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Georgia secretary of state wins praise from Schwarzenegger

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

ATLANTA – Georgia’s secretary of state has received death threats over his handling of last month’s election, but he's found a fan in Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“We are big admirers of yours, and you will go down in history for being a good guy, a good public servant,” the actor and former California governor told Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on a Zoom call Tuesday.

The call was organized by the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The institute promotes post-partisanship and urges leaders to put policy over politics, according to its website.

Schwarzenegger explained to Raffensperger that the institute plans to bestow Democracy Action Hero awards next week over Zoom.

“I just want to ask you if you would be kind enough to accept one of those awards that we are giving out because it is only for Democracy Action Heroes and you are a Democracy Action Hero, so we would love to give you that award,” Schwarzenegger said.

“Thank you very much. Yes, I will accept,” Raffensperger said. “Governor, honestly, we’re just trying to run an election, just follow the process, follow the law. We didn’t set out to earn any awards.”

Raffensperger, a Republican, has repeatedly been criticized by President Donald Trump for his handling of the election since Democrat Joe Biden won the state. Raffensperger has said he and his family have received death threats and police were stationed at his home.

Gabriel Sterling, a top official in Raffensperger’s office, made national headlines last week when he called on the president to condemn the ugly rhetoric surrounding the election and the violent threats that have resulted.

Raffensperger on Monday recertified the results of the state's presidential race after a recount requested by Trump affirmed Biden's win by a margin of just under 12,000 votes.

Schwarzenegger told Raffensperger that his institute focuses on improving the system — working on getting people out to vote, increasing the number of polling sites and fighting voter suppression and gerrymandering.

In September, it launched a program to provide nonpartisan grants to state and local election officials to reopen polling stations that were closed because of a lack of funding.

The institute has received more requests for polling center grants from Georgia than from any other state and has invested $1.4 million in grants for polling sites in the state, Schwarzenegger said. He thanked Raffensperger for not standing in the way of opening more polling sites, saying election officials in some states have rejected their efforts.

“I’m watching now for how you’re standing up for the voters to count the votes the right way, not let yourself be persuaded by other forces to change anything,” Schwarzenegger said. “It just again proves what great of a public servant that you are, rather than a party servant.”