Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 15, 2020


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 15, 2020

On September 15, 1831, Dr. Samuel Worcester and Dr. Elizur Butler – missionaries – were tried in a Lawrenceville courtroom for living as white people among the Cherokee and refusing to take an oath of loyalty to Georgia, convicted and sentenced to hard labor. Some historians refer to this case, which went to the United States Supreme Court on appeal, as the beginning of the events that led to the forced removal of the Cherokee people from Georgia on the “Trail of Tears.”

HMS Beagle, carrying Charles Darwin, arrived at the Gallapagos Islands on September 15, 1835.

On September 15, 1904, Wilbur Wright made the first in-flight turn in an airplane.

Early on the morning of September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls.

On September 15, 1996, the Texas Rangers retired #34 in honor of the most dominant pitcher in professional baseball history, Nolan Ryan.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The Trump Campaign is concentrating on the economy in Georgia ads, according to the AJC.

The Georgia ad, “For You,” warns that a Joe Biden administration would mean higher taxes and lead to an “economy in ruins.” “President Trump fixed our economy before,” the narrator says. “He’s doing it again.”

It’s part of a Trump campaign pivot that emphasizes one of the few issues where the Republican is leading Joe Biden in the polls.

Recent surveys, including a Fox News poll released this week, show voters are more concerned about the economy and the pandemic than the public safety message that Trump and other Republicans have seized upon.

Polls show a tight race between Biden and Trump in Georgia, and the Democrat’s campaign has forced the president to play defense in a state that Republicans have carried in every White House race since 1996.

Here’s another Trump campaign spot, titled, “Kim,” featuring a Georgia voter.

The United States Postal Service is working to manage expectations around absentee voting by mail, according to the AJC.

When ballots get tossed, one of the most common reasons is that states mislead voters into thinking they can safely wait until a day or two before Election Day to drop them in the mail. Even when the post office is running on all cylinders, that isn’t enough time to guarantee votes will be counted in many states.

Missing the deadline for ballots to be delivered to election officials was the main reason that about 1% of all mail ballots were tossed in 2016. Amid this year’s rapid shift toward mail voting, the percentage has surged higher in some states. More than 5% of mail votes were thrown out during this year’s primary in Virginia, for example, according to figures reported by National Public Radio.

In Wisconsin, about 2% of ballots — around 23,000 votes — were rejected in the primary. That was a larger share of votes than Trump’s winning margin in the last presidential election.

Between early June and mid-August, more than 1 million ballots were mailed out to voters so late — within a week of the primary election in their state — that they put voters at “high risk” of having their completed ballots arrive too late at election offices to be counted, according to a new report from the post office inspector general.

That message is especially important in states that don’t have much experience with widespread mail-in voting. In New York City, for example, more than 1 in 5 ballots were rejected in this June’s primary. Until this year, voting by mail had accounted for just a small share of ballots cast in the state, and election officials were overwhelmed by a tenfold increase.

I got this mailpiece yesterday:

USPS Elections Mailer Back2 USPS Elections Mailer Front2

Some large Georgia companies are working to make voting easier for employees, according to the AJC.

Thousands of metro Atlantans who work for Coca-Cola or Mailchimp will get new paid holidays on Nov. 3, election day. Cox Enterprises, which owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, just added up to six hours of paid time off a year for its full-time employees to vote. Entities from Delta Air Lines to Home Depot and the Metro Atlanta Chamber are encouraging employees to volunteer as poll workers.

Companies are boosting efforts to share information internally and to the general public about voting deadlines and procedures and how to get an absentee ballot. They are offering access to sample ballots and ways to look up polling locations. Some, such as the Atlanta Falcons, which recently launched a Rise Up & Vote campaign through the national group Rock The Vote, are helping people check whether they are registered to vote.

In a deeply polarized election year, many companies stress that their get-out-the-vote efforts are non-partisan. Coca-Cola said it made election day a paid holiday in response to employee feedback.

“Supporting our employees’ right to vote is fundamental to the strength of our democracy and the cause of free and fair elections,” Monica Howard Douglas, Coca-Cola’s North America general counsel, said on a company website.

United States District Court Judge Amy Totenberg is considering whether to grant relief in a lawsuit over Georgia’s new voting system, according to the Associated Press via the Savannah Morning News.

As a three-day hearing on the activists requests for immediate changes ended Monday, Totenberg did not indicate when she would rule. Questions she asked throughout the hearing and during the lawyers’ closing statements seemed to indicate that she was open to ordering at least some changes.

Bryan Tyson, a lawyer for the state, said the activists offered “recycled theories and speculation” rather than any real evidence of either problems with Georgia’s election system or an unconstitutional burden on their right to vote.

He said they’ve ignored all of the changes and upgrades the state has made in recent years and that an unrealistic combination of factors would have to exist for the voting machines to be manipulated.

During early voting, voters can go to any polling location in the county where they live, so all locations would have to have all possible ballot versions for that county. Organizing and managing that would be a major undertaking, especially the most populous counties, and the printing costs would be significant, Tyson said.

Totenberg seemed to favor the idea of paper poll book backups at polling places as a feasible solution to a demonstrated problem with the electronic poll books. She also seemed concerned about the state’s auditing rules and the fact that when voters fail to completely fill in the ovals on a ballot the scanners may not count or flag certain marks for review.

The Dougherty County Commission is considering increasing funding for elections, according to the Albany Herald.

On Monday, Dougherty County Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson requested additional funding for the office both for the upcoming Nov. 3 general election and beyond. Nickerson, who appeared before the Dougherty County Commission during a virtual work session, is requesting $152,000 that would fund additional full-time staff positions and temporary part-time workers.

“The (Albany-Doughety County) Board of Elections met in a special meeting Wednesday, Sept. 9 (and) voted to add two full-time staff, add drop boxes and (recommended that) staffing be added to assist with the counting,” she said.

“We are still in the process of hiring poll workers. We want all 28 precincts open.”

Fox5Atlanta reports that Atlanta police officers are leaving the department in higher than usual numbers.

An internal Atlanta police document shows another 36 officers voluntarily left their jobs in August. That is a lot of resignations and retirements for one month.

“I know we don’t have enough cops on the streets,” said Howard Shook, a veteran councilman.

Shook believes the city’s political leadership had a role to play in the officers’ stance.

He cites one council proposal that would have set aside tens of millions in funding for the department, as some were demanding an all-out defunding of the department.

“That measure failed by only one vote,” Shook said, “they’re [officers] entitled to feel like they are not supported.”

Democrat Patsy Austin-Gatson is suing Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter, alleging he slandered her, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The lawsuit is in response to interviews Porter did with two local television stations as well as a press release he issued last week after he filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission against Austin-Gatson and former Sheriff’s candidate Curtis Clemons. Austin-Gatson and Clemons have claimed the allegations Porter made against them are false.

“Through such conduct, Defendant has acted maliciously and with reckless disregard for the truth, as his statements are made without personal knowledge of any of the matters alleged and the allegations have yet to be addressed by the Commission, which would be the adjudicating body,” Austin-Gatson’s lawsuit states.

“Without reviewing the lawsuit in detail, my only comment is that by entering this race my opponent made themself what is legally known as a ‘public person,’” Porter said. “In order for them to prevail in this case, they must show ‘actual malice’ which means that the writing contains allegations which I knew to be untrue.

“Unfortunately for them, I swore under oath that the allegations she violated campaign ethics rules were true based on my knowledge of supporting witness statements and documents. That in itself defeats a claim of actual malice. One of the instances is even completely backed up by a report from the Hall County Solicitor General’s office, so I look forward to seeing if they file a similar frivolous suit against her counterparts in Hall County.”

Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Natalie Paine is the target of an ethics complaint, according to NewChannel6.

It alleges that Paine violated the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act.

The complaint says that on September 2nd, the CAVE Task Force, a sub-agency of her office, posted on Facebook asking for political support for DA Paine’s campaign.

As CAVE is funded by public services, this would be a violation of OCGA 21-5-30.2(b), which states “No agency and no person acting on behalf of an agency shall make, directly or indirectly, any contribution to any campaign committee, political action committee, or political organization or to any candidate.”

DA Paine has released a statement regarding the complaint, stating: “It’s incredibly sad that my opponent is attacking a volunteer task force, focused on protecting the vulnerable and elderly. This complaint is 100% false, and Jared Williams should be ashamed of himself for coordinating such a ridiculous and politically motivated publicity stunt.”

From another story by WJBF:

The complaint claims CAVE gets funded by public resources and the post violates Georgia election code. But Paine says the task force doesn’t not receive any money from the government. The complaint was filed by local attorney, Samuel Meller.

“It’s just a desperate publicity stunt more or less. The claims that are being made by Mr. Meller are 100% false. But additionally, he is very close to the campaign for my opponent and this is just a coordinated publicity stunt,” said Paine.

The Augusta Circuit serves Burke, Columbia, and Richmond Counties.

The Georgia Charter Schools Association is touting a survey they say shows 64% public approval of public charter schools, according to the Albany Herald.

The statewide survey of 640 likely Georgia voters commissioned by the Georgia Charter Schools Association found 67% expressed a favorable opinion of public charter schools. The poll was conducted Aug. 22 through Aug. 24 by Cygnal, a Virginia-based polling firm that works with center-right political and advocacy organizations.

The poll found support for public charter schools across the demographic and political spectrum, from Asian, Latino, Black and white voters, and among Republicans, Democrats and independents.

“These findings support what we have long known to be true in Georgia,” said Tony Roberts, president and CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. “Families in our state continue to believe that public charter schools put the needs of students first and positively contribute to Georgia’s overall public school system.”

In a nod to the COVID-19 era, the poll also found 52% of Georgia voters said they would be less likely to support a state legislator who votes to continue funding school districts at the same level if they’re not offering full-time in-person learning.

The poll’s margin of error was plus-or-minus 3.87%.

Congressman Rick W. Allen (R-Augusta) discussed the importance of in-person education, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Reopening school has been “critical for the future of our country. …,” Allen said. “It’s not easy, it takes a lot of courage, but are you going to surrender to this thing or are you going to move forward? Now, I can tell you people are paying taxes for schools to be open, and in fact I introduced legislation to allow families to make a choice, either send their children for in-person learning or the distance learning.”

“The American people want choice, and what we have behind us are courageous men and women who have said, ‘We want to open school,’” Allen continued, to WTOC-TV and the Statesboro Herald. He was facing the front doors of Statesboro High from inside, with the rest of the complex behind him.

Statesboro High and the rest of the Bulloch County Schools are now concluding their fourth week of classes, since reopening Aug 17 with face-to-face and in-person options chosen by students and their parents.

The Federal Aviation Administration has closed public comments on the proposed Camden Spaceport and will issue a decision by March, according to The Brunswick News.

Dougherty County Commission Chair Chris Cohilas discussed law enforcement and violent crime, according to the Albany Herald.

Cohilas, a former prosecutor, also criticized the Albany Police Department’s staffing of the joint Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit during a Dougherty County Commission work session Monday held in a virtual format due to the novel coronavirus.

Cohilas said he was not criticizing Albany Police Chief Michael Persley, but that at some level in the city or police organization there is a lack of focus.

“The gun violence in this community is directly related to drugs and gangs,” he said. “I want to complain (that) the Dougherty Drug Unit continues to be woefully understaffed by the city of Albany.”

Nearly all of the cases for the unit originate in the city, and the Dougherty County Police Department and the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office have provided sufficient staffing on their parts, Cohilas said.

Augusta Commissioners are considering a sex discrimination allegation against Augusta’s fire chief , according to the Augusta Chronicle.

In the City of Baldwin, Police Chief William Anastasio and City Council member Jeff Parrish both resigned on Monday, according to AccessWDUN.

The Stone Mountain Action Coalition is asking for changes at Stone Mountain Park, according to the AJC.

The group’s proposals include removing the Confederate flags that have long flown at the base of the mountain; changing names of streets and other park features with Confederate affiliations; and launching a larger branding effort that would focus the park on themes like nature, racial reconciliation and justice.

The coalition also suggested halting maintenance on the mountain’s massive carving of Confederate leaders Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, which it views as a potential short-term solution while working to change state laws that protect the monument.

[Ray] Smith, the memorial association chairman, has previously said that additions that would help balance the historical picture at the park are being discussed, but has provided few details. He said Monday that the memorial association board meeting originally planned for next week — a gathering where those potential additions were set to be discussed in public — is likely to be pushed back.

“We’re going to meet with the governor and see what he wants to do” before presenting a plan, Smith said.

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