Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state that is increasingly under fire, has recently sought to draw parallels between Donald Trump and Democrat Stacey Abrams in a bid to perhaps rationalize the antics of the former while simultaneously accentuating criticism of the latter.
Raffensperger points out that after Abrams lost her 2018 gubernatorial race, she called into question the integrity of the electoral process and refused to concede. Raffensperger claims that since Trump similarly lost the presidential contest, it only makes sense that he would follow the “Abrams Playbook” by questioning the integrity of the election and refusing to concede.
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In 2018, Abrams faced off against Republican Brian Kemp and Libertarian Ted Metz. Georgia uses a version of runoff voting for governor, which is when there are potentially two rounds of voting. If a candidate wins more than half the votes in the first round, that candidate is declared the winner. If not, the two candidates with the most first-round votes face off in a second round of voting.
Per the official tally, a total of 3,939,328 valid votes were cast in Georgia’s 2018 election for governor. As such, in order to obtain the majority required to avoid a runoff, the candidates needed at least 1,969,665 votes. Kemp ended up securing a majority by winning 1,978,408 votes. In other words, Abrams was just 8,744 votes shy of forcing a runoff, which would have given her another chance at winning.
It’s important to point out that Kemp happened to be Georgia’s secretary of state at the time. In Georgia, the secretary of state organizes and oversees all election activity and is responsible for the certification of election results.
Overseeing your own election is problematic. Kemp could have addressed this by either resigning as secretary of state, or at least recusing himself from election-related matters; there is a precedent for both.
In 2006, Democratic Secretary of State Cathy Cox sought out her party’s nomination for governor. Although she opted to remain in her post, she recused herself from the oversight of her own election so as to “avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
During her recusal, the assistant secretary of state took over until Cox re-assumed her responsibilities upon losing the Democratic primary.
In 2009, Cox’s successor as secretary of state, Republican Karen Handel, embarked on her own race for governor. In order to fully dedicate herself to the campaign, she opted to resign from her role as secretary of state. It was at this time that Kemp took over.
Notably, during his race for governor, Kemp never recused himself from election-related matters, even after repeated allegations of voter suppression. He did eventually resign, but it wasn’t until after he had already declared victory.
Trump’s situation is entirely different.
First, Joe Biden had no role in the decentralized administration of the election, unlike Kemp, who retained influence over his own election.
Second, Trump did not narrowly lose the election. While faithless electors may affect the final vote totals, Trump is only projected to net 232 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, in comparison to the 306 electoral votes that Biden is expected to get. Thus far, Trump’s election-related lawsuits have been a bust, and Trump-ordered recounts have only succeeded in confirming or, in some states, growing Biden’s margin of victory.
While it is true that Abrams did not initially accept Kemp’s win, she did give a speech a mere 10 days after the election where she “acknowledge[d] that former Secretary of State Brian Kemp will be certified as the victor in the 2018 gubernatorial election.”
On the other hand, nearly a month after the election, Trump posted a 46-minute diatribe claiming widespread electoral trickery, even though his own attorney general has had such claims investigated and found insufficient evidence of “fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
Despite what Raffensperger argues, Trump is not following the “Abrams Playbook.” Trump is following his own playbook, which he began writing back in 2016, when he refused to say whether he’d accept that year’s election results.