AJC Interview: Why Kemp formalized Georgia’s election despite Trump’s pushback

11/20/2020 �  Marietta, Georgia �Vice President Mike Pence is greeted by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp as he arrives at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Ga., Friday, November 20, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/20/2020 � Marietta, Georgia �Vice President Mike Pence is greeted by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp as he arrives at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Ga., Friday, November 20, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

When Gov. Brian Kemp certified the state’s 16 presidential electors, he not only brought Georgia one step closer to ending a tumultuous vote-counting process but he also defied calls from President Donald Trump and his allies to delay the decision.

The governor announced his move by also venting frustration at an “unacceptable” tallying process that found thousands of ballots in four counties that had previously gone uncounted. He also urged lawmakers to consider requiring voter ID for mail-in ballots, which has surged during the pandemic.

Kemp, a former secretary of state, expanded on his remarks in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shortly before he certified the electors. He refrained from firing back at Trump, who has peppered him with criticism, but expressed broader “frustration” at the system.

“I understand why he’s frustrated. He’s a fighter. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to follow the laws of the constitution of this state and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

Here are excerpts from the interview:

On why he’s taking the step:

“State law requires us to formalize the certification that the Secretary of State delivered earlier today. I’m legally bound to take this step.”

On his response to the tweets from Trump and other supporters that urged him to take unspecified actions to intervene:

“Like the president I’ve been frustrated with some of what I’ve seen – misplaced ballots, the confusion, the questions …

“I understand why he’s frustrated. He’s a fighter. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to follow the laws of the constitution of this state and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

“I would just say I’m formalizing the certification. Now that Secretary Raffensperger certified, it triggers the ability of the Trump campaign to ask for the recount. If something were to happen, I’m still part of that process. So my take on all this is: I’m following the law and the rules …

“I know it’s been frustrating to a lot of people, it’s been frustrating for me too. But because I’ve been part of the process, I’ve had to be more guarded. I’m having to make sure I’m staying on firm legal footing for the official duties of the governor.”

On Raffensperger’s call for a voter ID requirement for mail-in ballots:

“I’d be open to working with both bodies in the House and Senate, and the lieutenant governor and the speaker, as well on that … Georgians deserve a process where the integrity of the vote is not a question – and certainly it is on a lot of people’s minds. That’s part of the issue of what’s going on right now. People have so many questions about this. When you find 2,600 votes in Floyd County, it speaks to concerns about the confidence in the vote. And that confidence – that’s what America is built on.”

On his message do you have for the Republican base – particular Trump supporters – upset with his decision and the outcome of this race:

“First of all, I’d tell them I am following the law. That’s what I told them I’d do when I took my oath. I’m frustrated with the outcome, but we’ve got to focus on the firewall in the U.S. Senate and voting Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler back to Washington to stop the drastic measures Democrats have embraced over the years.

“It is literally the one check we have left in the checks and balances in our country. I think we can send the strong message that Georgia is not a blue state.”

On whether Republican fractures over this election can be healed before the Jan. 5 runoffs:

“Republicans have always done a good job of fighting each other hard and beating each other up and then coming back together. We’ll unite not only for Republicans in Georgia but for Republicans around the country. We understand how important it is, to rally around the cause. That’s why I was so glad to welcome Vice President Pence back to Georgia today.”

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