Speaker Ralston Announces Election Integrity Committee That Will Focus on ‘Moving Forward’

House Speaker David Ralston says he’s exploring multiple options for how the state’s top elections official is chosen.

(Emil Moffatt / WABE)

Emil Moffatt / WABE

In announcing his priorities for the upcoming legislative session, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston announced that he would form a standalone, special committee on election integrity to look at the state’s election laws.

Since President Trump lost the November election, some Georgia Republicans have claimed, without credible evidence, that there was widespread fraud involved. They have also espoused wild conspiracy theories that have been repeatedly debunked.

But Ralston said the committee’s formation is not about rehashing what’s transpired in recent months.

“Let me clear about this, our focus is not on looking back but on moving forward,” said Ralston. “We will devote the time and attention necessary to our elections process.”

Ralston says his first priority was making sure voting was accessible to all registered Georgia voters.

“I want elections to be open, but I want them to be fair, and I want them to be secure,” he said.

There has been no evidence of widespread fraud involved with the absentee ballot program or voting in general in Georgia. Amid the pandemic, more than 3.5 million Georgians voted by mail in the 2020 election cycle.

Ralston, unlike some Republicans in the Georgia Senate and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, doesn’t necessarily want to see  “no-excuse” absentee voting eliminated.

“Somebody’s going to have to make a real strong case to convince me otherwise,” said Ralston, who noted that the law was passed under a Republican General Assembly in 2005.  “Here’s my goal on absentee ballots, okay:  I think the level of security should be just the same for an absentee ballot as it is for in-person voting.”

In an emergency order in 2020, the State Election Board approved the use of absentee ballot drop boxes for the first time in Georgia. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

Current Georgia law requires a photo ID for in-person voting, while absentee voting requires a signature match. A new online absentee ballot request portal rolled out by the secretary of state’s office last year requires voters to upload an ID.

Ralston drew the ire of Raffensperger’s office late last year when he announced that he’d be in support of having legislators choose the secretary of state instead of voters, a move that would require a constitutional amendment.

“I’m not wedded to that only,” said Ralston. “I’m also now looking at possibly taking the elections function out of that [secretary of state’s] office and doing a ‘chief elections officer’ which would not require a constitutional amendment so that there is some more accountability there.”

Ralston says lawmakers can gauge the concerns of Georgians from across the state, and therefore, may be better able to choose a top elections officials.

“People expect us to be accountable on things like that, and they don’t want to hear ‘we don’t have anything to do with that,’ even though we don’t,” said Ralston. “So that’s kind of where I’m coming from with that.”

The general assembly reconvenes on Monday.

Trump Team Abandons Georgia Election Lawsuits

Just hours after congress officially accepted the results of the November election and President Trump finally acknowledged his loss, Trump’s legal team voluntarily dismissed four lawsuits related to Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.

The Secretary of State’s office, which was named in the suits, also says no settlement agreements were involved in any of the dismissals.

“Rather than presenting their evidence and witnesses to a court and to cross-examination under oath, the Trump campaign wisely decided the smartest course was to dismiss their frivolous cases,” said Raffensperger.

A hearing in one of the cases had been scheduled for Friday.