Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 5, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 5, 2020

On October 5, 1864, the Battle of Allatoona Pass was fought in Bartow County, Georgia.

The first televised Presidential address from the White House was broadcast on October 5, 1947.

The Georgia Supreme Court outlawed use of the electric chair as “cruel and unusual punishment” on October 5, 2001.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is the voter registration deadline for the November General Election, according to the Brunswick News.

You can check your voter registration by signing into the MVP system.

Governor Brian Kemp will visit Augusta tomorrow, according to WRDW.

He will be welcoming Perspecta Inc. as it brings 178 jobs to Richmond County.

The facility for Perspecta is a regional office in support of the U.S. Army Cyber Command at Fort Gordon. The jobs will be located on post and at the Georgia Cyber Center.

There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Perspecta’s new facility at the Cyber Center at 2 p.m. followed by a facility tour.

More than $150 million has been spent on TV and radio advertisiting in the Georgia U.S. Senate races this year, according to the AJC.

U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s re-election bid against Democrat Jon Ossoff has already triggered about $111 million in spending on ads from candidates and outside groups, including TV and radio spots reserved for the final month of the campaign, according to media analytics.

And the wild special election for U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s seat has cost $40 million and counting, mostly from Republicans backing the incumbent’s campaign. That total will surely soar far higher, particularly when the race moves toward an expected January runoff between the two top finalists.

In the Perdue race, Republicans have outspent Democrats by a solid margin: About $61.6 million has been spent on pro-Perdue ads, while roughly $50.2 million boost Ossoff’s bid. Much of the spending comes from outside groups, though both candidates have also amassed sizeable warchests.

Loeffler’s campaign has shelled out about $17 million so far in her bid to fill the remaining two years of retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term. That includes roughly $2 million in reserved airtime through November boosting the Republican, a wealthy former financial executive self-financing her bid.

Among her chief supporters is Georgia United Victory, which has shelled out nearly $7 million to promote her bid, and the Club for Growth, which has spent about $2.4 million.

Her main Republican adversary in the free-for-all race, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, has a fraction of that bankroll at his disposal. He’s spent or reserved at least $1.3 million on airtime.

Raphael Warnock, the Democratic frontrunner in the contest, has spent or reserved at least $9 million on TV ads.

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has reversed a District Court ruling that had extended the period for absentee ballots to be returned, according to AccessWDUN.

Georgia law says absentee ballots must be received by the close of polls on Election Day. U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross on Aug. 31 issued a preliminary injunction ordering that absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day and arrive at county election offices by 7 p.m. three business days later be counted.

The power of federal judges “does not extend to second-guessing and interfering with a State’s reasonable, nondiscriminatory election rules,” Circuit Judge Britt Grant wrote in the majority opinion.

Ross’ ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the New Georgia Project, a voter registration group, and several individual voters.

But Grant said it is up to states to set the rules governing how they run elections.

“COVID-19 has not put any gloss on the Constitution’s demand that States — not federal courts — are in charge of setting those rules,” she wrote, adding that, “Georgia’s decades-old Election Day deadline for absentee ballots does not threaten voting rights, and is justified by a host of interests.”

Ross “erred on two analytical fronts: first, in finding that Georgia’s Election Day deadline severely burdened the right to vote; and second, in improperly weighing the State’s interests against this burden,” the opinion says.

From the AJC:

The ruling will likely disqualify thousands of absentee ballots mailed close to Nov. 3 and delivered afterward by the U.S. Postal Service.

The number of late-arriving ballots could have been enough to swing close elections. During Georgia’s primary this year, election officials rejected about 8,400 absentee ballots that were received after the June 9 election day.

“Voters must simply take reasonable steps and exert some effort to ensure that their ballots are submitted on time, whether through absentee or in-person voting. Contrary to the district court’s conclusion, then, no one is ‘disenfranchised,’ ” wrote Grant, a former justice on the Georgia Supreme Court.

So far, over 1.4 million Georgia voters have requested absentee ballots, a number that’s rising by more than 20,000 every day.

Gwinnett County may offer free flu shots at early voting locations, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale health district director Dr. Audrey Arona said the health department has traditionally offered flu shots to early voters who cast at the county’s elections headquarters in Lawrenceville. Health officials are making a bigger effort this fall to push the flu vaccine this fall because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however.

As a result of that push, health officials have been in talks with county elections officials about rotating flu shot distribution sites between all of Gwinnett’s early voting sites, throughout the entire three-week early voting period, to reach as many county residents as possible.

“Every day of early voting at the latter part of October, we plan to have a vaccine, a flu vaccine, table present so people can come in and have a vaccine then or after or before they vote,” Arona said. “We can’t be at every voting location (every day) just because of the size of our staff, but we plan to, every day, be at a location to be determined so that people who are voting have an opportunity to get their flu shot then.”

Gwinnett will have a record number of early voting sites open this year — nine locations in all — and all sites are expected to be open for three weeks of early voting, including on weekends. Early voting in Georgia begins on Oct. 12.

In Gwinnett, early voting will take place every day, including Saturdays and Sundays, until Oct. 30.

The Dalton Daily Citizen News looks as Amendment One on the November ballot.

For years, the Georgia General Assembly has created special fees and surcharges and told Georgians the money generated would be used for specific purposes such as police training, cleaning up hazardous waste or indigent defense. But very often, the state has simply placed all or part of that money into its general revenue and used it for everything but its intended purpose.

That could change if voters approve an amendment on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Amendment 1 reads “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly to dedicate revenues derived from fees or taxes to the public purpose for which such fees or taxes were intended?”

The Capitol Beat News Service looks at statewide Amendments and referenda on the November ballot.

[State Rep. Andy] Welch also played a major role in Amendment 2 as chief sponsor of House Resolution 1023. It prohibits the state and local governments from using the legal doctrine of “sovereign immunity” to keep citizens from suing them when government officials commit unconstitutional actions.

“Historically, citizens were able to sue their government, state or local, in state court to seek an injunction or declaration that their rights were being violated,” Welch said. “With those [Georgia Supreme Court] decisions, the citizens of this state were not able to get into the courthouse.”

Welch said the proposed amendment includes provisions to limit the scope of citizen lawsuits. It prohibits plaintiffs from recovering monetary damages or attorney fees.

“We don’t want people just filing frivolous lawsuits to try to generate attorney fees,” Welch said. “This is about upholding legal rights.”

House Bill 344 authorizes a tax exemption for property owned by charitable organizations for the purpose of building or repairing single-family homes to be sold to individuals through no-interest loans.

If passed, the measure would help grow the stock of affordable housing in Georgia, particularly in small cities and rural communities, said Ryan Willoughby, executive director of Columbus-based Habitat for Humanity of Georgia.

Republican Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown meets his Democratic opponent in a forum on Tuesday, October 20th, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no audience will be allowed inside the theater. However, the forum will be videotaped in its entirety and posted on the Herald website — statesboroherald.com — the next afternoon.

Republican Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap is profiled along with her Democratic opponent in the Savannah Morning News.

Floyd County has already received nearly 10,000 absentee ballot requests, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Just a month away from the election, the Floyd County Elections and Registration office had received just under 10,000 absentee ballot applications as of Thursday evening.

Runbeck Elections Services started sending out batches of ballots on Sept. 21, according to Chief Clerk of Elections Robert Brady. Since then, the office has received around 800 ballots.

Brady said he’s expecting a heavy turnout of absentee ballots, but also said it’s too early to tell how fast they’re coming in.

The office itself won’t be sending out absentee ballots until the last week of October, as stated in their contract with Runbeck and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

Voters can apply for ballots through Oct. 30 and any ballots postmarked for Election Day will be counted. A federal appeals court on Friday resinstated Georgia’s Election Day deadline for the receipt of mail-in ballots. Brady recommends voters to send their applications in by Oct. 26 or 27 to make sure they get their ballot in time before the election.

The Gainesville Times profiles State Rep. Matt Dubnik (R-Gainesville) and his Democratic opponent.

Gwinnett County and the Secretary of State are blamestorming over delays in mailing absentee ballots, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County is unique among Georgia counties in that it is the only one in the state that falls under a federal rule, Voting Rights Act Section 203, that requires Spanish language elections materials in communities where the voting age population of a demographic for whom English is not the primary language has reached a certain threshold.

The Democratic Party of Georgia, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sued the county earlier this year to get it to use larger envelops that had enough room to include instructions in both English and Spanish in a large font because of that rule.

So far, the vendor Gwinnett County is using to send out absentee ballots, Fort Orange Press in Albany, N.Y., has sent out about 50% of the roughly 120,000 absentee ballots requested in Gwinnett. The state’s Arizona-based vendor, Runbeck, has sent out more than 1 million absentee ballots elsewhere in the state, according to Raffensperger’s office.

“If the Secretary of State spent less time casting around blame for the problems in our elections system, and more time fixing them, we wouldn’t need so many ‘activist lawsuits,’” Democratic Party of Georgia Executive Director Scott Hogan said. “Gwinnett County has required Spanish-language ballots for years, which the Secretary of State knows perfectly well, and he has had plenty of time to prepare for this.

“All Georgia voters deserve easy access to every voting option, including vote by mail, regardless of the language they speak — this is not the time for excuses. We encourage all voters with questions or concerns about this issue to call our Voter Protection Hotline, which is now prepared to assist voters in six languages.”

Democrat Raphael Warnock campaigned in Columbus, according to WRBL.

Democrat Raphael Warnock spoke at Greater Besallwood Baptist Church, then held a pastors; roundtable at the church. He also spoke to Democratic supporters at a Midtown rally at a local salon and barbershop. He was also given a tour of the city by former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who ran unsuccessfully for a U.S. Senate seat this year.

Warnock’s first visit to Columbus came as the frontrunner in the crowded race to complete the term of former Sen. Johnny Isakson.

Bibb County public schools are weighing a return to in-person classes, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Part of that decision process involved asking parents and guardians to choose between in-person or online education for their children. Now, a month into virtual school, district leaders are once again asking parents if they prefer online or in-person classes, gauging how perceptions have changed due to experiences and the evolving COVID-19 situation. Parents have until 11 p.m. Monday night to let the district know what teaching method they prefer.

Keith Simmons, the district’s chief of staff, noted school leaders want to give parents flexibility between the two options, noting that some parents wanted their children to learn from home because they were concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, while others believed it was the best way for their children to learn. A month in, the district wants to know if that thinking has changed.

Virtual-only instruction ends after the first grading period, which means students are scheduled to return to classes Nov. 2. Simmons said that’s still the plan, while acknowledging the pandemic’s status in Bibb County continues to change.

Clarke County public schools are also considering returning to in-person education, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

With Clarke County’s COVID-19 numbers improving rapidly, school officials expect to set a target date for a return to in-person classes by early next week.

Clarke schools postponed the first day of classes from early August to Sept. 8, then elected to began the school year with distance learning.

“We are closer to our metrics, much closer, and we got here much faster than any of us anticipated,” interim Superintendent Xernona Thomas told school board members in an online meeting Thursday.

There still will be a virtual option for families who want their children to remain at home, Thomas said.

Some students are already back to in-person learning, including deaf and hard-of-hearing students, she said.

School administrators also want to bring back some other categories of students back to in-person classes as soon as possible, such as the school district’s 500 homeless students.

The Cobb County public school system said a majority of parents have expressed support for a return to classrooms, according to the AJC.

According to the district, 52% of households representing 56,284 students have indicated they want their children back in school this semester. The district also reported that 38% of households representing 41,036 students chose to continue with the remote learning option. Ten percent of households representing 10,296 students did not respond to its survey, the district’s numbers show.

The district’s previous report released Sept. 21 had 49% of households selecting in-person learning and 35% choosing the virtual option. Another 16% provided no response. The school district said students and families will have a chance to make their choice for the second semester in December.

Seismic testing off the Georgia coast will be halted at least for the balance of this year, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Seismic testing appears to be dead in the water for now as companies involved in litigation about the controversial oil and gas exploration method said they won’t pursue it this year off the Atlantic coast, including off Georgia.

President Donald Trump in early September extended a ban on new offshore drilling, but that ban did not cover seismic testing. However, with drilling off the table for the foreseeable future, exploration is less viable, too.

Ten Georgia municipalities including Tybee, Thunderbolt, Savannah, Richmond Hill and Hinesville have passed resolutions opposing seismic testing and offshore drilling. Environmental groups oppose the seismic testing because of the risk it poses to marine life and also because it provides a gateway to offshore oil drilling.

Seismic testing is seen as a special threat to the 400 remaining North Atlantic right whales, which gives birth off the coast of Georgia and Florida.

“Everyone’s treasured state marine mammal is the North Atlantic Right Whale, which is critically endangered,” [Alice Miller Keyes of One Hundred Miles] said. “But also there’s the impact of harming other endangered species like sea turtles, and even the non-endangered species that would be harmed.

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