EXCLUSIVE: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger defended the state’s new voting law amid heightened scrutiny—including from President Biden, who has likened the provision to "Jim Crow on steroids"— by saying it has "commonsense" safeguards for Georgia elections and maintaining that it is not "racist," while urging the president, and other critics to stop "playing political games."
The president is traveling in Georgia Thursday to commemorate his 100th day in office, despite criticizing Georgia officials for their sweeping voting legislation and even though he supported organizations, like Major League Baseball, boycotting the state amid the passage of the law.
During an exclusive interview with Fox News, Raffensperger defended the legislation, saying it has "commonsense safeguards for Georgia elections."
"Unfortunately, that Jim Crow lie is dangerous for election confidence," Raffensperger said.
"Going back and using pejorative terms like Jim Crow—there is nothing in this bill like Jim Crow at all," Raffensperger said.
After the legislation became law, MLB pulled its annual All-Star Game from Atlanta and moved it to Denver.
Before MLB's decision, the president told ESPN that he would "strongly support" MLB players pushing to relocate the All-Star Game in response to the law, which he called "Jim Crow on steroids."
"He is playing political games," Raffensperger said of the president, also pointing to Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who he said put out a fundraising email on the law.
"What he said was 180 degrees different than what is actually in the law," Raffensperger said of Warnock. "That’s just playing politics to hit that emotional hook, to get someone to send you a few dollars so that it really gins up your base."
The new law requires voter ID for absentee voting rather than relying on signature matching for verification, limiting ballot drop boxes to one per county or one per 100,000 voters, expanded early voting days, and standardized early voting hours to a minimum of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and a maximum of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The legislation also barred outside groups from passing out food and water to those in line, which Republicans say can be used as a method to illegally influence people waiting to vote.
The law also handed more election authority to the GOP-controlled state legislature. It states that the General Assembly is to select the chair of the state elections board, rather than the board being chaired by the Georgia secretary of state. It also shortens runoffs from nine weeks to four.
The state election board can also now investigate county election boards and has the power to suspend county election superintendents – though the board can only suspend four at a time.
"It is not a racist bill—having a driver’s license number is supported by two-thirds of all Georgians—African Americans support it, caucasians support it, Democrats support it, and Republicans," Raffensperger said.
"We have used photo ID for over 12 years now, everyone accepts it, everyone has an ID to, you know, jump on a plane, people have it all the time."
He added: "So to believe that people don’t like having photo ID is just erroneous, it is a red herring, it is not based on facts."
But Biden has been critical of Georgia and its new election legislation, which he and other critics have said will make it more difficult for minorities to cast their ballots.
"Since 99% of all Georgians have drivers license numbers, I don’t see how it makes it more difficult," Raffensperger told Fox News. "There’s just no truth to what they’re saying."
Raffensperger, in a message to both Republicans and Democrats, said "it is time we have more truth about this."
Meanwhile, as for the MLB’s decision, Raffensperger, a small business owner, said that when you have a small business "you can make those decisions, bad decisions, and the only shareholder you hurt is yourself."
"When you’re publicly traded, you have to understand that we live in very polarized times," Raffensperger said. "And when you start doing something to please one half of the side, you’re going to make a make a decision displeases the other half."
He added: "I just don’t think it’s good business."
While Raffensperger acknowledged that he can’t change MLB’s decision, he said Georgia wants "to make sure" the state "keeps its welcome mat for all businesses."
"I wish we would have had more conversations," Raffensperger said of the MLB. "But sometimes things end up in the national narrative and disinformation cycle before you really have a chance."
Raffensperger acknowledged "the legacy" Georgia has had "going all the way back to America’s founding."
"Georgia made a change in the 60s—first of all, this is the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr.—we have moved forward to be a very welcoming, pro-business environment, and so we’ve addressed our issues," he said.
"We’re mindful when we pass laws that people are not excluded for any reason, whatsoever. That everyone has the opportunity to vote, and we want to make sure we have the appropriate guardrails," Raffensperger said, explaining that includes "the proper amount of accessibility balanced with security."
"When you have those together, that work in harmony, and the glue is integrity, then that’s what you really want," he said. "But if you just have 100% accessibility and same-day registration, then there is no security in the system and when people see no security in the system, then they lose confidence."
He added: "You want to make sure you have confidence in the results—results that you can trust."
Raffensperger’s name came into national prominence amid the 2020 election fight, as former President Trump urged him, as the top election official in the state, to "find" votes to help him win the key battleground.
"We had the numbers and facts on our side," Raffensperger explained. "Someone obviously had been feeding President Trump the wrong numbers and the wrong data."
Trump lost to Biden in Georgia by just over 11,000 votes. Trump alleged mass election fraud in the state. Nine weeks after the November election, Republican incumbent Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler lost to Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
Raffensperger said that "some people still refuse to believe it, because they don’t like the results" of the election.
"I understand that," he said. "I was disappointed also. I’m a Republican."
But Raffensperger maintained the importance of election security.
"What you want is a law or process that works, no matter who is in charge - Republican or Democrat—because it is objectively fair," he said. "I will always fight to make sure we have the appropriate balance of accessibility and security so that everyone knows that their vote will count and be counted accurately, and if we do that, then at the end of the day, if you lose a race you’ve lost it honestly, and you need to go back and figure out what you’re going to do the next time to actually win."
He added: "We’re gonna make sure we have the right rules in place—accessibility with security—so that everyone can trust the results."