April 16, 2024
Raffensperger Fumes at Ga. Bill Giving Election Board ‘Unconstitutional’ Oversight Power

Raffensperger Fumes at Ga. Bill Giving Election Board ‘Unconstitutional’ Oversight Power

(Headline USA) Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger lashed out over a bill that would give appointed the State Election Board legal power to investigate his handling of elections, following widespread concerns over his failure to follow up on evidence of ballot irregularities and possible vote fraud during the 2020 election.

The RINO NeverTrumper’s defiant standoff with the state legislature blossomed into a constitutional showdown Tuesday, with a lawyer for Raffensperger saying board members can’t legally oversee him.

“There is no precedent for an unelected board of political appointees to have oversight over members of the executive branch,” wrote Charlene McGowan, Raffensperger’s general counsel. “Giving a board of unelected bureaucrats unchecked power over the state’s executive branch is a dangerous policy proposal.”

But the Senate Ethics Committee disagreed, voting to advance Senate Bill 358.

The proposal would remove Raffensperger from his nonvoting post on the board, allow the board to hire election investigators instead of solely relying on those working for Raffensperger and clearly give the board power to investigate the secretary of state.

“We’re looking to empower the State Election Board so that they can have oversight responsibility and that there’s no confusion about where that oversight responsibility is vested,” said Ethics Committee Chairman Max Burns, a Sylvania Republican.

It’s only part of a push by Republican lawmakers to close legal loopholes exploited in the last election and shore up their election integrity in advance of what promises to be an equally contentious rematch—if not more so.

Raffensperger’s steadfast defense of Joe Biden’s victory in the state, and his rejection of a call by Donald Trump to “find” more Republican votes by following through on just a fraction of the vote fraud allegations, made him a national figure—and a pariah among many Republicans.

Election-integrity activists have been pushing the State Election Board to investigate whether Raffensperger mishandled his audit of Fulton County’s 2020 results, as daming new evidence of election meddling continues to come to light, including revelations that the blue-run county illegally destroyed thousands of ballots in the election’s aftermath, and that it likely violated chain-of-custody procedures for absentee ballots repeatedly.

The board deadlocked 2-2 in December on whether it had such authority, and two board members asked lawmakers to clarify the law.

A lawyer who works for the legislature told committee members Tuesday it’s “an open question under Georgia constitutional law” whether the State Election Board can regulate the secretary of state, but said the measure wouldn’t affect Raffensperger’s duties as outlined in the constitution.

Supporters said they can go forward because most of Raffensperger’s election responsibilities are outlined in state law, not the Georgia Constitution.

“They’re all in general law that the Georgia General Assembly has passed over the course of time in our state history,” said Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch, a Dahlonega Republican. “So we can change them, amend them in any way we want, through the legislative process.”

McGowan warned that lawmakers could empower the board to obstruct certification of Georgia’s 2024 presidential results, even as embattled Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis continues to wage a partisan lawfare attack on Trump and 14 co-defendants for trying to interfere in the 2020 race.

“In fact, this proposal is being pushed by a small group of activists who continue to seek de-certification of the 2020 presidential election results, with the apparent intent of giving the State Election Board the ability to interfere with or even prevent the secretary from certifying the results of the 2024 presidential election,” McGowan wrote.

Lawmakers also want Raffensperger to remove computer codes used to count most Georgia ballots, to move more quickly to patch voting machine software vulnerabilities, and include more ballot security features.

Neither Raffensperger nor any of his staff appeared during the Tuesday Senate committee meeting, a contrast with testimony Raffensperger deputy Gabriel Sterling gave to a House Governmental Affairs subcommittee Tuesday on other bills.

Sterling said Raffensperger supports a bill to stamp ballots with a watermark to ensure voters know they aren’t forged. He also voiced support for a measure proposing more and stricter after-election audits to guarantee machines count ballots correctly.

And Governmental Affairs Chairman John LaHood, a Valdosta Republican, agreed to amend a bill calling for high-resolution scans of ballots to be released for public inspection after Sterling said current scanners only produce lower-resolution images.

LaHood has also proposed a bill backed by Republican House Speaker Jon Burns that would mandate Georgia stop using QR codes to count ballots by July 1. Opponents say voters can’t be sure the computer codes match the choices printed on their ballots.

“Every one of our committee members said their citizens do not trust the QR code. So let’s go ahead and get rid of it,” Se. Brandon Beach, an Alpharetta Republican, said recently.

Raffensperger told lawmakers last week that he supports a move to scan “human readable text,” the names printed on ballots, to count votes. But he said it was impossible to make such a change before the November presidential election.

Eliminating QR codes would cost $15 million to buy more than 32,000 ballot printers statewide, Raffensperger’s office has estimated.

The House subcommittee didn’t hear testimony Tuesday on the bill to ban QR codes. LaHood said afterwards he was hopeful Raffensperger’s office might propose a new solution using optical character recognition software.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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