Georgia Sec. of State’s recorded phone call with President starts talk on recording consent in U.S. ahead of Senate runoff

U.S. & World News

FILE – In this Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, file photo, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference in Atlanta. Raffensperger is under attack from President Donald Trump and other fellow Republicans in the aftermath of the heated election season. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

GEORGIA (WRBL) – Just before the Jan. 5 runoff election for two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia and a statewide Public Service Commission election, the Georgia political landscape’s importance on the drew national stage got some additional attention following a call between the President and the Georgia Secretary of State.

Reports from national outlets and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution came out that the Secretary of State’s office had recorded a recent phone call between Secretary Brad Raffensperger and President Donald J. Trump regarding the President’s request that Raffensperger of the November election in Georgia.

Still, the Washington Post and the AJC released the recorded call. Reactions to the phone call and its release have ranged from disbelief, to defense of the call, to attacks on Raffensperger over the recording in the first place.

While the reactions have been on a wide spectrum, many fall on predictable party lines.

Georgia’s GOP Chairman David Schafer’s response to the call being “secretly” recorded and released was to say it was mind boggling. In the same tweet, he then alleged that he has filed open records requests which have not been filled or even responded to.

On the other side of the aisle, several Democratic members of U.S. Congress have called for FBI Director Christopher Wray to open a voting interference investigation into the call from the President.

The Post also released a full transcript of the conversation.

According to Georgia law, Raffensperger can legally record a phone call, making criticism of the move more about party loyalty or etiquette rather than about a possible crime.

Georgia, 33 other states, and the District of Columbia, are what’s known as one-party consent states when it comes to audio recordings. Federally, the United States also allows one-party consent for phone and audio recordings.

According to law firm Matthiesen, Wicker, & Lhrer, S.C., as of October 2019, The one-party consent states in the U.S. are:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • The District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

This means that as long as one of the parties, or people, on a call are aware of being recorded, and consent, the full call is legal to record. Generally, to record a conversation, verbal or written notice is only required in some cases, usually when it involves telephone companies, not calls between individuals.

Michigan is an odd one out in terms of consent states, as applied to recording, intercepting, or disclosing conversations in person, electronic, or on computers without party consent.

Wisconsin allows for recording when a person involved in a conversation is recording it or allows a third party to record it, but the recording is not allowed for use in court in civil cases unless all parties are aware of the recording.

Only nine states in the US have two-party consent laws when it comes to audio recordings, including phone calls. The states that require all parties to consent to the recording are:

  • California
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Washington

Still, other states have specific circumstances in their laws about recording communications that make them fall into a third, or in Vermont’s case, fourth category for consent in audio and phone recordings.

Separately, Illinois is a two- or all-party consent state when it comes to surreptitious recordings, but a one-party state for private electronic communications.

The states that fall into the “mixed” consent category are:

  • Colorado (Someone not present for a communication must have permission of one of the parties to record the electronic or oral conversation)
  • Connecticut (While it’s a one-party consent state, it’s against the law to record phone calls or communications made by someone who is not the sender or intended recipient, without the consent of at least one involved party. In civil cases, violating the consent to record is a civil issue, not criminal)
  • Nevada (It’s illegal to record private communications without one party allowing it, and all parties must consent to disclose the content of the recordings)
  • Oregon (It’s not illegal to record a conversation if an individual who is in the conversation records it or gives someone else permission, but it’s illegal to record the conversation without the consent of anyone taking part in the communication)

Vermont is not categorized as a one- or all-party consent state because there is no state law that specifically defines rights to record or disclose recorded conversations.


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