FILE - Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston

Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston

(The Center Square) – House Speaker David Ralston said Thursday he plans to push for an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that will allow the General Assembly to elect the secretary of state instead of the people of Georgia.

Ralston announced the plan after representatives from the secretary of state's office refused to attend a House Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the general election.

"I am completely shocked and disappointed," Ralston said during a news conference at the state Capitol. "I don't ever remember, in my time serving in this General Assembly, a constitutional officer refusing to come before a House, or a Senate, committee to offer up information that might be helpful to the people's representatives."

Testimony in the House hearing was led by President Donald Trump's legal team, which has filed lawsuits and put forth claims of voter fraud in Georgia's election. At the forefront of the claims is surveillance video Trump's team said shows ballot stuffing. Trump's attorneys also allege security vulnerabilities in the state's new voting system and absentee ballot signature match. The cases that have been heard by a judge have been dismissed. At least one case still is pending, and the Trump team often has appealed decisions.

Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager for the secretary of state's office, said office staff did not attend the House Governmental Affairs Committee hearing because of the legal battle.

"We were advised by our attorneys not (to) attend because of pending litigation," Sterling wrote on Twitter. "They invited the (Rudy) Giuliani team, which is pushing continuing disinformation. That disinformation is endangering lives."

Amendments to the state's constitution must be approved by a two-thirds majority vote of both House and Senate and then approved by voters.

"Georgia Republicans are so scared of Georgia voters, they'd sooner rewrite the state constitution than allow a Democratic Secretary of State take office and work to end voter suppression in 2023," tweeted state Rep. Matthew Wilson, D-Brookhaven.

Tennessee, Maine and New Hampshire's secretaries of state are all elected by their state legislatures, Ralston said.

“I have great personal respect for our current secretary of state; however, I cannot ask the members of the House of Representatives to face questions about our elections and their integrity without the cooperation of the Secretary of State’s Office," Ralston said. “It is unfair to the members of the House of Representatives and those Georgians they represent. As Speaker of the House, I must advocate for our chamber, and that is what I am doing by advancing this proposal.”

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for five years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.