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Newton senator says election challenges belong in courts, not Assembly
But Sen. Brian Strickland also supports hearings on fraud allegations, backs review of absentee ballot laws
District 17 State Sen. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, speaks during the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce's annual pre-session breakfast at the Newton College and Career Academy Thursday, Dec. 3. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. —  A state lawmaker representing Newton County says he supports fellow senators holding hearings on allegations about election fraud but not calls for any special sessions of the Georgia General Assembly.

District 17 State Sen. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, said he did not support some other state senators’ calls for a special session because lawmakers cannot legally interfere with the results of the Nov. 3 election that resulted in Democrat Joe Biden narrowly defeating President Donald Trump and earning Georgia's 16 electoral votes.

"I do not support a special session because we do not have the authority under our state law and the Constitution to overturn elections," said Strickland, whose district includes eastern Newton County.

"This process is clearly defined in our state law and our court system is where election challenges should be brought," Strickland said.

"On top of that, a lot of the issues that have been raised are federal mandates that we do not have the ability to change, either,” he said last week.

“I think it would be a show. It would cost taxpayers a lot of money.”

He joined Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and legislative leaders in rejecting the call by other senators and some state House members for Kemp to call special sessions to change election laws — both to tighten residency requirements before the Jan. 5 runoff and to change the current method of choosing presidential electors.

Kemp and Duncan issued a joint statement Sunday, Dec. 6, that said four state Senate members' calls for a special session to create a method for choosing electors other than by the winner of the state's popular vote would be unconstitutional "and immediately enjoined by the courts, resulting in a long legal dispute and no short-term resolution." 

Strickland, however, said he supported the state Senate hearings that began Thursday, Dec. 3, in Atlanta “that will dive into many allegations that we’ve heard” from a variety of sources.

He said he wanted to hear from election officials and others who have alleged fraud in the Nov. 3 election.

“I do support parts of what they ask for … but not the way they want to do it,” Strckland said.

"Now that Gov. (Brian) Kemp has complied with his mandate to certify these results, lawsuits can, and are, being brought. This is where anyone with allegations of fraud will have the opportunity to fully present their case.  

"I support Gov. Kemp and am proud of the way he has conducted himself in this process by continuing to put his oath and duties under our laws and our Constitution ahead of politics."

He said he also supported “giving a fresh look in January at our absentee laws on the books.”

“Because of all the questions concerning signature verifications, we should look at that deeper and consider putting an ID requirement into law,” Strickland said.

Despite President Donald Trump’s allegations to the contrary, the Associated Press reported a consent decree signed earlier this year between the state government and some Democratic Party groups does not prevent Georgia election clerks from scrutinizing signatures on absentee ballots.

The legal settlement signed in March addresses accusations about a lack of statewide standards for judging signatures on absentee ballot envelopes, the AP reported.

Gabriel Sterling of the Secretary of State’s office said the only change the consent decree made was in the office’s policy of how notification should be given to voters whose ballots were rejected — and the change was totally at the discretion of the Secretary of State.

He said the policy was changed to give a voter notice within 24 hours if a ballot was rejected within 11 days of the election because a signature did not match.

A federal lawsuit which sought to stop the state’s certification of the presidential election said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger illegally changed election law by himself when he signed the consent decree.

The lawsuit argues the decree violated the U.S. Constitution because it requires any changes in election law be done by state legislatures.

Strickland, an attorney and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, “The ongoing issue of the federal consent order way of handling verification vs. current state law on handling verification — we need direction on that.”

"When it comes to the consent order, I think the legislature needs to look at our current absentee verification process when it comes to signature.

"As we have seen, the current process was not set up for an election dominated by absentee ballots and does not provide an adequate means for auditing," he said.

Strickland spoke last week after the annual pre-session breakfast hosted by the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce featuring the six members of the county's delegation to the Georgia General Assembly.