Days ahead of a vote from Georgia Republicans over the next leader of the party, the current chairman made a stop in Forsyth County to discuss the 2020 election, diversity efforts in Forsyth County and across the nation and other questions from those in attendance.
On Wednesday, May 27, District 26 state Rep. Lauren McDonald welcomed Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer to an event at McDonald and Son Funeral Home to give local voters a chance to ask questions before Republican delegates choose the next chairman of the Georgia GOP on Saturday, May 29. Shafer is seeking to retain the seat.
“We’re here to gain some knowledge, to find out what’s going on in our party, in our election integrity,” McDonald said.
Shafer was first selected as the party’s chair in 2019 and previously was a member of the Georgia State Senate from 2002 to 2018, when he sought the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, which he narrowly lost to Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Forsyth County resident.
One of the biggest focuses of the evening was the 2020 election, which Shafer said included “a lot of bitter disappointment and “a lot of good news that came from the general election in 2020.”
Among the successes since 2019, Shafer said the party had paid off its debts for the first time in more than five years, every county has a local Republican Party and in the general election had just under 14,000 volunteers, more than double the 6,000 the campaign of former President Donald Trump had asked the party to recruit and train.
“In this last election cycle, we recruited and trained 13,970 volunteers who together knocked on … 2.8 million doors and made 7 million phone calls, and that’s just in the general election,” Shafer said.
While most eyes were on the presidential and Senate elections, Shafer said Republicans had strong support down the ballot, including that 57% of voters choosing a Republican candidate in the Georgia State House, 56% for the State Senate and 55% for Congress.
Shafer said while those results were important, they were negated by a legal settlement changing the state’s process for checking absentee ballot signatures and decisions made under emergency powers of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office, including allowing drop boxes for absentee ballots and sending absentee ballot applications to all voters in the state.
“What we learned is, it doesn’t matter how many dollars you raise, how many volunteers you recruit, how many doors you knock on, how many telephone calls you make if, in the end, you cannot rely on the integrity of the electoral system,” he said, receiving a big applause from the crowd.
“Our system here in Georgia was substantially weakened by foolish legal settlements and emergency rules, and then overwhelmed by a massive volume of absentee ballots.”
Shafer said one of those factors was the legal settlement between Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office and Fair Fight PAC, an organization founded by 2018 Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia Stacey Abrams that aims to “promote fair elections around the country, encourage voter participation in elections, and educate voters about elections and their voting rights,” according to the group’s website.
With more voters submitting absentee ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shafer said the system was overwhelmed.
“There was a dramatic increase in the volume of absentee ballots,” he said. “In 2018, there were 320,000 people who voted by absentee in the Georgia election. In 2020, it was 1.3 million, and it completely overwhelmed a verification that had already been weakened by this settlement agreement.”
Shafer said under the settlement, absentee ballot clerks had to submit signatures they did not believe matched to a three-person panel of their superiors, rather than the ballot simply being rejected by the clerk, which had previously been the case, which, along with the higher number of ballots, led to clerks being swamped with ballots and likely not wanting to involve their bosses.
Also related to the election, Shafer touched on Senate Bill 202, an elections bill approved by the Georgia General Assembly and signed by gov. Brian Kemp earlier this year.
Shafer said he was involved in the legislation putting together a task force after the runoff elections in January to produce a report based on what they heard from those working elections.
“We distilled the experience of the 4,000 people who volunteered to be poll watchers into an 11-page report of recommended changes for Georgia law,” Shafer said. “Not everything we recommended became law, but the majority of it did. It was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kemp, and everything in that bill was good.”
He said the bill will end the debate over signatures since it will instead go by a voter's driver's license or ID numbers.
Along with answering questions about the election, Shafer also touched on other topics, including answering a question on what could be done to stop the implementation of Critical Race Theory, a scholarly body of work that suggests racism is embedded in all facets of American life, in Georgia schools.
The issue has recently been debated at schools nationwide, including recently in Forsyth County, where speakers both for and against the Forsyth County Schools’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan, which school officials have said is not based on CRT, at a recent meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Education.
Shafer said today’s Democratic Party is a “radical left party whose members do not even believe that America is a force for good in the world.”
“All of these ideologies are designed to undermine love for our country and to divide Americans, who most Republicans view as individuals, to divide them into groups, assign grievances to those groups… and then pit people against each other,” Shafer said. “If we don’t defeat it, it will be the death of our country, so I am against the law.”
While he was critical of how the 2020 election was handled, Shafer encouraged residents to continue voting in elections and to stay involved.
“I know that a year is an eternity in politics and that it will look different a year from now than how it does today, and all we can do is what we can do today, then the next day, do what we can do that day,” he said. “They want us to give up. They want us to be discouraged. They want us to be afraid. They want us to think that our votes don’t matter, and we simply can’t give in to that because that’s what the people who hate America want us to do.”