. We are talking about an election we ain’t even had yet which is the Senate races. That was my focus, how do you verify signatures,” Graham said.

In addition to conducting a hand recount in the Presidential Election, Georgia is also set to hold two runoffs for both of their Senate seats. The January 5 race is garnering national attention because the results of both the races could determine which party holds power in the U.S. Senate.

A third person has come out saying they were on the call, election implementation manager Gabriel Sterling.

“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,” Sterling told CNN.

Raffensperger also said it’s possible Graham was looking into the state’s signature verification process as part of a court case.

Sterling told CNN the Secretary was answering questions about, “process,” and that if someone wanted to challenge mail-in ballots in court, “they could go down that route.”

On Twitter, Graham’s Communications Director Kevin Bishop said Sterling’s statements show the original reporting of Graham pressuring officials wasn’t correct.

“The initial story and many others reported this as ‘pressuring’ officials -- not going to court. A HUGE difference,” Bishop tweeted.

However, Raffensperger has said he does feel Graham was trying to see if these ballots could be discarded.

“He asked if the ballots could be matched to the voters, and I got the sense he implied can you throw those out,” he told CNN.

Sterling said he sees how both men could have heard the same conversation differently but ultimately feels confident in the state’s election process.

“These counties have apparently, from our point of view, from what we have seen, done their jobs. Appropriately done signature matching, which has actually been enhanced by this office with extra tools,” said Sterling to an Atlanta TV station.

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