ATLANTA – Some Republicans renewed their attacks Monday on Democrat Joe Biden's lead over President Donald Trump in Georgia, with U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler taking the extraordinary step of calling for the resignation of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the state's chief elections officer and a fellow member of the GOP.
Republicans laid out a strategy to investigate but still presented no evidence of large-scale voter fraud in the balloting, saying they were still looking into ways to overturn Biden's lead of 11,000 votes.
Georgia is one front in a nationwide scramble by Trump forces to question his loss in multiple states, after The Associated Press and other news organizations declared Biden the victor Saturday when he surpassed the 270 electoral vote threshold with victories in Pennsylvania and Nevada. The AP has not yet called the presidential race for Georgia's 16 electoral votes.
Perdue and Loeffler offered no evidence and gave no specific examples of illegal votes or fraud, and their campaigns did not respond to requests for further comment. Raffensperger flatly declined to step down, saying in a statement, “That is not going to happen.”
The statewide elected Republican said his office is investigating any specific reports of illegal votes, but officials don't expect to find any significant problems.
“Does it rise to the numbers or margin necessary to change the outcome to where President Trump is given Georgia’s electoral votes? That is unlikely," Raffensperger said.
Elected in 2018, Raffensperger has overseen the rollout of Georgia's new voting system, which features touchscreen machines that print paper ballots read by a scanner. After the coronavirus pandemic began, he strongly encouraged voters to vote by mail, despite criticism from other Republicans.
Loeffler and Perdue, who face a pair of Jan. 5 runoffs against Democrats that will determine party control of the U.S. Senate, accused Raffensperger of “mismanagement and lack of transparency.”
“The Secretary of State has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections," they said in a joint statement. "He has failed the people of Georgia, and he should step down immediately.”
Other Republicans have been more cautious, with Gov. Brian Kemp, House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan all supporting the accuracy of the count in a joint Friday statement.
On Monday, however, Kemp spokesperson Cody Hall said the Republicans' concerns should be “a wake-up call” for Raffensperger to examine “any and all” fraud allegations.
Kemp, a former secretary of state who oversaw the 2018 elections while he was running for governor, came under intense fire from Democrats and outside voting groups. Kemp narrowly defeated Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams, but she refused to explicitly concede, alleging systemic voter suppression by Kemp.
On Monday, Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group Abrams founded after her loss, attacked Perdue and Loeffler.
"With their bizarre press statement, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have become full participants in Donald Trump’s crybaby campaign to undermine our democracy," spokesperson Seth Bringman said. “Voters decided, and President-Elect Joe Biden won Georgia.”
Raffensperger's office said officials are confident in the results of the 2020 election.
“The facts are the facts, regardless of outcomes," Gabriel Sterling, who oversaw the implementation of the new voting system, said at a news conference. He said he wanted everyone to understand "that in Georgia we had an actual accurate outcome."
He debunked examples of what he characterized as misinformation about problems that occurred as votes were counted in several counties in the state.
While Sterling was speaking at the Georgia Capitol, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was laying out the GOP recount strategy to House Republicans in the same building. Perdue, a former Georgia governor, is the cousin of David Perdue.
Recounts rarely change outcomes in races where a candidate leads by thousands of votes. By Monday, 55 of Georgia’s 159 counties had submitted certified, final results, including Gwinnett County, the state's second most populous county.
“We must count every legal vote and cast out every illegal vote in the state of Georgia,” Sonny Perdue said.
Perdue said the GOP is trying to flip the deficit before the state certifies overall results.
“We obviously know the President is currently trailing in Georgia," Sonny Perdue said. "We do believe that Georgia may be his best chance of reclaiming that lead and helping secure the electors he needs to be reelected.”
Trump expressed that confidence himself, tweeting on Monday afternoon that “Georgia will be a big presidential win, as it was the night of the Election!”
Perdue said the Trump legal team is focused on four issues. The first is whether people may have voted twice, as may have happened in some cases in Georgia’s June primary, where people who requested an absentee ballot may have gone to polls to vote in person because they believed their absentee ballot hadn’t been received.
Perdue also said Republicans are trying to make sure votes weren't cast by people who moved out of state, on behalf of those who have died, or by convicted felons who haven't completed probation or parole or paid all their fines. He presented no specific instances or evidence of wrongdoing, saying complaints still need to be investigated.
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who gave up his seat and then came up short in his attempt to beat Loeffler and reach the Senate runoff, was tapped Sunday to lead the recount team in Georgia.
Associated Press writer Ben Nadler contributed to this report.