Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Wednesday that President-elect Joe Biden won the state of Georgia because, somehow, Democrat Stacey Abrams tricked Republicans into abetting voter fraud by helping more people legally vote.
Abrams “conned the Republican leadership in Georgia” into it, Graham said Wednesday on the conservative radio show “The Mike Gallagher Show.”
GOP leaders in the state must now change their laws to “stop Stacey Abrams from stealing the Senate race,” he continued, referring to the two Georgia Senate runoff elections in January, which will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate. Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are both running to hold on to their seats.
Graham doubtless knows what he’s saying is nonsense. He knows it’s fueling distrust in democracy. He’s knows Georgia officials are not going to change state laws in the coming days. He knows that Biden won Georgia because he got more votes. He knows that state officials counted and certified all of the legally cast votes ― three times, in fact. He knows there is no evidence of widespread fraud in any state in the presidential election.
But the South Carolina senator almost certainly wants to stay in the good graces of President Donald Trump, who continues to lie about fraud being the reason he lost the election, and Trump’s loyal base of supporters who believe him. So it’s worth it.
During his appearance on the show, which the host was airing from Georgia this week, the senator offered a convoluted explanation for how Abrams, a popular Black Democrat who runs a national voting rights organization based in Georgia, fooled GOP officials:
Stacey Abrams conned the Republican leadership in Georgia into a consent decree that basically adulterated the signature verification system, so that you’re comparing the ballot signatures to the application signature. They’re the same person who did the fraud. You should be comparing the ballot signature, the envelope signature on the ballot, to a signature that existed before the application was made. She changed that.
Graham appears to be referring to Georgia state officials, who are Republicans, agreeing to a legal settlement in March that addressed a lack of statewide standards for matching signatures on absentee ballot envelopes. The state’s Democratic Party led the lawsuit, arguing that signature mismatches disproportionately affected minorities in Georgia. The settlement laid out steps for local election officials to notify voters ― by phone, mail or email ― in a timely fashion if there was a problem with a signature.
Abrams, who helped register a lot of voters in this election and helped them navigate barriers that had been erected to keep Georgians of color from voting, backed the lawsuit and has talked about why changes were necessary.
“The issue was they threw out your ballot if there was a signature mismatch, which was twice as likely if you were Black or Latino, five times as likely if you’re young,” Abrams told The Los Angeles Times in September. “A fairly high percentage of immigrants had their ballots thrown out. We were able to get a consent decree earlier this year where you’d get to fix your ballot if they think there’s a problem.”
Graham’s distortion of the situation is not surprising, said Abrams spokesman Seth Bringman, given that he’s the same out-of-state senator who personally pressured Georgia officials to throw out legally cast votes.
“While he focuses on lies and misinformation, we will focus on encouraging Georgians to request their mail ballots and vote early starting next week for the Jan. 5 Senate runoff so that the likes of Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell no longer control the U.S. Senate,” Bringman said.
It was clear from Graham’s interview what his actual goal was in going after Abrams: driving up his own fundraising ― “We need you to help Loeffler and Perdue. Go to my website,” he told listeners ― and trying to fire up Trump supporters to show up in January for Georgia’s runoff elections so his party keeps the Senate.
“We’ve got to fight for Trump,” Graham said. “If you want Kelly Loeffler and Perdue to win, as a Republican, you need to fight for Trump in Georgia.”