Georgia's top voting official goes deep on call with Trump : The NPR Politics Podcast Brad Raffensperger is a conservative Republican who serves as Georgia's elected Secretary of State — he oversaw the 2020 elections cycle in the state. In a conversation about his new book Integrity Counts, he tells NPR's Miles Parks and Georgia Public Broadcast's Stephen Fowler about resisting former president Trump's push to corrupt the election results.

This episode: White House correspondent Asma Khalid, voting reporter Miles Parks, and GPB reporter Stephen Fowler.

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In his new book, Georgia's top voting official goes deep on infamous call with Trump

In his new book, Georgia's top voting official goes deep on infamous call with Trump

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Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) John Bazemore/AP hide caption

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John Bazemore/AP

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

John Bazemore/AP

It was a phone call Brad Raffensperger will never forget.

For more than an hour last winter, then-President Donald Trump rattled off false claim after false claim about dead people voting and absentee-ballot fraud, culminating in a now famous request to Raffensperger, Georgia's Republican secretary of state: "Find 11,780 votes."

Raffensperger declined.

"Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong," Raffensperger said at the time.

Now, almost a year later, Trump has not stopped spreading similar lies about voting in the U.S. — lies that Raffensperger now says he doesn't think Trump actually believes.

"I think he knows in his heart that he lost this election," said Raffensperger in a new interview with The NPR Politics Podcast.

Raffensperger's new book, Integrity Counts, was released Tuesday, and roughly 40 pages of it are devoted to an annotated transcript of the call. NPR and Georgia Public Broadcasting acquired the audio of the call shortly after it happened in January.

The Republican secretary of state didn't enter politics until he was in his mid-50s and says his previous career in the construction industry prepared him for calls like the one with Trump.

"I was pretty much expecting what I got," Raffensperger said. "I've been in many job trailers and many offices, and I've had those one-way, high-volume conversations. It was what it was, and people can make their own determinations."

As a member of Georgia's House of Representatives, Raffensperger had one of the legislative body's most conservative voting records before he became secretary of state. But he now finds himself in the odd position of having his Republican bona fides questioned after contradicting Trump publicly.

Raffensperger is running for reelection in 2022, and one of his opponents in the Republican primary, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, has pushed the false narrative that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump.

"I believe if there was a fair election, it would be a different outcome," Hice told CNN this year. Hice also objected to the certification of Georgia's election results on Jan. 6.

Trump is still extremely popular among Republican voters nationally, and a wide majority of them also believe that the election was stolen. A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll found that just a third of Republicans trust that elections in the U.S. are fair.

That puts Republicans who don't want to go along with those sort of narratives in a bind. Glenn Youngkin, the Republican who just won Virginia's gubernatorial race, waited until after he won that state's primary to say that Joe Biden was the legitimate winner of the 2020 election.

"I'm going to stand on the truth," said Raffensperger, when asked what pressure he feels ahead of his primary. "I think that I've shown I could stand in the gap."

One of his tactics for doing so is deflecting blame for polarization around voting back onto Democrats, like Stacey Abrams.

Abrams ran for governor in Georgia in 2018 but lost to Republican Brian Kemp, Raffensperger's predecessor as secretary of state, by about 55,000 votes. She and many Democrats attribute her loss to what they saw as a concerted effort by Republicans to make it harder for Democrats and people of color to vote.

"To watch an elected official, who claims to represent the people of this state, baldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression of the people's democratic right to vote has been truly appalling," Abrams said in a speech after the election in which she did not concede but acknowledged she would not become governor.

One analysis found that precinct closures alone may have led to as many as 85,000 fewer votes in the election.

"[Abrams] said she would have won if not for voter suppression. Last year, it was voter fraud," said Raffensperger. "Both of those undermine election confidence. And that's not healthy for America."

When pressed on if he saw differences between Abrams and Trump, notably that Abrams did acknowledge that she wouldn't be governor less than two weeks after losing her 2018 election or that her supporters did not storm the Georgia State Capitol, Raffensperger instead said the biggest difference was that the presidency is a more high-profile office, so Trump's actions garnered more scrutiny.

Connect:
Subscribe to the NPR Politics Podcast here.
Email the show at nprpolitics@npr.org
Join the NPR Politics Podcast Facebook Group.
Listen to our playlist The NPR Politics Daily Workout.
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