Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) is facing calls to step down from his role as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee over allegations he pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to invalidate ballots that were legally cast in this month’s presidential election.
Raffensperger, who is also a Republican, said in an interview with The Washington Post this week that many within his own party are putting pressure on him to help deliver an electoral win for President Donald Trump within Georgia. Although a recount is currently underway in the state, the incumbent president is currently behind President-elect Joe Biden by a margin of about 14,000 votes.
The Georgia Secretary of State said that his pledge to conduct a fair assessment of the election has resulted in overt criticism from Republicans and even death threats against him. In one text message he received, someone wrote that Raffensperger’s “life depends” on not messing up the recount — implying that he should deliver a win to Trump, or else.
Trump himself has been less-than-subtle in his criticisms of Raffensperger — tweeting unfounded claims that Raffensperger is biased against the president.
“Georgia Secretary of State, a so-called Republican (RINO), won’t let the people checking the ballots see the signatures for fraud,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday. “Why? Without this the whole process is very unfair and close to meaningless.”
In fact, the allegations made by Trump are false: election observers are indeed allowed to compare signatures.
Beyond the death threats being made against him and the wrongful allegations being levied by the president, Raffensperger also claims that high-ranking members of the GOP have applied pressure on him behind the scenes, including Lindsey Graham.
According to Raffensperger, Graham called him directly to inquire whether all mail-in ballots from counties with higher rates of signature discrepancies could be tossed out from the totals. Raffensperger interpreted the request from Graham as suggesting he find a way to toss ballots that were legally cast, a move that would hinder Biden’s vote totals and help Trump.
“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” Raffensperger said of Graham’s insinuations.
Graham himself has responded to the allegations from Raffensperger by denying that he called for ballots to be tossed aside and calling his discussion with the Georgia official a “good conversation.”
“If he feels threatened by that conversation, he’s got a problem,” Graham added.
A number of critics weighed in on Graham’s alleged actions, describing what Raffensperger described as warranting an investigation.
“It is deeply troubling to have a state official allege that a member of the United States Senate took the position that this state official should throw out ballots cast by eligible voters,” Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, said in an interview with MSNBC on Monday.
“We should see the Senate open an ethics inquiry to determine whether or not these allegations are true,” Clarke added.
Marc Elias, a Democratic attorney who specializes in voting rights, agreed. “This is both outrageous and should be investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee,” Elias said in a tweet.
“If these allegations are true, [Lindsey Graham] should resign,” Rolling Stone senior writer Jamil Smith said. “He’s the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for goodness’ sake.”
Smith noted that Graham’s denial itself was worrisome.
“Even Graham’s defense is troubling. If Raffensperger ‘feels threatened by that conversation, he’s got a problem’? What might that be, Lindsey?” Smith said.
Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, also made a direct call for Graham to step away from his position in the Senate.
“Under the guise of rooting out election fraud, it looks like Graham is suggesting committing it,” Bookbinder said. “That is unacceptable, and Senator Graham should step down from his chairmanship immediately.”
Overturning the will of voters in Georgia would be an undemocratic and egregious departure from the standard functioning of modern American politics. And even if it were somehow to happen, it wouldn’t overturn the outcome of the presidential race.
Although Trump and many of his Republican allies are still refusing to concede the election to Biden, the Democratic candidate has amassed 306 Electoral College votes, meaning that if Georgia’s 16 votes were removed from his totals, the president-elect would still have well over the 270 votes needed to win the race.