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Graham denies pressuring top Georgia election official to throw out some ballots

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP senators applaud Biden for global vaccine donation plans Lindsey Graham: Dismissal of Wuhan lab leak theory cost Trump 2020 election Tim Scott: Could be 'very hard' to reach police reform deal by June deadline MORE (R-S.C.) is denying that he put any pressure on Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to exclude some mail-in ballots as the state undergoes a full recount of this month's presidential election.

Raffensperger told The Washington Post in an interview that Graham questioned whether election officials in Georgia had the power to throw out all mail ballots in counties with higher rates of signature discrepancies.

Raffensperger told the Post he was stunned and doesn’t have the power to throw out ballots.

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“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” he said of Graham.

Raffensperger also said that he and his wife have been targeted with death threats amid the recount, which comes after President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE became the first Democrat in decades to win the state.

Graham on Monday evening said he was merely inquiring about the process and certainly didn’t intend to threaten Georgia’s secretary of state.

“I’m asking him to explain to me the system,” Graham said.

“If you send a mail-in ballot to a county, a single person verifies the signature against what’s in the database,” he said. “They don’t mail out ballots. You got to actually request one. So they expanded mail-in voting, and how you verify the signature, to me, is the big issue of mail-in voting."

“If you’re going to have mail-in voting, you got to verify the person who signed the envelope is also the person” in the voter database, he said.

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Asked why, as a senator from South Carolina, he’s talking to an election official from Georgia, Graham said that "it affects the whole nation," adding that his conversation with Raffensperger wasn’t threatening at all.

“That’s just ridiculous. If he feels threatened by that conversation, he’s got a problem. I actually thought it was a good conversation,” he said, adding that “he learned a lot about” the process.

Graham said that instead of trying to understand what was happening with the recount by following news reports on the internet, he decided to call the state’s top election official to get a firsthand account.

Graham suggested that in the future bipartisan teams should be set up to verify signatures on mail-in ballots.

“I think you need a bipartisan group to verify signatures,” he said. “What I want to do is maybe do national legislation if we have to. If we’re going to go to more mail-in voting, which is fine as long as it’s controlled, how do you verify the signature?”

Graham denied that he ever asked Raffensperger to throw out ballots.

“I never said that. I said, ‘Do you have power as secretary of state to require bipartisan verification of the signature?’” Graham said, noting that he learned “right now they don’t.”

Raffensperger also criticized Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsGeorgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock Poll shows tight GOP primary for Georgia governor The Hill's Morning Report - Census winners and losers; House GOP huddles MORE (R-Ga.), who is leading Trump’s recount strategy in Georgia, as a “liar” and a “charlatan” in the Post interview.

Collins has pressed for a full comparison of absentee ballots cast and in-person and provisional ballots cast, a check for felons and other ineligible persons casing ballots, and a full hand count of every ballot cast.

Collins has cited “widespread allegations of voter irregularities” and “issues with voting machines.”

Raffensperger told the Post that elected officials and other leaders need “to elevate their speech” and be “thoughtful and careful about what we say.”