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Georgia secretary of state says Graham, other Republicans have pressured him to toss legal ballots

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Monday that Republican leaders such as Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial Democrats formally elect Harrison as new DNC chair McConnell proposes postponing impeachment trial until February MORE (R-S.C.) have been putting pressure on him to exclude legal ballots in order for President TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE to be declared the winner and earn the state's 16 electoral votes.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Raffensperger said Graham asked him on Friday if he had the authority to toss out ballots in counties with high rates of nonmatching signatures. Graham also questioned if poll workers had accepted ballots with nonmatching signatures due to political bias, according to Raffensperger.

Graham denied he pressured Raffensperger to find ways to toss out legal votes, saying that he was trying to figure out how votes were verified and that he thought Georgia "has some protections that maybe other states don't have."

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"What I'm trying to find out was how do you verify signatures for mail-in ballots in these states," Graham told reporters on Monday. "I thought it was a good conversation. I'm surprised to hear him characterize it that way."

Raffensperger said he and his wife have received death threats recently, including one that read, “You better not botch this recount. Your life depends on it,” he told the Post. 

Raffensperger said efforts to cast aside legal ballots frustrated him.

“Other than getting you angry, it’s also very disillusioning, particularly when it comes from people on my side of the aisle,” he told the Post. “Everyone that is working on this needs to elevate their speech. We need to be thoughtful and careful about what we say.”

Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsDrudge congratulates Warnock, says Ann Coulter should have been GOP candidate Warnock defeats Loeffler in Georgia Senate runoff Warnock says he needs to win 'by comfortable margin' because 'funny things go on' MORE (R-Ga.) has also been critical of Raffensperger, accusing him of siding with Democrats because he has not backed voter fraud claims more fervently.

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In response to Collins's accusations, Raffensperger said, "I’m an engineer. We look at numbers. We look at hard data. I can’t help it that a failed candidate like Doug Collins is running around lying to everyone. He’s a liar."

Collins did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

Collins lost a special election race against Sen. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerLimbaugh falsely says Biden didn't win legitimately while reacting to inauguration Suburbs pose challenge for GOP in post-Trump era Democrats swear in three senators to gain majority MORE (R). Collins has not contested his own election results, in which he conceded to Loeffler on election night.

Raffensperger said any claims of voter fraud would be investigated but that there was not enough evidence that widespread fraud had occurred, leaving the state's outcome of the presidential election, in which President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenDC residents jumped at opportunity to pay for meals for National Guardsmen Joe Biden might bring 'unity' – to the Middle East Biden shouldn't let defeating cancer take a backseat to COVID MORE was projected the winner, unchanged. 

Georgia is currently conducting a hand recount of votes, which Raffensperger ordered as part of the state's risk-limiting audit process. It is expected to be completed by Nov. 20, the deadline for certifying election results.

-- Jordain Carney contributed to this report