Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger received high praise for firmly rejecting former President Donald Trump’s false claims about electoral fraud. But now that these claims have led to tighter voting, the Republican civil servant is taking a gentler approach. Brynn Anderson / AP hide caption

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Brynn Anderson / AP

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger received high praise for firmly rejecting former President Donald Trump’s false claims about electoral fraud. But now that these allegations have led to tighter voting, the Republican civil servant is taking a gentler approach.

Brynn Anderson / AP

In January, Brad Raffensperger stood firm, under pressure from Donald Trump to overturn what he for no reason called a fraudulent election. The Georgia Secretary of State insisted that the 2020 state elections were fair and safe and that there was no bad game evidence to back up the former president’s claims.

Now that he is campaigning for the country’s new electoral law, Raffensperger apparently sees room for improvement in securing elections. Faced with criticism from Democrats and corporations, he joined fellow Republicans, including Governor Brian Kemp, in defending the measure as a general boost to electoral integrity.

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In an interview this week with NPR’s All Things Considered, Raffensperger praised the parts of the law that add new postal voting ID requirements, expanded access to early face-to-face voting, shorter deadlines, and shorter waiting times.

All four of these changes, he said, “are positive, solid, measured electoral reforms”.

“It really is a very broad, unified process that I believe will ensure faster runoffs and very objective measures for the postal vote and the identification of those voters so that it can be restored.” Trust, “said Raffensperger.

The bill has drawn backlash from Democrats and suffrage advocates who argue that it restricts postal voting and disproportionately harms color communities.

Some of the state’s largest corporations, including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, have criticized the law while Major League Baseball responded by pulling its all-star game out of Atlanta.

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President Biden described the bill as “Jim Crow in the twenty-first century,” and compared it to a series of tactics once aimed at disenfranchising blacks in the south.

In the NPR interview, Raffensperger denied these claims, saying, “It is extremely unfortunate and in bad taste” for people to pronounce the law in this way.

“If you look at our early voting period, it is now extended to 17 mandatory days for each county in our state and then optionally to two days for Sunday voting during the early voting period,” he said.

Democrats also see the reforms as an unnecessary response to last year’s record turnout, which saw 1.3 million postal votes cast. The election of two state Democrats to the US Senate, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, gave their party control of the chamber.

Raffensperger sees the new electoral law less as hasty retaliation after the election than as a question of timing.

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“We have [a legislative] “Meeting in Georgia starting the second week of January,” he said. “It seems quick, but … all of the bills you have, including the budget, will be taken care of in that 40-day session.”

Raffensperger has a catch with the new law.

The measure imposes a number of limits on his office. It sacked the Secretary of State as chairman of the Georgia State Electoral Committee, allowing the Republican Majority Committee to temporarily take over local electoral offices. Even the secretary can no longer send postal votes to all voters, as Raffensperger did last summer.

He describes the move to depose him as chairman of the board as “short-sighted”.

“I am an elected civil servant, so I will answer to the electorate for all decisions I make as chairman of the state election committee. Now you have an unelected board, and that unelected board is not really accountable to anyone but the general assembly. “he said.” You will never be able to hold anyone accountable. Everyone will point a finger at the other. So I did not support that. “

Still, he’s optimistic about what he sees as a series of general improvements.

“We also allowed postal voting boxes in state law for the first time,” he said. “So that’s another good measure.”

Mailboxes were not in use in the state until the 2020 election when they were introduced as an emergency measure during the pandemic. But the new law significantly limits the number of ballot boxes compared to the previous year.

Democrats say the contraction is disproportionately affecting urban areas. For example, Fulton County – Georgia’s most populous county and home to much of Atlanta – will only have eight drop boxes, up from 38 boxes in November.

But Raffensperger denies that “every county is treated equally” because that number is based on a rule of one box per 100,000 registered voters in the county.

Becky Sullivan and Justine Kenin produced and edited this interview for the show.