Georgia GOP secretary of state candidates say breaking election law is justifiable

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Incumbent Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said of one of his primary opponents, 'Jody Hice is lying.'

Observers say that a primary debate on Monday among the Republican candidates running for secretary of state in Georgia was a mess of lies and misinformation, with several of them saying that they would have broken the law and refused to certify the 2020 presidential election results in the Peach State and that they now want to make it harder to vote based on unfounded allegations of voter fraud.

The debate was between current Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and three candidates looking to unseat him as Georgia's top election official.

The candidates are Rep. Jody Hice, one of the 147 congressional Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election results; former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle; and TJ Hudson, a former probate judge who was forced to resign after he was accused of violating 10 judicial conduct rules.

The three challengers are angry that Raffensperger, who oversaw Georgia elections in 2020, refused former President Donald Trump's demand to "find" the exact number of votes by which he lost to Joe Biden in the state and declare Trump the winner.

Raffensperger's GOP opponents lobbed lies about voter fraud and allegations that Raffensperger didn't do enough to prevent it in the 2020 contest, even though multiple investigations into Georgia's results found no fraud or irregularities.

Responding to one statement, Raffensperger said, "Jody Hice is lying" and defended how he handled the last election, blaming Trump's loss on the fact that "28,000 Georgians skipped the presidential race, and yet they voted downballot in other races." and didn't vote for Trump for president.

"The real problem that you have gets down to basic honesty," Raffensperger said, debunking the fraud lies that circulated among Republicans in the state, including Hice.

"Jody Hice has been running from one rumor to another for the last 18 months," Raffensperger added. "I can walk up to Washington tomorrow and put my hand on a Bible and say, 'Here are the facts,' and I know that I don't have to worry about perjury. He couldn't do the same with what he's been saying the last 18 months in Georgia."

During the debate, Hice and Belle Isle were asked whether they would have certified the 2020 election results, which state law would have required them to.

"Of course I will uphold the law. But the fact is this last election should not have been certified without proper investigation," Hice said. "The allegations were tremendous, they were all over the place, and they still are. And yet to this day, as you referenced, as someone referenced a while ago, a 25,000-word report isn't even read yet about the issues that took place. ... I would not have certified this last election as it was without proper investigation and getting to the bottom of what was an authentic election."

Belle Isle compared failure to follow the law on certifying election results to violating speed limits: "Once upon a time when my wife was in labor, I went down 400 in the middle of the night over 100 miles an hour. ... But there are times in which the circumstances dictate a particular course of action."

Hudson, Belle Isle, and Hice all said they want to do away with automatic voter registration, through which eligible voters are automatically registered when they have an interaction with state governmental offices such as the Department of Motor Vehicles.

"I believe they ought to take that responsibility upon themselves, rather than automatically receive that," Hice said, while Belle Isle said that it should "take a little effort to register to vote."

The New York Times reported in January that candidates who deny that Biden won the 2020 election are running for secretary of state in 18 states, causing fear for the security of future contests.

Election deniers are running in Michigan and in Nevada, where Jim Marchant, the leading candidate for the GOP nomination, was part of a fake "alternate elector" scheme cooked up by Republicans to replace delegates to the Electoral College in states that Trump lost.

A recent poll conducted for Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA found Raffensperger has a lead in the primary with 31%, followed by Hice with 20% and 40% still undecided. The same poll found that the Democratic field is wide open, with state Rep. Bee Nguyen having the highest vote share at just 12% and 60% undecided.

Whoever wins will be in charge of administering Georgia's elections in a state that has moved from heavily Republican to a swing state as demographics shift.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.