Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 8, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 8, 2020

The first Porsche automobile was completed on June 8, 1948.

Ghostbusters was released on June 8, 1984.

On June 8, 2004, Georgia hosted the G-8 summit meeting of the world’s major industrial democracies, which included representatives from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom, plus a representative from the European Union. The 30th meeting of the G-8 was held at Sea Island at the Cloister.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Legislative Meetings this week

Monday, June 08, 2020

9:00 AM Senate Appropriations- Higher Education Subcommittee 450 CAP.

12:30 PM Senate Appropriations- Community Health Subcommittee 450 CAP.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

10:00 AM Senate Judiciary 307 CLOB

3:00 PM Senate Appropriations- Human Development and Public Health Subcommittee 450 CAP.

Republican National Committee representatives will tour Savannah as a possible site for all or part of this year’s Republican National Convention, according to the AJC.

The RNC plans to scout the coastal Georgia city after Trump and national Republicans decided to shift most convention proceedings out of Charlotte, according to a senior official with direct knowledge of the tour.

Gov. Brian Kemp, who has steadily rolled back economic restrictions, has vowed the state can “safely host” the gathering during the pandemic and urged Trump to keep “Georgia on your mind.”

Kemp, who plans to join the tour in Savannah, said in a statement Monday that the state will “offer a truly unmatched experience” to the RNC organizers.

“With world-renowned southern hospitality, first-class facilities and a top-notch workforce, ‘The Hostess City of the South’ will leave a lasting impression on Marcia Lee Kelly and her team,” Kemp said of the convention’s CEO.

Republican officials have indicated they would split up this year’s meeting across several different locations, clearing the way for smaller cities to make their pitch.

Some convention business will still be held in Charlotte to avoid breaking a contract, though Trump’s nominating speech on the final night of the meeting will be elsewhere. Party officials could also scatter parts of the event to other states.

RNC officials are also considering several other potential locations, including Nashville and the Florida cities of Jacksonville and Orlando.

Northeast Georgia Health System could lost a quarter-billion dollars over COVID-19, according to the Gainesville Times.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Northeast Georgia Health System has seen a decline in admissions at its hospitals, which has led to an expected revenue loss of $200 to $250 million through September.

The system has seen reductions in patient volumes in all departments, including 50% in the emergency department, 70% in outpatient surgery and up to 100% in outpatient rehabilitation and some physician practices, Chief Financial Officer Brian Steines said. NGHS fell 15% short of expected admissions in March, 29% short in April and was projected to fall 21% short in May as of May 27.

“We want to encourage everyone to not be afraid to come to the hospital if you need care. We’ve seen a reduction in the number of patients coming to our hospitals for heart attacks, strokes, miscarriages and other health emergencies — and delaying that care is life-threatening,” Steines said in an email. “The best place anyone can be in those situations is in a hospital, and our staff is taking all precautions possible to keep them safe while they are here.”

NGHS has received about $54 million in federal funding from the CARES Act, the federal coronavirus relief funding legislation. Those funds will offset about 21% to 27% of the projected $200 to $250 million revenue loss through September.

Steines said that while the health system was strong financially before the pandemic, “no nonprofit health system can take this kind of financial loss without making adjustments.”

Senior leadership is taking a 25% to 30% pay cut for the year, and NGHS paused matching employees’ contributions to their 401(k) plans through September. The system has adjusted staffing to match patient volumes in non-essential areas and is evaluating other adjustments that may be needed through September, Steines said. Expansion and improvement projects are also being reconsidered.

More than one million votes were cast before the end of early voting, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

As of Friday, 1,108,732 people have participated in early voting — roughly 76% by mail-in ballots.

So far, during early voting, 262,135 Georgians voted in person.

There are still 699,940 outstanding absentee ballots, which are required to be returned to county elections offices no later than 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

If a voter has an absentee ballot but decides to vote in person instead, the voter must bring the absentee ballot to the polling location so it can be disposed of.

For voters who decide to take to the voting booth, the secretary of state’s office advised them to bring a mask and prepare for longer wait times.

From the Statesboro Herald:

Elections Supervisor Pat Lanier Jones said her office is preparing to open all 16 voting precincts for in person voting Tuesday, with three polls being moved temporarily to larger locations due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We will have fewer poll workers (Tuesday) because of the COVID,” Jones said. “And with social distancing, we will have fewer machines at each location. Masks are encouraged for voters, but are not required. We are in the process of getting gloves for voters to have one for the hand touching the equipment.”

Through Tuesday afternoon, 1,120 people had voted early in person at the Elections Office on North Main Street, according to Shontay Jones, deputy registrar for Bulloch County Elections. In May 2016, the last presidential year primary, 2,988 people voted early.

But, through Tuesday, Shontay Jones said her office had received 5,513 absentee ballots, compared to 270 in 2016. About 10,000 Bulloch residents have requested absentee ballots and Friday is also the final day to request an absentee ballot.

Pat Jones said all absentee ballots must be returned in person or received by mail no later than 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Ballots postmarked Tuesday, but not in the Elections Office by 7 p.m., will not be counted. There is an active military exception.

From the Savannah Morning News:

In order to provide enough space for social distancing, a few polling places have been changed, and a few have been combined.

In a typical election, Chatham County has 92 polling places. This time, there will be only 90.

Poll workers will be required to wash their hands frequently, and work stations will be wiped down with alcohol. Voting machines will be wiped with a cleaning solution on “a very regular, periodic basis,” BOE Chairman Russell Bridges said.

“If we observe somebody putting their hands all over the machine or sneezing on it or something, we will clean it immediately after their visit,” Bridges said.

Additionally, 50 masks will be available at each polling place for voters, though Bridges said the supply is strictly limited to 50, and the BOE is strongly encouraging voters to wear their own mask. Tape on the ground inside and outside will mark proper social distance, and the voting machines will be placed six feet apart.

Each voter will receive a single-use stylus-pen as they cast their ballot.

The stylus-pens will be returned and sanitized, not to be re-used until the next election, after sanitization.

As of Thursday, June 4, 44,758 absentee ballots have been requested, and 26,537 completed ballots have been returned. Absentee ballots alone eclipse the 2016 general primary turnout of 23,750 total votes cast.

As of Thursday, 4,054 early in-person ballots have been cast.

Absentee ballots can be turned in up until 7 p.m. on election day, June 9, after which they’ll be tabulated.

Early voting numbers for 2020 show a total turnout of 4,054 ballots cast early as of Thursday, with 1,090 Republican ballots, 2,931 Democratic ballots and 33 nonpartisan ballots.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

As of Friday, more than 24,700 voters had cast ballots, either by mail or in person at advance voting sites in Richmond County. Nearly 14,000 had already voted in Columbia County.

“We don’t expect to see as many come to the polls to vote,” said Lynn Bailey, executive director for Richmond County Board of Elections. “We expect to see fewer faces and that was the whole idea.”

Total turnout in the 2016 primary and nonpartisan election was 28% and so far, 18.5% of registered voters had cast ballots in Richmond County at the end of advance voting Friday.

From the Newnan Times-Herald:

As of mid-afternoon Friday, 3,236 Cowetans had participated in early voting, and over 11,000 absentee ballots had been returned. But more than 10,000 absentee ballots were still outstanding.

[Assistant Elections Director Ashley] Gay expects many of those to arrive by election day – many of them brought by voters to their polling place. On average during early voting, about 25 percent of the people who showed up had already requested and received absentee ballots. Those ballots have to be turned in and cancelled before a voter can vote on the electronic machines – a process that can take 15 to 20 minutes during early voting, and possibly much longer on election day.

Over the last few days, that percentage was more like 40 to 50 percent, Gay said.

“If people have a ballot that they got in the mail, they need to make every effort to vote that ballot – because on election day there will be 26 precincts calling the Voter Registration Office to have ballots canceled,” she said.

Because of the large number of paper ballots, [Elections Director Jane] Scoggins estimated it could take some 30 hours just to scan the ballots. That means results may not be available Tuesday night, though Scoggins said they plan to work through the night.

From the AJC:

Over 1.2 million people have already voted — about three-quarters of them on absentee ballots, according to state elections data after early voting ended Friday. Voters were closely split between Democrats and Republicans heading into election day on Tuesday.

Georgians embraced voting from home, avoiding human contact at polling places. A record 943,000 voters had returned their absentee ballots through Sunday, a 2,500% increase compared to absentee-by-mail voting in the 2016 presidential primary.

Voters were nearly evenly split, 49% to 49%, among those who returned Democratic Party ballots and those who used Republican Party ballots, with the remainder completing nonpartisan ballots. Overall, including in-person voters, slightly more Georgians had cast Democratic Party ballots through Sunday, with the parties separated by just 11,000 votes across the state.

Many voters haven’t yet returned their absentee ballots. Of 1.6 million voters who requested absentee ballots, about 657,000 ballots haven’t been returned.

Dougherty County has changed some voting precincts due to worker shortages, according to the Albany Herald.

Twelve of Dougherty County’s voting precincts will be combined into six for Tuesday’s primary election as county Elections officials deal with the impact of COVID-19.

“These people are on the front line,” [Dougherty County Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson] said. “A lot of our poll workers are in this critical age group, and they opted not to work. We want to ensure there are enough people available at each precinct to serve our voters. This is the only way we can facilitate that.”

Poll workers will wear masks and gloves to protect themselves and others, and the state has provided styluses for use by voters. When voters enter a voting precinct, they will receive a stylus to sign a digital poll pad, be given a voter card and proceed to a touchscreen voting machine. Voters will use the same stylus to make selections on the ballot.

After the voter finishes, the stylus will be sanitized before being used by another voter.

“We have signage provided by the state requesting voters keep a 6-foot distance,” she said.

DeKalb County has twenty-seven precinct changes for tomorrow’s election, according to the AJC.

“Some of the locations, such as churches, have not reopened due to the pandemic,” county spokesman Andrew Cauthen said last week. “Other locations, such as senior living facilities, are not available due to COVID-19 related concerns.”

The latest tally of relocated precincts, which was released late Friday, includes three new changes. Most of the affected precincts are in northern DeKalb or the Decatur area.

Officials have previously said that affected voters would be notified by mail, and that signs would be posted at relocated voting locations.

State Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) spoke to the Gwinnett Daily Post about hate crimes legislation.

The Dacula Republican is calling on the [Senate Judiciary] committee to give House Bill 426 a hearing and forward it on to the full Senate once the Georgia General Assembly reconvenes June 15. The Senate Judiciary Committee has had the bill since March 2019, but has not yet taken it up.

“This bill has been sitting in the Senate for over a year so it’s important (that) the Senate takes action as soon as possible,” Efstration said. “Any attempt to further delay consideration of the bill or to amend the bill is really just an effort to defeat the measure.

“So I encourage the Senate, and I’ve been encouraging my colleagues in the Senate, to take action on House Bill 426 as soon as possible.”

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who presides over the state Senate, recently signaled support for passage of a hate crimes bill, but indicated he felt the bill pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee needed some work.

“This is an important piece of legislation to get right,” Duncan said in a statement. “It is time to make it clear that Georgians will not stand for hate and violence. As we work through this legislation we want to make sure that victims of hate crimes have certain tools at their disposal.”

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) said he opposes the $600 weekly unemployment supplement, according to the Gainesville Times.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, has written to House and Senate leadership to express concerns about extending the $600 supplemental unemployment insurance offered under the CARES Act, the federal legislation offering coronavirus relief funding.

“At this critical point in reopening, our economy and our business owners cannot afford to have their employees earning a substantial income from their fellow taxpayers,” the letter states. “Small businesses receiving loans from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) are especially harmed if they cannot provide competitive wages and persuade their employees to return to work within the allotted time frame for PPP forgiveness.”

The $600 supplements are provided to people eligible for state and federal unemployment programs, and the payments are in addition to state unemployment benefits. In the letter, the members of Congress ask that the supplements expire at the end of July as first approved in the CARES Act.

“The supplemental (unemployment insurance) was intended to be a lifeline for those whose employer was unable to retain them, not set individuals on a path to continued reliance on government assistance,” the letter states. “If these benefits are extended, it would only reinforce and deepen the structural issues and rampant abuse of our public assistance programs that existed prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

Fetch Your News spoke to Ninth District Congressional Candidate John Wilkinson about his campaign.

“If you really look at America and what makes us great, one of the reasons we’re great is we have the most abundant food, the safest food at the lowest price in the world,” he said. “That makes a big difference. I heard someone say one time, ‘we couldn’t have planned a space shot and a moon walk if the people planning it had been concerned about where their next meal was coming from.’”

Wilkinson was raised on a farm in Stephens County. He has experience as a classroom teacher and served on the State Agricultural Education staff for 26 years. He has served as State Advisor to the Georgia Future Farmers of America Association, as well as the Georgia Young Farmer Association. He was recognized as the Outstanding Member of the National Association of Supervisors of Agricultural Education in 2006.

“Agriculture, agribusiness is the biggest business in our state,” Wilkins told host Brian Pritchard. “It has a $72 billion impact on our economy. A lot of people think agriculture is focused in south Georgia. Peanuts and cotton and those kind of things are but out of that $72 billion, $32 billion of it is from the poultry industry and the poultry industry is concentrated in north Georgia in my senate district. Sen. District 50 for instance, four of those counties are in the top 10 in Georgia in farm income.”

About one of every seven jobs in Georgia is directly linked to agriculture. “So, for Georgia to remain strong, for our country to remain strong, we’ve got to continue to be a leader in food production,” he said.

The Albany Herald looks at the election for Senate District 13.

Two Democratic candidates in Georgia Senate District 13 who are hoping to run against the Republican incumbent will face off in Tuesday’s primary.

Both Leesburg resident Mary Egler and Ruenett Melton of Tifton have sought political office in the past.

The winner in the contest will face incumbent Carden Summers, who won a special election for the seat last year, in the fall general election. The district includes all of Crisp, Dodge, Dooly, Lee, Turner and Wilcox counties and a portion of Sumter and Tift counties.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer profiles the four candidates for Muscogee County Sheriff and two Democrats running for Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit District Attorney.

[Challenger Mark] Jones, 38, has made headlines recently because of his arrest stemming from the May 17 filming of a campaign ad at the Columbus Civic Center, where he’s alleged to have recruited two custom-car enthusiasts to cut doughnuts in the parking lot. Authorities claimed the tire marks left there caused more than $300,000 damage.

Jones also has been in the news for representing protesters police arrested after a May 31 downtown demonstration against racial injustice.

The Gwinnett Daily Post writes about local offices on Tuesday’s ballot.

One of several key local races is the one for county commission chairman, where Republicans and Democrats are vying to replace retiring chairwoman Charlotte Nash.

Republicans George Awuku, Marcia L. Neaton and David Post are facing off in the GOP primary. Meanwhile, the primary for Democrats is between Nicole Love Hendrickson, Andy Morgan, Desmond A. Nembhard, Curt Thompson and Lee Thompson Jr.

Another key local race to watch will be for sheriff, to determine who will replace retiring Sheriff Butch Conway.

The Republican primary for this race will include Conway’s choice to be his successor, Chief Deputy Lou Solis, and Keith Van Nus. The Democratic primary for this seat is a contest between Curtis Clemons, Ben Haynes, Floyd Scott and Keybo Taylor.

One contested commission district race to keep an eye on will be in Commission District 3, where candidates are vying to replace controversial Commissioner Tommy Hunter. The Republican field includes Ben Archer, Matt DeReimer and Kim Walker while the Democratic Party’s field includes Roger Marmol, John Moye Jr., Justin Walsh, Jasper Watkins and Derrick J. Wilson.

The Republican primary for Commission District 1, where candidates are vying to replace retiring Commissioner Jace Brooks, will also be contested on Tuesday. Republicans Laurie McClain and Jacqueline Tseng are facing off to see who will challenge Democrat Kirkland Carden in November.

Athens-Clarke County commissioner Jerry NeSmith has died, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The City of Albany will begin reopening parks and recreation facilities, according to the Albany Herald.

“The community’s safety is a top priority, and it was important that we made sure that the decision to reopen parks and recreation facilities would be at the appropriate time,” City Manager Sharon Subadan said. “I am thankful for the community support. As we continue to see the decline of COVID-19 cases, we are confident that these facilities could be reopened and activities resumed.”

The public is strongly encouraged to wear a mask at all city facilities. Staff will be required to wear a mask.

The Glynn County Board of Education is planning to maintain the same millage rate as last year, according to The Brunswick News.

The school board will not be able to vote on next year’s budget until the state officially approves its own budget. Cole said he doesn’t expect the state to have its final budget ready for several weeks.

When it meets Tuesday, the school board will vote on a spending resolution authorizing Spence to expend funds beginning in July while the board formally adopts its budget.

The board will combine millage rate hearings and budget hearings in July, Preston said.

The school system also received a grant from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, through the Georgia Department of Education, in the amount of $3.5 million.

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