It won’t be the nastiest civil war that’s ever been fought in Georgia. But it’s not optimal when the party’s trying to unify before two crucial Senate runoff elections.
Here’s the best development Trump’s had yet during the post-election process. It’s not going to change the results statewide, and the fact that the ballots were discovered in a heavily Republican county leads one to wonder why the GOP powers that be there might be “hiding” pro-Trump votes, as will inevitably be alleged. But the president’s not really trying to get the results in any state overturned so much as he’s trying to get his fans to see Biden’s victory as illegitimate and this is a gift-wrapped present in that effort. How many more uncounted votes are out there?
Probably none, if they’re doing a thorough enough recount statewide to have detected these. But Trump wants to raise doubt and this’ll help a bunch:
A recount in Georgia’s presidential race found more than 2,600 ballots in Floyd County that hadn’t originally been tallied, likely helping President Donald Trump reduce his 14,000-vote deficit to Joe Biden…
The problem occurred because county election officials didn’t upload votes from a memory card in an ballot scanning machine, according to the secretary of state’s office.
The previously uncounted votes were cast during in-person early voting at the Floyd County Administration Building, which includes the county’s elections office, [Floyd County Republican chair Luke] Martin said. Over half of 5,000 printed-out ballots cast on an optical scanner weren’t initially recorded.
“It’s very concerning,” Martin said. “But this doesn’t appear to be a widespread issue. I’m glad the audit revealed it, and it’s important that all votes are counted.”
Martin estimated Trump would net about 800 votes from the uncounted ballots, which would cut Biden’s lead from a little more than 14,000 statewide to around 13,500. Not a gamechanger but obviously embarrassing for the state. Imagine if those ballots had been found in a Democratic-run county and they had conveniently broken overwhelmingly for Trump.
As I say, that’s the good news for POTUS today. The bad news is that election law expert Rick Hasen surveyed the landscape of court challenges to Biden’s victory and declared that there effectively are no challenges at this point, at least none that would matter in any way. It’s all over, he insists. Soon key states will start certifying their numbers, which should trigger another burst of denialist presidential tweeting and maybe a few desperation lawsuits to try to buy time. But assuming the certifications happen, either the GSA will finally relent and begin the official transition or Team Joe will go to court to compel the GSA to formally “ascertain” that he’s the winner. (The GSA official who’s refusing to release transition resources to Biden is reportedly job-hunting in the expectation that there’ll be a new administration soon.) What do you do when the legal ground beneath your feet, never sturdy to begin with, suddenly begins to cave in?
You look for a scapegoat. Unfortunately for the GOP, all the relevant state officials in Georgia who presided over Biden’s narrow victory are themselves Republican. Gov. Brian Kemp is, of course, as is Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who continues to insist that he’s seen no evidence of meaningful fraud despite pressure from Washington. The main target of complaints is heretofore unknown secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, who’s presiding over the hand recount. I’m surprised that none of the three is giving Trump much cover on his “rigged!” allegations and then finding myself surprised that I’m surprised, as state officials should be expected to defend the results of an election in their state against smears when there’s no evidence of fraud. But undermining Trump just doesn’t happen much in the modern GOP, even when it’s in the public interest. If forced to choose between a fair process that resulted in a Democrat winning and an array of threadbare lies to delegitimize that result, you’re expected to at least show some solicitousness towards the latter.
Trump’s not getting much from Raffensperger, though. And he and his friends are putting a *lot* of pressure on right now:
In reality, says Erick Erickson, Georgia was unusually thorough this year in matching signatures. It wasn’t just the mail ballot itself that was verified, it was the application for a mail ballot:
Henry Olsen wonders why, if Team Trump was so concerned about the signature verification process, they didn’t insist on observing that process — or suing to block it — before the election. The answer is obvious: Trump thought he would win Georgia and no one on his team had an earnest objection to Georgia’s procedures. The complaints now are just a case of the campaign grasping at straws to delegitimize a costly defeat after the fact.
Raffensperger is the most intriguing figure in all of this because he’s been especially dogged in not giving Trump rhetorical cover for his smears. Whether that’s because he thinks leadership requires him to defend the integrity of the state’s process or because he’s just righteously angry at the demagoguery, I don’t know. But this guy seems to be done with taking sh*t from the president and his allies:
Republican infighting in Georgia intensifies as Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger goes after Doug Collins, who leads Trump’s recount efforts in the state: “Failed candidate Doug Collins is a liar— but what’s new?” he writes on Facebook. pic.twitter.com/Earo0Fff9L
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) November 16, 2020
Raffensperger told WaPo this afternoon that he and his wife are getting death threats from some of Trump’s more fanatic followers because he insists on claiming that this was a fair election. He also dropped a bombshell, claiming that Lindsey Graham dialed him up and … inquired about excluding some perfectly valid ballots:
In their conversation, Graham questioned Raffensperger about the state’s signature-matching law and whether political bias could have prompted poll workers to accept ballots with nonmatching signatures, according to Raffensperger. Graham also asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures, Raffensperger said.
Raffspenger said he was stunned that Graham appeared to suggest that he find a way to toss legally cast ballots. Absent court intervention, Raffensperger doesn’t have the power to do what Graham suggested, as counties administer elections in Georgia.
“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” he said.
Graham has also publicly entertained the idea of state legislatures declaring their elections void and awarding their electors to Trump. This cretin really does seem willing to condone a coup against the elected incoming government on the thinnest possible pretenses, from excluding legal ballots to just ignoring the result of a state election on the theory that fraud must have occurred to taint it. There’d be nothing left of the country’s civic culture if he succeeded, but so long as Lindsey Graham gets to remain a senator and his party remains in power, that’s a detail. A question to ask yourself: Why did he call up Raffensperger in first place, especially now instead of waiting until the recount is over and speaking to him then? If he was speaking in his role as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, because the committee is investigating election procedures, there’s no reason why that can’t wait until the more important work of counting the votes is finished. The obvious suspicion is that Graham called Raffensperger this week because he really was trying to lean on him on Trump’s behalf to start throwing out ballots in hopes of changing the outcome illicitly, before the result is certified. In a better world, the DOJ would open a corruption case on him tonight.
Maybe Raffensperger’s made of sterner stuff than the average Republican pol or maybe his odds as secretary of state of winning higher office were sufficiently slim before this process that he has less to lose than Kemp does, but he’s obviously not going to bend to Trump’s narrative. And my sense of him is that the more he’s threatened and demagogued, the more resolute he’s going to get. I’ll leave you with one more quote from his WaPo interview about the GOP civil war in Georgia, an ominous one for the runoffs: “I don’t think it’s helpful when you create doubt in the election process. People might throw up their arms and say, ‘Why vote?’”