PERRY – As David Shafer took the stage Saturday at Donald Trump’s rally, the crowd of thousands immediately interrupted the Georgia GOP chair’s speech with a chant: “Audit, audit, audit.”
“I’m with you, I’m with you,” Shafer said, temporarily quieting an audience that would soon erupt in chanting again.
While Trump used the rally to promote broad, baseless lies about widespread election fraud in Georgia, many of the loyalists were fixated on calls for an “audit” of Joe Biden’s narrow victory to prove their allegiance to the former president.
The pro-Trump Republicans in Georgia have pushed for a “forensic audit” of ballots for months, modeling the idea after the review of election results in Arizona’s largest county that wound up adding to Biden’s margin of victory.
But their calls have only intensified as Trump tries to tighten his hold on the Georgia GOP with his own slate of endorsements that seem to hinge on their commitment to overturning the former president’s 2020 defeat.
“There’s something all of us know in Georgia. Trump won Georgia. That’s why I’m calling for an audit in Georgia. There’s no more excuses,” said U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, whom Trump has labeled a rising star in the GOP. “If the people of Georgia want an audit, then they should have an audit.”
Greene, like other GOP officials who claim Trump won Georgia, is not telling the truth.
The state’s election has already withstood audits and investigations, including one audit that recounted ballots by hand and another of absentee ballot signatures in Cobb County that failed to find a single cause of fraud.
Bipartisan election officials, including Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Trump’s attorney general, said there is no evidence of rampant voter fraud or other irregularities. Judges have dismissed a string of legal challenges seeking to reverse the election outcome.
Raffensperger’s office is investigating dozens of complaints regarding the 2020 election, and none have turned up evidence of any effort to tamper with election outcomes. Each of the three tallies of Georgia’s presidential election found Biden won by about 12,000 votes.
Still, the spread of election misinformation from far-right media has only fueled louder calls. U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who is Trump’s pick to unseat Raffensperger, was also interrupted by chants of “audit.” He, too, told the crowd he wanted a review of the election results as he promoted Trump’s conspiracy theories.
“As long as these people are allowed to continue cheating, they will do so,” Hice said.
And Burt Jones, a state senator who is Trump’s favorite for lieutenant governor, told the chanting crowd that he has “always been for auditing the election.” He added he would get rid of Georgia’s voting machines and replace them with paper ballots “if I have anything to do with it.”
“I’m tired of getting pushed around by the liberal left and the Democratic Party who think we have to absolutely pander and cater to everything they want,” he said.
(His chief GOP opponent, state Senate leader Butch Miller, initiated the review process that could lead to a state takeover of Fulton County’s election system.)
One of the few speakers who steered clear of such talk was Senate candidate Herschel Walker, a former football star who spoke of bipartisanship and the importance of defending the U.S. Constitution.
But the others echoed Vernon Jones, a former Democrat who is now trying to court support for his longshot challenge to Gov. Brian Kemp by trying to cozy up to Trump.
“It’s time right now for a 159-county audit. We have to audit the books,” he said, using an expletive. “It’s time to uncover that lie.”
Some Republicans, including Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, have cringed at the insistence by Trump and his loyalists to continue to re-litigate the 2020 election.
“Let’s hope Republicans wake up and focus on the future before it’s too late,” he said.
State Democrats, meanwhile, welcome the ongoing GOP factional warfare but worry the “Stop the Steal” movement could do lasting damage to the nation’s democracy.
Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC
Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC
“None of Trump’s candidates are running to help working Georgians or defeat the pandemic,” said Democratic party chair Nikema Williams. “Instead, they’re building campaigns around defending lies, prolonging the pandemic and opposing any meaningful progress for Georgians.”
Staff writer Mark Niesse contributed to this article.