Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce called on Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to resign, saying in an interview with the MDJ on Friday morning that issues with Tuesday’s elections rested squarely on the secretary’s shoulders.
“I have no confidence in this system, nor the leaders that are behind it,” said the former Marine colonel. “And in my world, in the military, when you lose confidence in somebody, you replace them.”
Hours later, Boyce said he would walk back his comments if the secretary “accepts full responsibility and accountability for the problems with the voting system on Tuesday.”
In Cobb and other counties around metro Atlanta, some voters had to wait hours to cast their ballots Tuesday. A deluge of absentee ballots has overwhelmed workers, who are expected to count into the weekend. Some races are still too close to call, three days after the election.
Raffensperger, meanwhile, has placed the blame for any issues squarely on local elections officials, in particular those in Fulton and DeKalb counties.
“When these things arise, and it’s really specifically in one or two counties ... it leads us back to the failure of the management of the county election directors in those counties,” he said. “It has nothing to do with what we’re doing in the rest of Georgia.”
Boyce said that was unacceptable.
“I find it very curious that the people that are criticizing us the most are those people who voted to have this system put into place,” he said. And they gave it to us at a time frame that made it very difficult to make it operable. ... The system itself did not receive the necessary technical support we needed. My understanding is the whole state had 175 people that the state funded to work with us with our problems: We have (144) precincts here in Cobb County alone.”
The chairman, a Republican, said the issue would play right into Democrats’ hands.
“If ever there was a gift given to the Democrats about voter suppression, this is it,” Boyce said. “Because think about it, people have lives. They don’t have time to stand in line for three to six hours to vote on something.”
Democrats have long accused Republican secretaries of state, who oversee Georgia’s elections, of trying to limit the number of people who could vote, especially those in Democratic strongholds.
In 2018, Democrat and then-gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams famously did not concede after losing to Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp by almost 55,000 votes.
Boyce’s comments are a break with others in his party. In interviews earlier this week, Cobb Republicans defended the secretary.
State Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, a floor leader of Kemp, noted that election workers have warned for weeks that voting would be slower than normal, given social distancing requirements and safety measures that saw voting machines spaced 6 feet apart, required sanitation between each voter and other time-consuming measures.
Reeves acknowledged there seemed to be a lack of poll worker training on the state’s new voting machines, which led to some confusion and delay, but he said he is uncertain where accountability lies for that issue.
“I keep hearing about Fulton and DeKalb, that they were a disaster because poll workers didn’t know how to operate the equipment,” he said, adding that local offices will have to answer to that and the state will need to create accountability measures ahead of upcoming elections. “There’s blame to be handed out in multiple directions there, and I don’t know the answer.”
On Wednesday, Cobb GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd called Democrats’ criticism of Raffensperger “unconscionable.”
“It’s people doing the best they can with the limited resources they have,” Shepherd said.
Raffensperger has correctly noted that county officials train poll workers, including on the use of the new voting machines. But Raffensperger is the state’s chief elections official who decides how many machines to send to each county, and his office provides training curriculum for local officials.
On absentee ballots, he pushed unprecedented no-fault absentee access, paying to send an application to every Georgian on the active voter rolls. But no additional money was provided to hire staff to process the influx, which dwarfed the typical primary.
Boyce said the state will face a much bigger problem come November if lawmakers fail to act soon.
“Fix this system,” Boyce said. “I want the state to put the money into it. I want the legislators to get back to work, fix this system that they gave us, or get rid of it.
“Because just think about this,” he continued. “We only had, you know, what, maybe 100,000 people vote in Cobb County, if that many in the primary, (and) we’re going to have anywhere from two and a half to three times more people (this fall). I mean, in November ... we may not get our results back until Christmas.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.