One of Georgia’s most powerful Republican lawmakers wants the General Assembly to pick the state’s chief election official instead of voters following backlash over the 2020 presidential election.
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said Thursday he’ll seek a constitutional amendment in the upcoming legislative session that starts next month to let state lawmakers appoint Georgia’s secretary of state.
Ralston said his decision comes amid a flood of complaints from his North Georgia constituents over Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s handling of the presidential election. He cited Tennessee, Maine and New Hampshire as states where the legislature chooses the election chief.
“I think it’s the only way to right this ship,” Ralston said. “I don’t do this lightly. I don’t do this disrespectfully to the incumbent who I have personal regard for, but I do it because we have a job to do as members of the House and members of the Senate.”
Raffensperger has faced a storm of criticism from President Donald Trump and his allies for not re-verifying absentee ballot signatures as part of recent recounts that confirmed Trump lost to President-elect Joe Biden in Georgia by 11,779 votes.
Raffensperger’s office bashed the move by Ralston as a “power grab,” signaling the controversy over Georgia’s election is widening schisms between many of the state’s top Republican leaders.
“Ralston and the Trump campaign want to give the General Assembly the power to select winners of elections and violate the will of the people,” said Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs.
Raffensperger’s office skipped out on a Georgia House Governmental Affairs Committee hearing Thursday on election issues, citing ongoing litigation. Ralston called that absence “disappointing.”
Thursday’s hearing was the second over the past week in which former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani – who is Trump’s personal attorney – and others aired hours of fraud claims that election officials have repeatedly dismissed and no court has found valid so far amid several lawsuits.
Democratic lawmakers condemned the hearing, calling it a sham put on by Republicans to stir emotions among Trump’s base of supporters rather than probe any actual election irregularities.
“Giving more fuel to this fire will do no one any good,” said outgoing House Minority Leader Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville. “Changing the rules simply because you lose an election is not good policy.”
The hearing also came as lawmakers gear up to propose revisions to Georgia’s absentee voter ID laws when the General Assembly meets for the 2021 legislative session starting next month.