Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 12, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 12, 2020

General William Tecumseh Sherman ordered the destruction of railroad and telegraph lines between Atlanta and Northwest Georgia on November 12, 1864. Sherman also burned the railroad bridge over the Chattahoochee, cutting his own supply line from Chattanooga.

In what looks to me like a surprisingly progressive move for the 19th century, Governor John B. Gordon signed legislation on November 12, 1889 opening the University of Georgia to white women.

On November 12, 1918, Atlanta held a victory parade to celebrate the Armistice with Germany.

On November 12, 1944, the Atlanta Constitution released a poll of Georgia legislators indicating that most wanted more local rule for cities and counties in the new Constitution being drafted.

President Jimmy Carter ordered an end to oil imports from Iran on November 12, 1979.

Tim Berners-Lee published a Proposal for a HyperText Project, laying the foundation for the World Wide Web, on November 12, 1990.

HyperText is a way to link and access information of various kinds as a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will. Potentially, HyperText provides a single user-interface to many large classes of stored information such as reports, notes, data-bases, computer documentation and on-line systems help.

A program which provides access to the hypertext world we call a browser. A hypertext page has pieces of text which refer to other texts. Such references are highlighted and can be selected with a mouse. When you select a reference, the browser presents you with the text which is referenced.

The texts are linked together in a way that one can go from one concept to another to find the information one wants. The network of links is called a web.

On November 12, 2000, George W. Bush took the lead for the first time in the New Mexico vote count, paving the way for his eventual election as President. From the New York Times:

Gov. George W. Bush of Texas late Friday night took the lead from Vice President Al Gore in the race to claim New Mexico’s five electoral votes with what now stands as the slimmest statewide margin in the country and one of the narrowest in American history.

After 257 missing ballots were found on Friday, and Bernalillo County officials here decided to count 379 ballots by hand that had been rejected by electronic voting machines on Tuesday, Mr. Bush led Mr. Gore by just four votes — among nearly 600,000 cast. The count was 285,644 for Mr. Bush, and 285,640 for Mr. Gore, according to totals from the state and the county.

Mr. Gore, who now has 255 electoral votes, seemed the apparent winner in New Mexico on Tuesday night by about 5,000 votes. But by late Wednesday, county officials had discovered that 67,000 absentee and early ballots had not been counted.

By midnight on Thursday, nearly all the ballots had been tallied and added to the county totals, but county officials then found that 252 votes — a number that reached 257 by Friday — were missing. They also grappled with the problem of what to do with an ever changing number of ballots that voting machines had rejected.

Then, on Friday afternoon, Lou Melvin, a precinct judge, found a locked black ballot box in an outer storage room in the county warehouse building where all the tabulations were being conducted.

It would be a month before the Supreme Court rendered a decision in Bush v. Gore, ending the election.

From the New York Post, dated November 12, 2000:

Republican George W. Bush yesterday took an infinitesimal lead – just 17 votes – in New Mexico, flipping a state that was put in rival Al Gore’s column for days, then moved to undecided Friday as Gore’s lead shriveled.

It’s another black eye for the TV networks who rushed to judgment and wrongly called New Mexico for Gore on Election Night, just as they miscalled Florida – first for Gore and then for Bush before going back to undecided.

The TV network fumbles are coupled with coast-to-coast ballot bumbles that have undermined America’s faith in the whole voting system as four states could join Florida in recount-land: New Mexico, Wisconsin, Oregon and Iowa.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today: please check your voter registration by logging in to the Secretary of State’s MVP website. You can also check your absentee ballot status while there if you already requested an absentee ballot.

Click here if you’d like to submit an online request for an absentee ballot for the Runoff Elections.

If you have moved or your voter registration is somehow incorrect or outdated, you have until December 7, 2020 to correct your registration so you can still vote in the January runoffs.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had a busy day yesterday undermining protecting democracy. First, he announced he was changing the date of several runoff elections to coincide with the January federal elections. From the Athens Banner Herald:

State runoff elections scheduled for Dec. 1 will be delayed to coincide with two Georgia U.S. Senate runoff elections scheduled for Jan. 5 — but not the Western Judicial Circuit district attorney race.

Because different rules apply for state and federal elections, state runoffs had been scheduled for Dec. 1, with the federal races happening Jan. 5. Clarke and Oconee counties make up the Western Judicial Circuit.

However, because the district attorney race is a special election — not one of the normal general election races — state law requires that it be held Dec. 1.

A statewide runoff for the District 4 seat on the Georgia Public Service Commission was also scheduled for Dec. 1 but will move to Jan. 5. Although PSC members are assigned to districts, their elections are statewide.

The Secretary then announced that ballots would be recounted in the Presidential election. From the Valdosta Daily Times:

Georgia’s secretary of state on Wednesday announced an audit of presidential election results that he said would be done with a full hand tally of ballots because the margin is so tight.

State law requires an audit but leaves it up to the top elections official to choose the race. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said at a news conference that the presidential race makes the most sense. Raffensperger’s office has said there’s no evidence of systemic problems with the voting or the count that shows Democrat Joe Biden with a lead of about 14,000 votes over President Donald Trump.

Raffensperger said his office wants the process to begin by the end of the week and he expects it to take until Nov. 20, which is the state certification deadline.

“It will be a heavy lift, but we will work with the counties to get this done in time for our state certification,” Raffensperger said, flanked by local election officials on the steps of the state Capitol. “We have all worked hard to bring fair and accurate counts to assure that the will of the voters is reflected in the final count and that every voter will have confidence in the outcome, whether their candidate won or lost.”

The audit is a new requirement put in place by a law passed in 2019 that also provided for the new voting machines purchased last year. The state has chosen to do a risk-limiting audit, which involves checking a random sample of ballots by hand against results produced by vote-tallying equipment for accuracy. In such audits, the smaller the margin between candidates in a race, the larger the sample of ballots that must initially be audited.

Raffensperger said the tight margin means that the audit will effectively result in a full hand recount.

Asked if he chose the presidential race because of the Trump campaign’s call for a hand recount, Raffensperger said, “No, we’re doing this because it’s really what makes the most sense with the national significance of this race and the closeness of this race.”

From the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Raffensperger, speaking outside the state capitol, said the by-hand recount will ensure a more accurate count, as opposed to a re-scanning of ballots through computers.

“This will help build confidence,” he said. “It will be an audit, a recount and a re-canvass all at once. It will be a heavy lift, but we will work with the counties to get this done in time for a state certification.”

This hand review of paper ballots is possible this year for the first time in decades because Georgia recently purchased new voting machines and installed them in response to pressure from groups seeking to improve the voting system. The previous machines didn’t provide paper records, so a hand recount wasn’t possible.

Let’s review one paragraph from that WSJ story:

This hand review of paper ballots is possible this year for the first time in decades because Georgia recently purchased new voting machines and installed them in response to pressure from groups seeking to improve the voting system. The previous machines didn’t provide paper records, so a hand recount wasn’t possible.

Note: it’s not technically a “recount,” it’s an “audit.” From the AJC:

His decision will result in a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that’s never been attempted before. Raffensperger said it will be worthwhile if it builds confidence in the election, where Joe Biden was leading Donald Trump by over 14,000 votes.

The count will be conducted under Georgia’s rules for election audits, but not as envisioned when those rules were drafted.

But instead of pulling a smaller sample of ballots, Raffensperger plans to audit every ballot. The sample would have had to be over 1 million ballots, according to the secretary of state’s office, so Raffensperger decided a full count was justified given the closeness of the race.

“You actually have to do a full hand-by-hand recount of all ballots because the margin is so close right now,” Raffensperger said.

Georgia’s recount rules wouldn’t have allowed a hand recount.

State and county election officials acknowledged Wednesday that a hand recount could introduce more inaccuracies than computer scans. But they said the recount will be worthwhile to check the work of Georgia’s voting machinery.

The recount was scheduled to begin Thursday and Friday in Georgia’s 159 counties, and they face a Nov. 20 deadline to finish it. That’s the state’s election certification deadline, which can only be extended “for just cause” by a superior court judge’s order, according to state law.

Even then, another recount is possible.

Candidates have a right to a recount upon request if they lost by less than half a percent after results are certified. Trump currently trails Biden by about 0.3%.

Actual recounts may occur after the election is certified, according to the AJC.

The recount announced for the Georgia presidential election is different from the normal recount procedure, because the recount is also an audit. We are learning more details about how that will work.

For regular recounts, however, Georgia law gives the losing candidate the right to a recount if the margin of defeat is within half of a percent of the total vote. By law, the request for a recount must come within two days following the certification of the vote. After the election, results are unofficial until formally accepted or certified. The results would be recertified if a recount found a discrepancy.

County election officials must certify elections 10 days after Election Day, by Nov. 13. The secretary of state certifies elections by Nov. 20.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said officials are prepared for possible recount requests.

“If a race is within a half a percent, it is your right as the candidate” to ask for a recount, he said at news conference on Wednesday.

United States Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) campaigned in Cobb County with Senator Kelly Loeffler, according to the AJC.

The Florida Republican didn’t once mention President Donald Trump in his remarks, instead issuing a broader argument for conservatives to return to the polls for the Jan. 5 races against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to prevent the nation from hurtling in a “radical” direction.

“Normal people that want to own a home and raise their family in a safe community and retire with dignity and have a country that’s safe and stable and give their children a chance at a better life, they’re going to vote against people that are crazy and want to undermine all of that,” he said.

“That’s what’s at stake in this election. And if we don’t control the U.S. Senate, that is the agenda that’s going to be pushed. If doesn’t even matter if the majority if the Democrats, if you polled them and gave them truth serum, are not in favor of it.”

Loeffler, meanwhile, offered a reminder to the crowd that the two different runoffs might as well be the same race. She borrowed one of Perdue’s favorite lines, saying that a vote for Republicans is a vote to ensure “the road to socialism does not run through Georgia.”

“Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi: You’re not going to take Georgia,” she said. “We don’t need high taxes. We don’t need job-crushing regulations. What we need is the American Dream – that opportunity that can lift every single American.”

From the Savannah Morning News:

Some Georgia elections directors said they learned of the plan not long before Raffensperger announced it at a Wednesday news conference and were awaiting guidance on how to proceed, including how to pay for the massive undertaking.

“People will be working lots of overtime,” Raffensperger said. “They will be really pleased with those paychecks.”

“For the first time in 18 years we’re going to have something to count instead of just pressing a button and getting the same answer,” Raffensperger said.

The recount results will stand, he said. “That will be the last count — that will be the most accurate count,” he said. The hand recount will be certified, but if challenged an additional recount could be ordered.

Chatham County Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges said he had no specific information about the nature of the hand recount.

“Until we get some clear guidance on how we’re going to execute this, it’s premature to say how it’s going to run,” Bridges said. “Tomorrow we will get the details of what we need to know.”

Having overseen a hand recount before, Bridges said the process is inherently more labor-intensive than recounting ballots with scanning devices.

“I have a machine that can count 60 ballots a minute,” he said. “The hand recount’s going to replace that. … It’s going to take longer.”

The AJC asks whether a conflict of interest exists when the Trump campaign hires lawyers who also represent the Secretary of State.

Attorneys for Taylor English Duma, a firm based in Atlanta, brought a court case last week on behalf of Trump’s campaign alleging improper absentee ballot handing by Chatham County election officials. A judge quickly dismissed that case, finding no evidence to support the claims. The firm’s attorneys haven’t sued Raffensperger.

Further elections lawsuits could arise on behalf of the Trump campaign, but a spokeswoman for the firm said there’s no conflict of interest.

“There is no conflict that exists between providing advice to a campaign about Georgia law and representing government officials who are carrying out those same laws,” said Molly Metz, a spokeswoman for Taylor English Duma.

Georgia Attorney Chris Carr was elected Chair of the Republican Attorneys General Association, according to the AJC.

Georgia State House Democrats elected new leadership, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

When the General Assembly convenes in January, [Macon State Rep. James] Beverly will succeed Rep. Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville, who lost his reelection bid last week.

Beverly previously served as minority caucus chairman, a role that now will be filled by Rep. Billy Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain.

During a House Democratic Caucus meeting Tuesday, Democrats also elected Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, to serve as minority whip. Rep. Debra Bazemore, D-South Fulton, will work with Wilkerson as chief deputy whip.

House Democrats scored a net gain of two seats in the legislature’s lower chamber in last week’s elections, well below the 16 seats Democrats needed to seize control from Republicans, who have held a majority in the House since 2005.

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