Georgia elections head says Graham questioned absentee rejections

11/11/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks with Georgia county elections directors without a face mask following a press briefing outside of the Georgia State Capitol building in downtown Atlanta, Wednesday, November 11, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Combined ShapeCaption
11/11/2020 — Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks with Georgia county elections directors without a face mask following a press briefing outside of the Georgia State Capitol building in downtown Atlanta, Wednesday, November 11, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham asked him if he had the power to reject more absentee ballots as election officials are conducting a recount and audit of the presidential race.

Raffensperger, in an interview with The Washington Post on Monday, said the South Carolina senator was the latest Republican to question whether he could disqualify more absentee ballots based on mismatched signatures.

Raffensperger, who is also a Republican, said Graham appeared to be suggesting that he find a way to reject legally-cast ballots to help President Donald Trump’s reelection chances.

“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” Raffensperger told the Post.

The secretary of state’s office confirmed the accuracy of Raffensperger’s comments.

Graham denied encouraging Raffensperger to reject legal votes and said he was merely asking how Georgia’s signature matching process worked. He said he and wasn’t asked to do so by Trump.

Unofficial results showed Joe Biden had a 14,000-vote lead over Trump in Georgia.

Trump has written on Twitter that Georgia officials should review voter signatures on absentee ballots during the state’s recount, though that’s not part of the recount process. A Trump supporter filed a lawsuit against Raffensperger on Friday over signature matching, asking a judge to stop him from certifying the election.

Voter signatures are checked by comparing them to the signatures that voters used when they registered. But that validation occurs when absentee ballots are first returned to county election offices, not during recounts, when ballots have already been separated from absentee envelopes to protect voter secrecy.

Election workers in Georgia have rejected nearly 2,000 absentee ballots because of invalid or missing signatures this election, according to state data.