LOS ANGELES - Two crucial Senate runoff elections will be held in the Southern state of Georgia next week, with inflammatory accusations still circulating about the state’s handling of last month’s presidential election — and on the same voting machines that are at the center of President Donald Trump’s charges that the November balloting was fixed.
Courts around the country have rejected the claims of fraud in Georgia and elsewhere, and election officials from Trump’s own Republican Party have defended the handling of the November 3 vote in that state.
But they also say the rhetoric has reached dangerous levels, casting a cloud over the January 5 runoffs.
Protesters at “Stop the Steal” rallies around the country, endorsed by Trump, have said he was the true winner of the presidential election, a claim Trump has made himself in more than a dozen tweets and retweets and a December 2 statement.
“With the turn of a dial, with the change of a (computer) chip, you can press a button for Trump and the vote goes to Biden. What kind of a system is this?” he said.
'Numbers don't lie'
Election officials from both parties and nearly all observers say there is no evidence of pervasive fraud. William Barr, who resigned as attorney general December 23, said he found no fraud that could have changed the outcome.
“This is probably one of the best-run elections the United States has ever done,” said Raphael Sonenshein of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University-Los Angeles.
He said turnout was huge — more than 157 million people cast their ballots, two-thirds of eligible voters.
“It was done very smoothly, and there were almost no documented cases of serious problems in the race,” he said.
At issue for protesters are alleged irregularities in the mail-in voting process and unproven allegations of rigged voting machines from Dominion Voting Systems. Trump’s supporters and some Republican state officials, led by Republicans in Texas, filed more than 50 lawsuits to reverse the vote in seven swing states. None has been successful.
Biden condemned the Republican effort in remarks December 14, saying “this legal maneuver was an effort by elected officials of one group of states to try to get officials to wipe out the votes of more than 20 million Americans in other states.”
A November recount in Georgia confirmed that Biden had won there, and a Republican official said November 20 that the issue was settled.
“I live by the motto that numbers don’t lie,” said Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
A partial recount in Wisconsin also cemented Biden’s win in that state.
Dominion said its employees have received death threats because of charges the company calls “fabrications.” So have election workers in Georgia, where Gabriel Sterling, manager of Georgia Voting Systems, issued a plea on December 2.
Directly addressing Trump in public remarks earlier this month, Sterling said, “Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop.”
Still, Trump has not backed down.
“I went from leading by a lot to losing by a little,” he has said, describing the shift in the count as the votes were tallied in some states.
Some Republicans have acknowledged Biden’s win, among them Senators Marco Rubio, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney. But others are silent on Trump’s fraud claims that have clouded the Georgia runoff. Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri said Wednesday that he would contest the certification of the Electoral College vote next week.
“You’ve got a split Republican Party,” said Sonenshein.
It is a problem for Republicans in a tight election, with high stakes for both sides.