Georgia Republicans spar over Trump's false election claims

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FILE - Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during an interview on Oct. 28, 2021, in Atlanta. Georgia Republicans vying for the state's top elections post sparred Monday, May 2, 2022 over former President Donald Trump's false claim that widespread fraud cost him the 2020 election. At a debate in Atlanta, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger accused his main rival, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, of lying and spreading misinformation about the presidential contest in the state. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, File)

ATLANTA – Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the state's top election official, accused a fellow Republican at a debate Monday of lying and spreading misinformation about former President Donald Trump's loss in the 2020 presidential election. U.S. Rep. Jody Hice shot back that Raffensperger did not adequately investigate the election results and was acting like a Democrat with his attacks.

Hice, who is endorsed by Trump, is challenging Raffensperger in the May 24 Republican primary for secretary of state and continues to cast doubt on Georgia's 2020 presidential election results despite a lack of evidence of widespread fraud or tampering.

He is among a number of Republican candidates for secretary of state around the country who either outright deny that Democrat Joe Biden won the presidency or make unsubstantiated claims that elections are not secure.

“This past election was an absolute disaster under the leadership of Brad Raffensperger," said Hice, calling Raffensperger “the worst secretary of state perhaps in our nation.”

“Election security must be protected, and Brad Raffensperger let that ball majorly fall,” he said.

Hice cited ballot drop boxes and the mailing of absentee ballot request forms in the 2020 election as openings for fraud.

Raffensperger said the request forms were intended to ensure Republican voters had equal access to absentee voting. Investigators knocked down multiple rumors after the 2020 election, but Hice persisted in spreading them, he said. Hice has maintained that an accurate count of the vote would show a Trump victory.

“Jody Hice is lying," Raffensperger said. "If you look at the election of 2020, what happened at the end of the day is that 28,000 Georgians skipped the presidential race, and yet they voted down ballot in other races.”

Multiple tallies of Georgia’s 5 million votes cast for president, including one done by hand, showed Biden won the state. Raffensperger has insisted that Georgia’s election was accurate and secure. Officials in other states and federal investigators, including Trump’s own attorney general, have said there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 contest.

In the weeks after the vote, Raffensperger refused to bend to pressure from Trump to overturn Biden’s victory, making him a top target of the former president and other Republicans who have embraced false claims of voter fraud.

Hice — Raffensperger's leading Republican challenger — supported a Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn Biden’s victory in Georgia and other states and voted against his Electoral College victory.

He said Monday he would not have certified the election results without “proper investigation.”

Raffensperger is also facing two other Republican challengers, former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle and former county Probate and Magistrate Judge T.J. Hudson. They also criticized Raffensperger’s handling of the 2020 election during the debate Monday.

Despite pushing back on voter fraud claims, Raffensperger has supported new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots and called for an amendment to the state Constitution to say only U.S. citizens can vote in the state’s elections — a protection that already exists in state law.

He mentioned voting by non-U.S. citizens as a top issue several times during Monday's debate.