Yash Roy, Contributing Photographer

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — who was propelled to nationwide fame after the 2020 election — came to Yale to speak on the future of his party and American democracy.  

The talk was hosted by the William F. Buckley Program, which regularly invites conservative figures to campus, with past guests including U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Raffensperger emphasized the importance of respecting the rule of law in Linsly-Chittenden Hall on Feb. 8. He fielded questions from 50 attendees on topics ranging from specific voting policy to who he supports in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. 

“Brad Raffensperger’s prominence as a significant national conservative figure makes the insight he provided an unqualified benefit for the Yale community,” Buckley President Ryan Gapski told the News. “In his remarks and his responses, Raffensperger proved to be a sterling example of public service.” 

Before answering questions from the audience, Raffensperger spoke about his experience as Georgia’s Secretary of State during the 2020 election. After it became clear that the state was going to be called in favor of President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump made a recorded call to Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021, and “asked him to find 10,000 more votes.” 

Trump is currently under a grand jury investigation in Fulton County, Georgia for this call. 

Raffensperger refused “to find 10,000 more votes,” drawing the ire of Trump and other election-deniers in the Republican party. Raffensperger has since received death threats and faced a primary challenge from a Trump-backed election denier. 

However, when asked by a student about what place Republicans who fought against false claims of election fraud have in a party where two-thirds of House Republicans voted to overturn the 2020 election, Raffensperger told attendees that he was confident that “Republicans who stand for the rule of law and the Constitution” will prevail. 

Raffensperger told attendees that “visionaries” like William F. Buckley had helped shape the national narrative for the last 40 years. 

“Bill Buckley was a voice; he had some great ideas and Reagan took those values and message and ran with it,” Raffensperger said at the event. “You’re the generation that takes the stage with your opportunity to lead and be the next Buckley.” 

Students also asked Raffensperger about the threats he has faced since refusing to falsify Georgians’ voting records. Raffensperger told the crowd that while he had to face threats, he is glad not to be in prison. 

“I sit in my backyard and eat barbeque or dinner with my wife and I’m glad,” Raffensperger told attendees. “I’m glad that I’m not cooling my heels in an Atlanta penitentiary.” 

Some attendees pressed Raffensperger on controversy related to Georgia’s S.B. 202—a bill that limits absentee voting, allows the state to take over local election boards and restricts drop boxes—which caused companies like Delta Airlines and the NBA to condemn the state for limiting voting restrictions. 

Raffensperger told attendees that although opponents argued that the bill would limit voting in the state, Georgia’s 2022 general and runoff elections saw some of the highest turnouts in the state’s history. 

He jokingly added that he hoped the NBA would bring the all-star game back to Atlanta now that the claims of voter suppression had allegedly been refuted. 

While much of the conversation focused on the events of the 2020 election, Raffensperger also took a historical perspective and walked attendees through why he believed partisanship had increased dramatically in recent years. 

Raffensperger argued that both Democrats and Republicans must learn how to “let the little things go.” He also urged attendees to be more like members of a rotary club, who are engaged in community service. 

Raffensperger was also asked if he would support Trump if the twice-impeached former president were to win the Republican presidential nomination again. Raffensperger told attendees that since his official capacity requires him to certify elections, he does not endorse candidates in Georgia races. 

“The event brought together a really great cross-section of the Yale community, full of peers from across the aisle who were curious to learn how we can restore and maintain decency, honesty and integrity in our nation’s politics,” Justin Crosby ’25 told the News. 

Raffensperger won reelection to the office of Secretary of State in Georgia in 2022.

Yash Roy covered City Hall and State Politics for the News. He also served as a Production & Design editor, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion chair for the News. Originally from Princeton, New Jersey, he is a '25 in Timothy Dwight College majoring in Global Affairs.