Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 13, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 13, 2020

On October 13, 1870, Governor Rufus Bullock signed legislation creating the Georgia State Board of Education.

On October 13, 1885, Governor Henry McDaniel signed legislation authorizing the creation of a state school of technology as a branch of the University of Georgia; the school would open in Atlanta in October 1888, and in 1948 was renamed the Georgia Institute of Technology.

On October 13, 1918, the ban on public gatherings in Atlanta to prevent spread of the Spanish flu, was extended an additional week.

On December 13, 1976, Democrat Jimmy Carter received a post-debate bump against President Gerald Ford, with polls showing Carter at 50%-40% over the incumbent, up from 47%-45% before the debate.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Here are today’s General Election stats, drawn from the Absentee voter file released daily by the Secretary of State’s office:

Total votes cast:               628,516

Mail-in votes cast:          499,494

In-person votes cast:     129,022

President Donald Trump will healdine a rally in Macon on Friday, according to the AJC.

The Republican will speak at a 7 p.m. event at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport, the same spot where he headlined a pre-election rally for Gov. Brian Kemp in 2018.

Trump returned to the campaign trail Monday in Sanford for the first time since his coronavirus diagnosis, appearing maskless after his physician announced he has tested negative for consecutive days.

From the Macon Telegraph:

Trump will speak at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport on Avondale Mill Road in Macon at 7 p.m., according to a campaign announcement, as part of a “Make American Great Again” rally. The rally will be held at Gate #24, and attendees can enter beginning at 4 p.m.

Dr. Jill Biden campaigned for First Lady of the United States in Decatur, Georgia. From the Valdosta Daily Times:

The opening day for early voting brought Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden, to Decatur, flanked by an army of high-profile Georgia Democrats. During her speech, she stressed the high stakes of this election.

“There are no do-overs in this election,” she told the crowd. “…One vote could make the difference between winning and losing a precinct. One precinct could win this state. And one state — this state — could decide our future for generations to come.”

“I want everyone to drop off your ballot today…If you don’t have one, make a plan to vote early, and then get involved,” Biden said. “I know you’re busy. I know you’re stretched so thin, but this election is too important not to do every single thing we can. This is it.”

Stacey Abrams, 2018 gubernatorial candidate and founder of the voter rights group Fair Fight Action, joined the Biden campaign in urging voters to make a plan, get your vote in early and treat Election Day as “last call.”

Abrams noted that since 2016, voter engagement and Democratic presence has grown exponentially, making Georgia a new battleground for the 2020 presidential election. Abrams lost to now-Gov. Brian Kemp in 2018 by a narrow margin of only about 55,000 votes.

“Already Georgia Democrats are showing out across this state,” she said referring to the large turnout on the first day of early voting. “We have lines across the state and we want to make sure those are lines of enthusiasm. Lines that predict the future of the state of Georgia.”

First day in-person early voting traffic was heavy, according to the Associated Press via the Valdosta Daily Times.

Eager voters endured waits of six hours or more in Cobb County, which was once solidly Republican but has voted for Democrats in recent elections, and joined lines that wrapped around buildings in solidly Democratic DeKalb County. They also turned out in big numbers in north Georgia’s Floyd County, where support for President Donald Trump is strong.

With record turnout expected for this year’s presidential election and fears about exposure to the coronavirus, election officials and advocacy groups have been encouraging people to vote early, either in person or by absentee ballot.

At least two counties briefly had problems with the electronic pollbooks used to check in voters. The issue halted voting for a while at State Farm Arena, where the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks play. Technicians resolved the problem and the lines soon cleared at the arena, which is Georgia’s largest early voting site, with 300 voting machines.

A problem with the electronic pollbooks also slowed things initially at the two early voting locations in Floyd County, but it was resolved within about an hour, said Robert Brady, the county’s chief election clerk.

In Macon, Seth Clark arrived to vote at the main election office at about 9:30 a.m. and found a U-shaped line wrapping around the parking lot. It ended up taking him three hours to vote.

“I’ve never seen this many people on the first day of early voting,” said Clark, who won election over the summer to a nonpartisan seat on the Macon-Bibb County commission.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump Jr. was set to rally Republican voters in Savannah near the coast and Kennesaw, just outside Atlanta.

From the Statesboro Herald:

In Bulloch County lines stretched into the parking lot outside the Election Office all day at the County Annex on North Main Street.

“It was a busy day, but everybody was patient and I expect to see similar lines every day during early voting,” said Election Supervisor Pat Lanier Jones.

As of 4:45 p.m., Lanier said 518 ballots had been cast since the office opened at 8 a.m. Jones said the office would remain open past 5 p.m. to allow voters in line before 5 p.m. to vote.

From the Rome News Tribune:

Long lines began forming [in Floyd County] around early voting locations Monday after technical issues and an above average voter turnout caught elections officials by surprise.

Elections Board member Melanie Conrad said there were three things causing long lines — a higher than anticipated turnout, pollbook issues and, specifically for the Garden Lakes location, internet connectivity.

The vendor made a last minute adjustment to the electronic pollbooks used to check in voters, she said, and the data wasn’t pulling up as it should.

“It’s essentially a statewide issue,” Conrad said. “The vendor made some changes last Friday and so the poll pad information wasn’t coming up correctly. We’re trying to work with that situation to try and get that fixed.”

Robert Brady, the county’s chief election clerk, told the Associated Press the pollbook issue initially slowed things down but it was resolved within about an hour.

From The Brunswick News:

The wait at the precinct on St. Simons ran over an hour for many while some voters waited more than 40 minutes at Ballard Park. There was also a long line at Glynn County Board of Elections office on Gloucester Street. Many, however, said the wait was worth it.

Ballard poll manager Billy Gibson said it was a long ballot with some extra steps in the process to keep voters from unknowingly spreading COVID-19.

“There’s just a lot of things on the ballot,’’ three referendum questions on amending the state constitution, a special U.S. Senate election with 20 candidates, a school board Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and the local constitutional offices, he said.

There was also a delay between voters because the poll workers sanitized each voting machine after each use as well as the pens that voters used to sign election documents.

As of mid-afternoon, 1,360 people had voted at the three precincts, the Glynn County Board of Elections said.

The polls remained open until 7 p.m.

From the Albany Herald:

Blocks-long lines formed early Monday morning as Albany voters turned out on the first day of early voting for the Nov. 3 general election.

Criticism of the local Elections office had begun by mid-morning, as contributors to this newspaper’s Squawkbox feature and others chastised the office for “not having more than one voting location open.”

From the Savannah Morning News:

At the Islands Library, voters found themselves in the same situation, standing throughout the day for the chance to cast their ballots.

Long lines were also found at the main election office on Eisenhower Drive and at the downtown Savannah Civic Center. There are six sites where voters are able to cast their early in-person ballot until Oct. 30.

Computer failures were reported at the Pooler Recreation Center. But in many instances, the waits could be attributed to determined voters driven by heated national and local issues. The Columbus Day holiday meant more people were off work, too, and decided to take advantage of the early-voting day. There were also plenty who are leery about mail-in voting.

Voters at the Pooler Recreation Center were in line for up to four hours this morning, which started with a computer failure involving the check-in system at the polls.

Chatham County Board of Registrars Chairman Colin McRae said the problem could have stemmed from the massive amount of voters who showed up for early voting statewide.

“You’ve got this unprecedented volume on the first day of early voting, and you’ve got all 159 counties crushing the system simultaneously trying to get their voters checked in. There have been delays at those check-ins at each of our locations,” McRae said. “That may have been what happened in Pooler, the machines were locking up because the state system that it accesses is overburdened statewide.”

From the Augusta Chronicle:

[H]undreds … lined up to vote early in Richmond and Columbia counties on the first day of advance voting statewide. Wait times ranged from 15 minutes to over 1½ hours as lines circled buildings and ran through parking lots neighboring the poll locations.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns have arose about what is the safest and most effective way to vote this year. John Bradley of Martinez and Regina Ousby of Grovetown, said they didn’t trust the absentee voting model.

“We want to vote in person because we don’t trust the mail,” Bradley said.

From the Athens Banner Herald:

Voters began lining up at 6:30 a.m. Monday at the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections office downtown, waiting to be among the first in line when advance voting for the Nov. 3 elections began at 8 a.m.

By about 10 a.m., more than 200 were waiting in a line that stretched from the elections office up Clayton Street, across College Avenue in front of City Hall, and then down Hancock Avenue nearly to the Athens-Clarke Water Business Office.

“We are slammed,” said elections assistant Pamela Long.

Officials were considering opening up a second voting area in City Hall on Tuesday because of the unprecedented turnout, Long said.

Some people said they had waited more than two hours to get their chance to vote. The resolve to wait demonstrates how important voting is, especially in this election, some of the voters said.

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

By 5 p.m. Monday, Lawrenceville resident Gail McDaniel had been waiting in a slow moving line at the Gwinnett County Elections and Voter Registrations headquarters on Grayson Highway for about six hours, and she still faced a long wait before she could get in the front door.

At that time, county officials estimated the wait time to vote at the headquarters early voting site was eight hours. When McDaniel arrived at 11 a.m., the end of line was in front of the county health department’s Lawrenceville clinic, which is next to the elections headquarters, but it snaked around the side of the building before turning around and coming back in front of the clinic.

Even with a record-setting nine early voting sites open in Gwinnett County for the first time ever, the county saw a huge turnout for the first day of early voting in the Nov. 3 general election, resulting in long lines at every site. As of 3 p.m. on Monday, 4,822 people had cast ballots at early voting sites across the county.

Although the elections headquarter’s eight-hour wait to vote on Monday was the longest wait seen in the county on Monday, every polling site reported waits of several hours on the first day of early voting.

Multiple locations reported wait times of at least three hours at various hours on Monday, and the wait at Lenora Park in Snellville late Monday afternoon exceeded four hours.

“There have been long lines everywhere and some of the locations have longer lines than other,” county spokesman Joe Sorenson said around mid-afternoon Monday. “A little while ago, we were at an hour and a half at the fairgrounds and we were at about six hours at headquarters.

 From the AJC:

About 128,000 voters went to the polls Monday, higher turnout than on the first day of in-person early voting in any previous Georgia election, according to data from the secretary of state’s office.

The strong start to early voting could signal even more voters to come during three weeks of early voting. Turnout typically rises as Election Day grows closer, usually peaking on the final days.

The number of in-person voters on Monday outpaced the start of the 2016 election, when turnout reached 91,000. On the busiest early voting day four years ago, about 253,000 people cast ballots the Friday before the election.

When combined with absentee ballots returned so far, over 600,000 Georgia voters have already made their choices in this year’s election. No votes will be counted until after polls close at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Donald Trump, Jr. spoke in Savannah, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Forest City Gun Club played host to Trump Jr., who spoke highly of his father’s trade deal with China, as well as his peace negotiations in the Middle East and “building the strongest economy we’ve ever known.”

“Joe Biden has singlehandedly done more damage to hard-working, blue collar and manufacturing jobs in America than any other politician alive, and the media is letting him campaign like he’s going to be a gift to those workers,” Trump Jr. said.

“Donald Trump’s the guy that got a trade deal done with China in January. You probably didn’t hear about that either because it was a win for America and a win for Donald Trump and therefore it will probably not be reported,” Trump Jr. said.

“Donald Trump has been a gift to conservatives,” Trump Jr. said. “I get it, some people say they don’t love the attitude, but guess what? He’s a fighter, and that’s why we’re winning.”

Trump, Jr. also spoke at a gun club in Kennesaw, according to the Rome News Tribune:

Supporters of President Donald Trump were urged to not just vote for the president’s re-election, but to convince others to do so at a campaign rally in Cobb on Monday night.

The event, headlined by Donald Trump, Jr., saw about 500-600 people at the Governor’s Gun Club near Kennesaw, according to the club and police working around the event.

Trump Jr., Gov. Brian Kemp and other guests praised the president’s record, including on the economy, despite the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.

United States Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Atlanta) campaigned in Evans, Georgia with Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Loeffler, who is running against 20 other candidates in a special election for the seat vacated by Johnny Isakson, touted her conservative record in front of dozens of supporters at Recteq.

“It’s been great getting around Georgia,” said Loeffler, a Republican. “I’m working on my third statewide tour. Just going around the state hearing from Georgians what is important for them, showing them my strong conservative record of delivering results in just nine months in the Senate.”

“There is no senator in the United States Senate who is going to be tougher on China and stronger for working families in America,” [Sen. Cotton] said. “I’m proud to be here supporting Kelly Loeffler.”

“I’m leading the charge in the Senate to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett. I had a great meeting with her. She is that constitutionalist that we all want there who will protect and defend the Constitution, who will make sure there are no liberal judges legislating from the bench,” Loeffler said.

Both Loeffler and Cotton credited Trump for the work he has done on the coronavirus pandemic and blamed China for spreading and bringing the disease to the U.S. They both praised Trump for shutting down travel from China and from Europe at the beginning of the pandemic.

The Chronicle also has a photo feature about the Loeffler campaign event.

Senator Loeffler also campaigned in Albany, according to the Albany Herald.

Confirming her bona fides as the “most conservative legislator in the U.S. Senate,” Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler told an enthusiastic crowd of supporters in Albany Monday that their votes to keep the Senate in Republican hands is the “firewall” to preserve the nation’s conservative values.

Speaking to a crowd of around 80 at BJ’s Country Buffet restaurant, and joined for the visit by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Loeffler stuck mainly with the themes that have been the heart and soul of her campaign to maintain the seat to which she was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp when former Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson stepped down for health reasons.

“Albany, you folks, have been in my heart from Day 1 of this pandemic,” Loeffler, who donated $1 million to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital early in the pandemic, said. “And I want to go off script here for a minute and say the best part about this job is working for you, not Washington. I don’t owe Washington anything.

While declaring “there’s no place for racism in this country,” Loeffler said she’s stood strong against the politics of groups like Black Lives Matter.

“Michelle Obama and Stacey Abrams had players in the WNBA (an organization for which Loeffler is part owner of the Atlanta Dream) wear shirts supporting my opponent (Warnock), and I was criticized for suggesting that we put an American flag on our players’ jerseys to show that we’re all on the same team,” she said. “We have to root out the kind of mindset that calls for defunding the police — who are heroes in this country and know that I’ll always have their backs. Black Lives Matter has a five-year plan to abolish police in our country. What they’re seeking is chaos.”

The Savannah Morning News profiles the candidates for Chatham County Commission District 6 and Commission District 7.

The Augusta Chronicle profiles Richmond County Board of Education District 1 candidate Shawnda Griffin.

The Cherokee Tribune & Ledger News looks at the campaign by former State Rep. Charlice Byrd (R) to return to the State House.

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