Fact Check: Can Georgia Governor Kemp Overrule Election Results as Trump Claims?

As Georgia's election workers continue to pursue a statewide ballot audit scheduled for completion on Wednesday, President Donald Trump insists the recount is illegitimate without a broad review of signature-matching procedures, which are used to verify absentee votes cast by mail.

On Monday, he suggested that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp intervene in the state's election process to order that signature matches are repeated.

Officials verified mail ballots through Georgia's signature-matching process during the initial round of vote tabulation that took place after Election Day. The current audit marks Georgia's third ballot-tallying endeavor, following a manual recount of votes cast in the presidential race to confirm new electronic tabulation machines functioned correctly. It came at the request of Trump's campaign soon after Georgia certified results for President-elect Joe Biden.

The Claim

The president has reiterated unproven, and largely discredited, claims that fraudulent activity impacted election results in Georgia, as well as other states where Biden secured a majority of popular votes. Amid the state's latest ballot recount, Trump's campaign has claimed results "would be a sham" without re-matching absentee ballot signatures.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who has repeatedly defended the verity of Georgia's election process, said signature-matching procedures carried out after November 3 were secure in response to the campaign's claims.

Many also have pointed out that matching signatures to absentee ballots for a second time is not possible because election workers separate mail ballots from their envelopes after verification to protect voters' privacy.

Still, Trump called on Kemp to push for further signature matching during Georgia's recount, claiming it is within the governor's power to do so.

"Why won't Governor @BrianKempGA, the hapless Governor of Georgia, use his emergency powers, which can be easily done, to overrule his obstinate Secretary of State, an do a match of signatures on envelopes," Trump wrote on Twitter on Monday morning. "It will be a 'goldmine' of fraud, and we will easily WIN the state..."

In a subsequent tweet, Trump suggested that ballots cast in Georgia outnumbered envelopes. Twitter quickly flagged both messages with an alert label to inform users that claims included in each post are unsubstantiated.

Why won’t Governor @BrianKempGA, the hapless Governor of Georgia, use his emergency powers, which can be easily done, to overrule his obstinate Secretary of State, and do a match of signatures on envelopes. It will be a “goldmine” of fraud, and we will easily WIN the state....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2020

The Facts

As secretary of state, Raffensperger is Georgia's chief election official whose authority over all related processes cannot be influenced by the governor's office. Kemp's office made note of this in a reported statement issued by the governor's press secretary, Cody Hall, several hours after Trump posted his string of tweets on Monday.

"Georgia law prohibits the Governor from interfering in elections. The Secretary of State, who is an elected constitutional officer, has oversight over elections that cannot be overridden by executive order," the statement reportedly read. "As the Governor has said repeatedly, he will continue to follow the law and encourage the Secretary of State to take reasonable steps - including a sample audit of signatures - to restore trust and address serious issues that have been raised."

Newsweek reached out to Kemp's office for confirmation and further comment but did not receive a reply in time for publication.

Constitutional law professor Anthony Kreis shared a similar explanation debunking Trump's claim on Twitter.

"There are no such powers conferred on Gov. Kemp by either the Ga. Const. or the OCGA [Official Code of Georgia Annotated, a published collection of Georgia's state laws]," Kreis wrote. "Sec. Raffensperger is not only an independent state constitutional executive officer, he's the designated chief elections officer by law."

Kreis concluded that Kemp and Raffensperger "have discharged their duties under the OCGA."

The Ruling


Georgia law prevents Kemp from overriding the secretary of state's authority in election matters, including by way of an executive order.

Brian Kemp
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp appears at a press conference on August 10, 2020, in Atlanta. President Donald Trump suggested that intervening in state election procedures is within Kemp's power on Monday morning, as Georgia conducts another ballot recount. Elijah Nouvelage/Getty