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tv   Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger on Elections  CSPAN  April 30, 2021 3:53am-4:55am EDT

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to engage with members and with
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bipartisan agreement on election law as well as the newly enacted voter laws in georgia. good afternoon, i'm delighted to be with the secretary of state of georgia to have a discussion about anything going on in our world of elections. there are a couple of ground rules for how this hour is going to work. i introduce the secretary and then we'll talk generally about elections and also about an interesting piece he's written recently for national affairs. we're going to talk for a while, but we're also looking for your questions, and so if you would like to submit a question, you can do it in two ways.
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one, email nicole.penn@aei.org. or secondly, with twitter. either way, we're looking for your questions in the last 15 minutes or so. we'll try to hear what's on your mind.#aeielections. secretary raffensperger is well-known to people, maybe more well-known than he would have expected, given our elections in the last few months. but secretary raffensperger started as ceo of a successful engineering company in georgia, was involved in local politics at the elected level in city council and then the georgia house of representatives, and then a little background which will feed into, i think, his piece, he ran for secretary of state in 2018, won in both the primary and general elections.
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he think he faced a runoff. many americans know about the georgia runoff system now, more than they did before the last election. at the same time as that election, there was another election going on for governor, the former secretary of state brian kemp was running against stacey abrams. and that election ended with brian kemp the elected governor but with some controversy about the election results just as secretary raffensperger was taking office. and then of course all the controversies that people know before the 2020 presidential election in the state of georgia and the role of the secretary in those controversies. so welcome, secretary raffensperger. what i would really like to do is to begin with your piece and plug your piece, because i think people should read it. he's written a new piece for "national affairs," a journal that has an aei association.
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that piece just came out in the spring 2021 issue. it's entitled "the assault on trust in our elections." and i won't give it all away, but it does look of course at issues relating to the 2020 election and trust and belief in the election results but it also begins in 2018 with the election that i just discussed, with stacey abrams and brian kemp. in fact i think the one phrase that stuck out for me was that you felt a sense of deja vu when you were reliving the 2018 election, in a sense, in 2020. so tell us a little bit about your piece, why you wrote it, and why you're worried about trust in our elections. >> if you didn't live in georgia, you saw the results of what happened after the november 2020 election, and after president trump came up short in
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the election totals. you saw the election disinformation campaign. you would have thought that was a new strategy that people have come up with. but here in georgia we had seen this back in 2018. after stacey abrams lost the election by nearly 60,000 votes against now-governor brian kemp, she began this great narrative, her narrative was really two sides of the same coin but it was her narrative was voter suppression. president trump's it was actually voter fraud. it's really two sides of the same coin, that you couldn't trust the election results. somehow for them to have lost it had to have been the election process, it had nothing to do with how many votes were actually counted. so we began my term in 2019 with a host of lawsuits and a whole bunch of new lawsuits that we received from fair fight, stacey abrams' organization. if you look at what she said after she lost the election, she said we will not concede, how could you concede when you know the results were not fair.
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so that really began a two-year process and she leveraged that into her organizations, fair fight probably being number one of those, raising over $90 million, and then showering other candidates throughout the country with $66 million so far has been expended, because of her narrative has been very profitable for her. roll that into 2020, we saw very similar, you know, systems and disinformation processes that took place. both of them said the machines were not accurate. see, in 2018 we had the old electronic paperless dre machine that dated back to 2002, 2003. we have new verifiable paper ballot systems but this time, the 2020 results, president trump said they were flipping votes, that they could not be trusted, there were thousands and thousands of votes. so in georgia after the 2020 election results what we did was 100% hand recount and then we
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also did an electronic count of all those ballots. we ran them through the scanners again. we got basically with all three counts virtually the same results. the verified machines were accurate. from that standpoint there are similarities between that. and it's really -- unfortunately what it does is it destroys confidence. when you destroy confidence in the election process in effect what you're doing is taking a shot at the very heart of democracy because it's really supposed to be one vote, one count, accurate, and making sure it's a fair election. we've worked hard in georgia making sure that everyone understands that we have fair elections, that we have record turnout, we also have record registrations and we also have one of the largest amounts of early voting that we see, it's very generous in georgia, with senate bill 202 that was just passed, we increased it by one day. we now have 17 days of early voting up from 16. plus two days of sunday voting
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for any county that wants to do that. but there's been a host of misinformation, disinformation. both of them have very large megaphones and it's tough to beat that back when their megaphones are huge and what our office has is the little resources we do have. we speak out to that, we speak the truth. we're hopefully going to talk about s-1 today. we had the invitation and it was pulled away from us, the senate wanted to go along with the stacey abrams narrative, they thought that played better for what they want to accomplish with s-1 and hr-1. we want to make sure people understand it's never been easier to vote in georgia. we have appropriate guidelines in place. also we want to make sure that elections moving forward are looked at from a bipartisan nature. every candidate has to put their best foot forward, they have to win the election on their merits. in georgia we have a fair election process. we'll make sure that happens.
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>> let me ask you, what the line is that you think both stacey abrams and donald trump crossed. obviously we're allowed to question our elections, to call for recounts, to look for irregularities, to speak out. but is there a certain point in time or a certain set of actions that you would see this is too far, this is where it goes beyond what is well-protected, the ability of candidates to really advocate for themselves and their results, and when it goes too far, when it really is closer to elections, and feel free to use examples from either of the cases that you bring up. >> well, i would say that what happened in the case of stacey abrams, not a single thing that she postulated, put forward, is based in fact. in fact, we've responded to her point by point. recently the superior court, u.s. federal judge, excuse me,
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appointed by obama, steve jones, has -- threw out many of her claims which we were actually looking forward to getting that before the court so we could once -- conclusively just knock it down because she's been running with it for two years. in 2014 she poll tested what would be hot button issues and one of the things that came out of that was the word voter suppression so she's been running that narrative since 2016, 2018, 2020. that's her narrative, has been a great money raising system for that, it's a great emotional hook on voters. she talked about how precincts have been closed and the secretary of state had something to do with that. the secretary of state's office does not do that. we have 159 counties, counties run elections, and the counties set where they'll have precinct locations, where they'll have polling locations. the two locations we complained about the most are fulton and dekalb county, those are run by democrats, and her own party
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would have been suppressing it, i don't think there's any truth to that. precincts change over time because of demand. if there's an issue they need to take it up with their local poll managers, local county election officials which happen to be put in place by democrats. she also talked about, you know, cleaning up the voter rolls. right now we have about 7.7 million people that are on the voter rolls. what people haven't talked about is that we have a very mobile society. pew did a study and said 11% of all americans move every year. you take 7.7 million people times 11%, that's 850,000 georgians that move every year. we don't know if they've moved within the precinct, out of the precinct, within the county, out of the county, or they moved out of state or they're moving into the state. the point is there's a lot of movement of people. and it is something that we need to do to clean up the voter rolls. we joint electronic registration information center, e.r.i.c., set up by the states.
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it's really each state joins, 30 states now, florida, texas, georgia, north carolina, blue states, red states, [ inaudible ], so we can objectively clean up our voter rolls. she said we were doing it arbitrarily but that did not withstand the scrutiny of the court. the ruling says we're following the standard practice of many other states. >> you raise the question of whether people can trust our elections or that you're worried that people are starting to distrust them, candidates in particular. i don't think this is just a policy question, but can you discuss some of the policy questions, election administration questions around having a good recount, having a good, transparent, quick resolution of the election? obviously we had an election run under the covid pandemic, that posed more problems. but maybe more generally, we think back to 2000, of course the 2000 election was a very
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famous recount. and frankly, i think states after the fact didn't think enough about their recount processes, their counting processes, and opening them up to the public. what can you say about what you can do or what you're doing that reassures people through the process that things are going to get resolved, counted, and results will be seen by all within a reasonable amount of time? >> well, number one, in the time that we had actually done three counts of those ballots, "der speigel" sent to a state election board member that we had already done three counts in the time that 20 states still hadn't finished their first count. so we actually were very quick on that. the challenge we had in georgia was that the delta was so close, 12,000 votes, that it really didn't matter. but we did a 100% hand recount of every single verifiable paper ballot. so on that ballot, we didn't go ahead and recount the qr code.
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did it say president biden or vice president biden or the libertarian candidate. we did a 100% recount of those ballots we had. when we verified that, of those 4 million ballots, we got back virtually the same answer. then we went ahead, after the election was certified, the losing candidate can ask for a recount and that would then be run through the machines, through the scanners again. we got virtually the same result. so those ballots would have been caught the first time, then a 100% hand recount and a scanned recount. nothing changed the results. that answered the question about the accuracy of the equipment. every rumor that was thrown out by trump campaign surrogates including those thrown out by sydney powell, we went and checked. we found two people that have died and someone voted in their place. we're trying to find who that is. that's two, not 5,000, not 10,000. and so that wasn't enough.
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we had not a single underage voter vote in the state of georgia. you can register to vote when you're 17. you can't vote until you turn 18. and when they threw out that data that there were all these underage voters, not a single underage voter voted in the state of georgia. >> so i'm going to remind people that for the question period, you can send questions to -- by email to nicole.penn@aei.org or to twitter, #aeielections. we've already gotten some questions. a number of them are along these lines you've been talking, i'll summarize then, because there are many, all in the same area. but they ask about whether you will have a transparent audit, whether the batch sheets matched up the counting, questions about the chain of custody of ballots. so you addressed part of that, but maybe take on these questions more specifically. what do you say about that and
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what do you say about what you've done in relation to those questions? >> well, we've established -- the counties provided us all the data points. we established chain of custody for everybody county in georgia except three. and they were actually three smaller counties. they represented about 0.3% of the total vote count. they'll be sanctioned and brought before the state election board for prosecution. the large counties, fulton, dekalb, cobb, gwinnett, all the large metro counties, have established full chain of custody and given us documentation on that. that's a very powerful point that people need to be aware of. >> so we ran this 2020 election during a global pandemic. that's not exactly what you signed up for when you ran for office, but you as an election official had to run it under these conditions. so can you say something about running an election under covid, both what was done, what might have been done better, but then
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also going forward, what's going to stick, the changes that we made, what kind of things are likely to stay around and what kind of thing were just temporary and just needed for this election where we were under duress? >> during the pandemic, we did stand up an online portal. a form of that really ended up being utilized for the absentee ballot process. the new bill that was passed, sb 202, i think the best thing, the biggest item there was something i ran on in 2018, was moving away from signature match, because it is subjective. we were sued by both the democrat party and the republican party. both of them said it was subjective. i agree, i said we should go to a driver's license match. driver's license number with your birth date, day, month, year.
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that way we can verify it truly is the voter they say they are, we can verify their identity. that's a good change we'll be implementing. the other thing is we've been working on giving the county very good, objective measures. we have a new system. it does take longer to vote when you have a verifiable paper ballot, you go through your choices, print it out, verify your choices, it's a bit more time. so the counties can't have the same efficiency as with the old paperless dre so we've told them, well, you need to make sure you have enough equipment or you need to increase your number of precincts. in the november election, on tuesday, we had a two-minute wait time. but now we put into state law you cannot have a longer than one-hour wait time during the day. and by doing that, we're going to make sure that we have an objective way, an accountable way to make sure counties don't
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have long lines again. if they have long lines we'll have to increase the number of poll workers, increase the number of polling locations, or increase the amount of equipment they have in a polling location. that way we can hold the counties accountable. at the end of the day we want our voters to have a great voting experience. we shortened the runoff. i am the runoff king in georgia, we've been in four of them. the challenge we had in january is we had to move our state runoff to coincide with the federal runoff because we had a four-week runoff with an eight-week runoff. now with ranked choice voting, with overseas ballots, we'll be able to have a four-week runoff for every one and get results much quicker in december instead of pushing it out to january. >> so we've been talking about elections in all sorts of ways. maybe i can frame this question as, what do you think about the role of federal law, federal legislation, versus state legislation and local
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administration? more specifically, obviously, we have before the congress a bill in the house, hr 1, a comparable bill in the senate as well, and of course we've had a law recently passed in georgia which you referred to. so give us some thoughts a little bit about what the balance should be between federal mandates. we do legislate on certain areas but we have mostly left it to the states. should that change? and then maybe your thoughts broadly about hr 1 and some more thoughts about the georgia law. >> i think the constitution is very clear as originally written, that really it was delegated, put down to the legislatures in all the 50 states. i think that's where it really needs to be. because [ inaudible ] pacific area states, both washington, oregon, california, also utah which happens to be republican, those are mail-in states. colorado is a mail-in states. many other states are more -- in fact some of them are -- such as
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vermont, really don't do early voting and don't have a big absentee ballot program, it's really show up on election day. so each one, it's not really so much red state/blue state. it's what fits the needs of voters in that area. i think that should be left to local people. the other thing that s-1, hr 1, the companion bills, the mistake they're written, they're written by legislators, they're written by lawyers, people that don't run elections. if you talk to our 159 election directors in georgia i think you would probably get a consensus, this is what makes sense here for georgia. and so what would that would probably be, we like to make sure we have three options. no excuse absentee voting. that's been embraced by the general assembly. i believe most of the election directors would support that. early voting. the reason that election directors love early voting is because it takes that pressure off of the election day. you have now in georgia up to 19 days in many of the counties to
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vote early. and that's very flexible for voters. and that then takes pressure off of tuesday voting. and then also we have election day voting. let the states decide what works best for them. we also want to make sure that we have the appropriate balances of accessibility with security. and i think georgia has struck the right balance on that. >> so this question of federalism, most of the money spent on elections has been spent at the state and local level but we've had a few exceptions, after the 2000 election with the help america vote act, more recently a couple of pools of money with security and then for covid, so one, your thoughts on that, both the place for funding and also the level of funding, whether we need to fund elections more, and then i have a followup, it comes from this batch of questions that's come in, it really asks about the questions of accepting private funding and just putting it on the table, it asks about
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money that zuckerbergs and the foundation put to various jurisdictions across the country to help with elections, whether that makes sense, was appropriate. so broadly, federal/state funding, and then this question of private funding. >> historically, the counties, election officials have felt they've had a tight budget, underfunded. when we had sources of private funding that came during the pandemic with covid, one of the challenges that we saw in georgia is that the bigger counties also had people that were grant writers, they had those people on staff, could write the grants to get sources of funding. but it was really a lifesaver for many of the counties. with sb 202, what they're saying is we can have that money still coming to the state, but they would like to have it come to the centralized authority and then it would be disbursed out on a per capita basis to all the counties to make sure everyone got some.
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many of the counties didn't get a nickel because they didn't have grant writers, didn't have a way to access those sources of funds, the larger counties did. the general assembly would like to make sure going forward that it's dispersed throughout the entire state on a per capita basis. >> let me take you back to -- you mentioned earlier, the pandemic brought about some changes with respect to voting by mail. full disclosure, i wrote a book about absentee voting and early voting back 15 years ago, so i come to this honestly, i haven't changed my opinion on these things. but i think americans, we were more polarized this election than in the past. there may have been some differences before, you mentioned republican and democratic states, some moved to voting by mail, others are more traditional. certainly voters during the pandemic expressed differences. democratic voters were much more
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enthusiastic and felt the need to want to vote by mail. republicans really felt that they would rather vote in person. georgia is, i would say, a state that is a strong early voting in person state, it has options, all sorts of other options, but has historically been a state that did a lot of that. where do you see the state going now with the passage of the recent legislation or just voter attitudes going forward? >> i believe that the pandemic exposed to voters for the very first time voting absentee. i voted absentee in the june primary, then i went back to voting in person. we were historically at 6%, we shot up to 25%. my guessing is we'll settle at probably about 12%, half of where we were, and twice where we used to be before we had the pandemic, but that's anyone's guess. we'll keep all three options available. voters get to choose. giving voters choices is a good
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thing. >> maybe i can ask you generally about the future of voting. of course we've had the pandemic that's brought new methods about, some states have changed radically what they're doing. if you could look forward in your crystal ball, i use the future of voting loosely, i guess i might want to say futures of voting, because different states will do different things. what are the trends in voting, what will we see over the next ten years, what would you like to see in terms of changes that would improve our elections system at a wholesale level? >> number one, verifiable paper ballots. i think by 2024, every state in the union will have verifiable paper ballots, that's a good thing. that way if you get a really close race like we had here, you can do a 100% hand recount on all those ballots, that's key. number two would be risk limiting audits. colorado probably led that, nationwide it took seven or
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eight years. we stood ours up in less than a year. because we wanted to have a confidence level of 100%, we did a 100% hand recount. but many of the counties have actually begun doing like a 95% risk limited level, taking a sample size. we're doing that actually right now with university of georgia on the absentee ballots. we did a 99% risk limiting audit with the signature on the envelopes of cobb county. we're now doing that with uga so we can verify what that will be. i think risk limiting audits are something put into place with the house bill in 2019 when i first took office. we didn't realize how much we were going to need that but that allowed us to do a 100% hand recount of the ballots which is the risk limiting audit for the presidential race which could verify the results that president biden had about 12,000
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more votes than president trump. >> voting technology, we referred to it a bit here, but there were certainly controversies relating to voting technology, both in 2018 and 2020, criticisms of the technology as perhaps being influenced or affected by people. what confidence can you give to voters, to the american public, that what you're doing is transparent enough to them that they can see that the technology works and what are the proper uses of technology, where do you think you're using it well and where do you think you might need a little more testing background, certification, if that would be helpful. >> i believe the electronic information center, e.r.i.c., states can opt in or opt out. we've opted in with 30 other states, encouraging every other state to join, so we'll get much
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better records of deaths and movement of georgians moving throughout the country so we can update our rolls objectively. we want to look for objective measures, that's better, when we can use technology for objective measures, that's a solid improvement. and moving away from signature match and towards driver's license. that's what they're doing in minnesota, that's what they're doing in red states and blue states, it's a nonpartisan way of doing it. so it's very objective because who can argue with someone's driver's license number with a photo i.d.? i think that's another good way of moving forward. so that's a verifiable way. i don't think we're ready for internet voting. i've talked to many election experts. that may be some version, you know, 2030, down the road. but right now, what georgia has done with the verifiable paper ballot, moving away from signature match, and also automated driver's license, getting registered by automated
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driver's license services, is really good because what we then have is cleaner lists. the cleaner the list is done through the department of drivers services. it just makes the process more objective and it makes you have better data. >> you anticipated my next question, i guess i wanted to ask about voter registration. and i think that still many of the things we can improve in our system have to do with that, that that underlies a lot of the controversies that come out of this. you referred to automatic voter registration and people have some different ideas of what that actually means and whether they like it or not. can you say something about -- well, first, how did voter registration work during the pandemic? obviously more difficult for people, they didn't go to the dmvs as often, what were the challenges there? going forward, georgia has done things like automatic voter registration. maybe lay out a little bit what you mean by that, can people
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feel comfortable with it, or more broadly, what can we do to make lists accessible, so people can get on the lists, and keep it accurate, make sure the people on the lists are eligible to vote. >> when people move to georgia and get a driver's license, they'll go through the process and we'll verify their citizenship which is very important for everyone. that's already registered in georgia, making sure you have american citizen, verifying they're address, they're actually moving here and they're on a permanent basis. when you get your driver's license, you will be opted in, you will be registered, unless you say no, don't register me, i want to opt out. so we're an opt-out state. so you will be opted in and you'll be registered. that's why right now we have 7.7 million plus registered georgians. so people talk about doing voter registration drives, there really isn't anyone to register other than people that have jost moved here or other than people that have just turned 18.
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everyone that wants to vote is registered in the state of georgia right now. >> in terms of keeping your list current, you mentioned you're part of the e.r.i.c. system which shares data with states to ensure that people who have moved or others you'll know about. but what do you do, and that becomes a source of controversy, was a source of controversy in 2018, what do you say to people about the proper way that states maintain their lists that don't scare people to think they're pulling people off the lists who belong or perhaps aren't doing enough to keep people on it? >> one of the advantages last year when we sent out to all active registered voters, we sent absentee ballot applications, we got several hundred thousand change of address forms, undeliverable. that puts them on a potential pending list so we couldn't clean up the list while we were in an election cycle. but it will be something we can look at this year.
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it's very interesting that already, talk about how mobile we are, we had over 200,000 people that we couldn't deliver the mail to them because they obviously had moved out of georgia or an undeliverable address. that's just the kind of information. and so we are encouraging the counties and going through that process right now of mailing out to older voters to make sure the lists are accurate, not to take people off, to make sure they haven't moved. if they move from one county to another county, we would like to know that information. you're supposed to update your driver's license. a lot of people don't do that until they get pulled over by the police and they say is this your current address, no, sir, it's not. that will be the process when they begin that. we really want people to make sure they have updated voter rolls. that way we know who we can expect to show up on election day so we can manage the election process. that's one of the things that is really missing in s-1, people haven't reached out to the county election directors, what would you like to see happen in elections, clean lists is one of
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it so you can manage the election, do you know how many people live in your county, how many people live in each one of your precincts. >> you've referred to s-1 or hr 1 several times. i guess i believe that, you know, it's a very large bill, it's a lot in it. are there issues that you think are -- could be put in the category of, election officials want more flexibility on how to implement certain types of processes, and that hr 1 and s-1 are too specific, too prescriptive? is there enough room for people, election officials, to do the different type of things that states are doing or do you believe it's too prescriptive and perhaps haven't talked enough to the election officials? >> they haven't talked enough to election officials yet.
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a couple of years ago in georgia when we talked about new machines, all the election official descended, in spring or winter of 2018, they were very surprised, oh, you're talking about new machines? i remember some of the comments, i hadn't followed my papers yet to run for secretary of state. secretary of state brian kemp had a commission to make sure we made the best decision on what the new system would look like for georgia. i think maybe what we need to do here is have a pause on s 1/hr 1 and really make sure we get bipartisan support. i can give congress any way of looking at this, is go back to look at what the carter center, president jimmy carter and former secretary of state james baker did, they formed that bipartisan presidential commission and they really talked about best practices. obviously they didn't agree on everything. but what they came out with was a list of recommendations and many of those have been you know implemented since that time. that's what i would say, is make
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sure we get buy-in from both sides. you made a point, we live in polarized times. we have in a 50/50 nation. when one person has the 50.1 and is going to shove something down someone else's throat, what's going to happen as soon as the other side gets in power, they'll want to do the same thing and it becomes tit for tat. that is not productive, that is not helpful for what i believe is a consensus republic. we need to make sure we reach across the aisle and build bipartisanship and negotiating with good faith on both sides. perhaps we need to reconvene that bipartisan commission again before we take another step forward. >> you bring up the issue of election lines, lines at the polling place. they've been controversial in different places. controversial in the 2018 election, the primary in georgia. i worked with the ginsburg commission coming out of the
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2012 election where there was a real worry that we had long lines. what do you say to people about the problem of lines and some would point especially to the problem of lines in more urban, more african-american jurisdictions. what's causing them? what can we do to alleviate them? what does the new bill in georgia say or do regarding that? what would you say to people, to reassure them that lines are not going to be as much of a problem as people are worried about? >> not to be partisan, but in dekalb and fulton counties, those are run by democrats. the boards have a 3-2 democrat/republican split, sometimes it's 4-1. and the county election directors lean on the left side. if there's problems there and the democrats don't like it, they need to be to go their county election officials. they come from that side of the aisle. so to blame that on republicans is not a fair, you know, or accurate assessment.
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that said, it does get back to poll worker retention, poll worker recruitment and poll worker training, that's very important. during the june primary in georgia we did have issues. i don't want to minimize it, but 155 of our counties out of 159 actually had success. we do have a lot of counties. 139 counties in the june primary began at 7:00 a.m. and finished at 7:00 p.m. there's about then another 15 counties that had some minor issues. and there's maybe a precinct or two that didn't finish their election at exactly 7:00 p.m. because of early morning issues. we did have four or five counties that struggled mightily and that hit the national narrative. since that time in fulton county specifically, the county manager of fulton county stepped in and came alongside the election director, dick anderson came out of a fortune 500 company, he has
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tremendous skills, he came alongside them and they made improvements. are they where they need to be? not quite, but they did make improvements particularly on lines, opening up state farm arena and mercedes, those are two ideas i received from a fellow from aclu during my press conference. we recommended that to fulton county and they implemented that. that really helped move the early voting time cycles. they didn't have lines during early voting. that was a good thing. but it's been put into the bill that we will have lines one hour or less. we also then gave every county post-june primary, we looked at what their precincts were set up, how many machines they had, how many precincts that they had and how many registered voters they had per precinct. we gave them a green mark, a yellow mark, a red mark, like can you actually accomplish, if everything worked perfectly, cue
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work that number of voters through the line. and then they got good data from us and we said, these ones won't work here, these came back to us, and redid their precincts, redid their numbers of machines, and you look in november, we had great results on election day. averaged statewide two minutes or less. so we defeated the issue of long line. we want to make sure we continue that progress with all of our counties. >> so with the rise of voting by mail, especially this election, people ask questions about the process, the post office, the postal service, are they serving us well, are there problems there, are there problems with individuals getting their ballots in, and the ballots in late. what would you say about the way in which we're processing and handling mail ballots and what you think georgia wants to do in the future? so what are the issues and what are the solutions in terms of people who are going to cast their ballot by mail? >> well, number one, the united
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states postal service is a federal responsibility and it actually goes back to the original constitution about post roads and post offices. it's about time washington figures out what they'll do to fix it. that's their problem and they got plenty on their plate just doing that. but that's why last year we stood up the absentee ballot drop boxes. people want to be socially distanced. they didn't want to go into a county election office to drop off absentee ballots. but also the post office was not reliable. absentee ballot drop boxes were incorporated for the first time in sb 202 in state law so they could be used going forward. there's one for every county. during the covid pandemic we had 35 counties. even though we allowed those by state election board ruling under emergency rules, 35 counties did not take advantage of that. now they have to have at least one per county. also there will be a population-based one per 100,000 voters. now, i do wish, and i've stated this, i wish they would have had
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a bit more flexibility in that law to have one for every early voting location. it would have worked probably better for the counties and many of the county election directors have already been interviewed by the press about that. i think that's a reasonable position. hopefully the general assembly will look at that in the future of sessions that we might have after we've used this for this coming cycle this year. but i think absentee ballot drop boxes make a lot of sense, make sure that under 24/7 surveillance like last year, video surveillance. this year with sb 202 there will be surveillance of election directors. under the direction of election directors. >> we've talked a lot about the differences between the party, the polarization. are there things you feel like there's more of a consensus on between the parties that we could move forward, that people aren't talking about as much, maybe they're not as sexy, but what is it maybe that both parties could agree on, various states doing it in various ways, that could move forward on
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elections? >> well, many bills were filed in georgia during this recent, you know, general session that we had. many of the bills were overly restrictive. both sides were hurt, plus also many large georgia public companies spoke. we expanded early voting by one day. we kept no excuse absentee voting. we also then moved away from signature match. we made the case, i think the general assembly made a very sound case, that both the democrat party and republican party gets moved to something that's objectively based. what's become a political hot potato, what you can do is hit everyone's emotional hot buttons and so you call out voter suppression or you call out voter fraud and you gin up your base and use it as a money raising scheme. it's been very effective for stacey abrams and it looks like it's been effective for
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republicans on the other side. they're using it as a way of generating money for their campaigns moving forward or their pacs. it's unfortunate. what we really encourage both people to really stand down, let's look at what good policy is. you look at what election directors in both red counties would like to see, election directors in our blue counties would like to see and build a consensus around that. i think we're working hard in georgia to do that. but when things get misconstrued or people spin things up without actually reading the bill and getting out there on the evening news, it makes it tough. what we faced in november, there's some people that have large twitter accounts or used to have large twitter accounts, we get out there and make our points. they're based on facts. but it takes about several months later when, for example,
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sidney powell's attorney said no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact, referring to her defamation lawsuit where she's being sued by dominion voting systems. we said it wasn't true. we did a point by point rebuttal. we sent that to congress. meanwhile, the great lie is out there and people have accepted it as the truth. that's the challenge we have. and i think still democrats believe stacey abrams and some republicans believe president trump's people and we continue to say to both of them, here is what the facts are. we continue to fight that narrative. >> so we're coming to the part of the session where we're going to hear from audience questions. we've already mentioned a few already. we have a whole slew of them coming in. i want to give you the opportunity to submit some more. again, you can do so, as you see on the screen, by emailing nicole.penn@aei.org or on
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twitter, #aeielections. i think you'll have to give a little context here but several people are asking why did you sign a consent decree with stacey abrams and her organizations and not involving the assembly. this regards signature match in the 2018 elections. we've had multiple questions asked on that. what do you say? >> number one, we never signed a consent agreement. what was signed was a settlement agreement. if you go to page 6 of that agreement and look at who signed that, that is signed by the attorney general of the state of georgia and also vincent russo who was representing the state election board. nowhere on that is my signature at all. that's point number one. number two, in georgia, unlike other states, say, pennsylvania, which is a commonwealth, the
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secretary of state is a constitutional officer just like the governor and just like the attorney general, just like our agricultural commissioner. so within that, within the state constitution, we have authority, limited, but we do have our authority. the attorney general has the authority to sign the agreement that he did sign and it was a settlement agreement. but here's what people need to understand. the settlement agreement, if you read it, it says everything will be done by the secretary of state's office will be in accordance with current state law. and so what that means is we still did signature match at the time we did the application. we still did signature match when the absentee ballots came in. we actually made sure that we kept signature match. at the same time that we were fighting the four pillars that mark elias and the democrat party were running across the country, we won and defeated all of his four pillars.
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all absentee ballots would be received by 7:00 p.m. on election day. the first federal judge said that we had to accept them. we appealed that and won on appeal. signature match was done away with in the state of south carolina. they lost. we actually prevailed and kept signature match. and so it's been misconstrued because of the red herring. many people did not run robust absentee ballot chase programs. what i mean by that is stacey abrams and the democrats, if you got your absentee ballot, they were hounding you until you got your absentee ballot in. the republican party, the state part in georgia didn't have that program. so when people did their absentee ballot, if you were a republican, no one was calling them and hounding them to get that in. the democrats were very effective, they had a very good ground game. but if you read the agreement, it was a settlement agreement. it was not a consent agreement. the only consent agreement that i signed last year was against
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fulton county after they mismanaged and that allowed us to actually put a monitor in there for the first time ever, i'm the first secretary of state to ever get fulton county and get them under control, having a consent agreement so i could monitor them and watch what they were doing. and people have been putting up with fulton county since 1993 and i'm the first secretary of state to do something about that. >> there's another question, and this one, it's long but i'll summarize a bit. i think it actually could be broadened to think about other states as well. it's a little pointed towards georgia, but it asks about changes that are made closer to election time or perhaps even after the election that go against what the state legislature really intended in their election code. and this came up in all sorts of ways, particularly georgia, pennsylvania and others, where
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critics said that the intent of the people, the intent of the legislatures, the constitution gives some place to legislatures, had spoken, but judges, election officials, others, had changed the election system before election day and really distorted it. and, you know, there's a big question of what courts should do, what should the supreme court do, should it step in, or perhaps questions about the electoral college, whether states should submit something more based on what their legislature believes in. so what do you make of i guess this big constitutional question but also secondly, this question of changes that happen in election law, policy rules, fairly close to the election. what should we do about that? is there a way to keep people confident that the election system is stable and transparent leading up to the election? >> last year, georgia -- i can only speak to georgia.
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i know there's been lots of questions about pennsylvania, what happened in wisconsin and michigan and states like that. in georgia, we followed the state law. we're in a pandemic. the governor declared a state of emergency. we had a national stay-at-home order. obviously during the june primary, we had to look at what do we do, how are people going to vote in the pandemic. what we did is we actually sent out absentee ballot applications. before we did that, we talked to our -- our general counsel talked to the governor's general counsel, told them what we were going to do, why we were going to do that, they understood. we did that with the lieutenant governor's office, they understood. we talked to the president of the senate pro tem, the speaker of the house. no one voiced an objection until after we had done it. the speaker of the house voiced an objection afterwards. this is why we did that. the counties did not have staff able to handle the absentee
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ballot applications. and all the third party groups were going to inundate the voters with multiple applications. you could have gotten five or ten different applications from different organizations. you would get one, you would fill that out. if you hadn't gotten your absentee ballot, three days later, it would take longer than three days. you get another application, you fill that out because you hadn't gotten your ballots yet. you continue on. but the counties did not have the staff in place to do that. we went ahead and then had a process, a uniform process. we sent out one application to every voter. because you had to be required to send out an election. also if we did not do something, we ran a great risk that a federal judge was going to come down and say you need to go ahead and send out live ballots and we wanted to make sure we got ahead of that. we had to make sure we had a uniform process, something that was manageable. as it was, many of the counties really had trouble with that because they were getting
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applications from the internet which they couldn't read. we made sure we had a process that people could vote in the june primary. as it was, we had to postpone the presidential primary. and we pushed it out one day and we had to postpone it another three weeks later before we were finally ready because of the covid situation, to make sure it was under control. other than that we stood up an online portal which connected with the absentee ballot locations, connect to people, drivers services, photo i.d., which in effect was incorporated with sb 202. we made sure we kept all three options open. absentee, early voting, day of election. in georgia you could vote early, vote day of election, or vote absentee, no excuse absentee voting. that was put in place in 2005 and two people who voted for
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that were the speaker of the house david ralston and the former senator, now party chairman, david shaffer. i actually don't support no excuse absentee voting. also i didn't support that it was done with signature match. but i'm not going to second-guess them. that was put in place in 2005. >> here's a broader question, actually comes all the way from finland via washington, d.c. she asks, looking back, knowing what you know now in the 2020 election, how it unfolded, is there anything you would do different. >> well, the way i run my construction business, we write letters to general contractors and we put it in writing what our positions were. and when we told each of those corners, the speaker of the house, the senate president, the lieutenant governor, and the governor's office, i would have put it down in writing, this is what we plan to do, i would have sent that same letter to the democrat party and the republican party, if you have an
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objection to that, please let us know in 24 hours because we need to move on this process very quick because we got out those absentee ballot applications in less than ten days, it was unbelievable. but if they would have had a problem with this, they could have responded back in writing to us instead of coming back later, doing this armchair quarterback, monday morning quarterbacking. that's the only change i would have made. because what happened afterwards was not honest from one of those sections. and i've been very clear about that. a lot of that goes back to local georgia politics. we had what's called a jumbo primary and that was for the u.s. senate. the governor has the power to pick who empties when a seat becomes empty and he chose senator loffler. the governor favored doug combs, he was the governor's choice and we had a jungle primary. that's how it shook out.
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resentment was directed towards our office and we didn't really have a say in that. the governor made the choice. we had a jungle primary in the fall and a runoff election obviously in january, between senator loffler and the democrat opponent. we ended up taking some heat for that because we didn't bend to the wishes of the speaker, we understood our positional power and we also understood the positional power of the governor. the governor has an awful lot of power in georgia, i understand that from being in the general assembly. the speaker has tremendous power, so does the governor. i try and respect everyone's positional power. >> we're coming to the end of our time. i guess i'm going to return for maybe a last comment to you, back to your piece we started with, the piece in "national affairs," the assault on trust in our elections. what can we do, if you're worried, i think rightly so,
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that the average person and candidates of high note are worried about the integrity of elections, they think elections may not be -- the outcomes may not -- they don't accept them. what are the things that we can do, what are the big takeaways, give us a more hopeful note on things that would help us get to a place where there is more belief in results of elections by candidates, by the american people. >> i think at the end of the day, i'll show that i'll stand up to the pressure. he'll ensure in georgia we'll have honest and fair elections with appropriate balance of security with also accessibility. and the glue that holds it all together is integrity. i think that when we look at big, major federal legislation, sometimes we need to pause and make sure we get buy-in from everyone. i understand that if you have more votes, i was on city council, i was told to count to
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four. we had a seven-person council. i understand that. but i also understand you have to make sure you get buy-in, make sure it's a fair process. i think that the bipartisan commission we had in 2005 probably i think i would really encourage our federal officials, our national leadership, to go ahead and reconvene that. i don't know who you would have on this side and who you would have on that side. thoughtfully consider who you would want to put there. people respected on the right, people respected on the left, sit there and do the hard work of reaching a consensus. we're not going to agree on everything. if we get broad consensus on what we do. also the national association of secretaries of state had trusted info. it was really information that was bipartisan, nonpartisan information. make sure you get trusted information. our office, everything that we put out, if you look at everything we say, it is fact
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based. when people say the machines flipped votes, we did a 100% recount. we sent a ten-page letter to congress, point by point rebuttal of everything that the trump campaign put out. that is part of the national record. it unfortunately got there on january 6, and folks were busy with some other issues on that day. but we want to make sure everything we put out, that we put our hand up and swear that what we're saying is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. if we're called into deposition, we can support it with facts. that's what we need to look at, is it supported by facts or is it based on emotions and feelings. don't let people play with your emotions. this stuff is too serious. it is your priceless franchise to vote. and i'm not going to do anything -- i understand our history in georgia. i want everyone to be able to vote. i want to be sure we have honest elections and that's what i'll continue to fight for in
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>> good morning. the subcommittee on climate change will come to order. the subcommittee is holding a hearing entitled fiscal year 2022 epa budget. do to the public health emergency today the hearing it's ultimately all witnesses will be participating through videoconference. as part of the hearing microphones are on mute for purposes of eliminating background noise.

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