Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 17, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 17, 2020

On November 17, 1732, the first English headed to colonize Georgia set off from Gravesend, England, down the Thames. Their supplies included ten tons of beer.

On November 17, 1777, Congress submitted the Articles of Confederation to the states for ratification.

Abraham Lincoln began the first draft of the Gettysburg Address on November 17, 1863.

Herman Talmadge was sworn in as Governor of Georgia on November 17, 1948, ending the “Three Governors” controversy. Click here for a review of the “Three Governors” episode by Ron Daniels.

Richard Nixon declared before a television audience, “I’m not a crook,” on November 17, 1973.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Vice President Mike Pence will campaign in Georgia to help the GOP retain two seats in the United States Senate, according to the AJC.

Pence will campaign with the incumbents in two of the most important Republican strongholds in the state: A 12:30 p.m. stop in Canton and a 3:15 p.m. event in Gainesville, both north Georgia areas where GOP candidates aim to build big advantages to offset Democratic gains in metro Atlanta.

Pence first announced the visit during a closed-door luncheon with Senate Republicans last week. Afterward, a reporter asked Loeffler if she was looking forward to having Pence’s support in Georgia; the senator responded “yes” but did not elaborate.

Already, U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida have campaigned with the two Republican incumbents at “defend the majority” rallies.

From AccessWDUN:

According to a press release from the Perdue and Loeffler campaigns, Pence will stop in Canton earlier in the day to “deliver remarks on the importance of fighting for conservative legislators at a Defend the Majority Rally.”

Pence will then travel to Gainesville and stop at 3:15 p.m. at the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center to highlight accomplishments of the Trump Administration. Senators Perdue and Loeffler, as well as Georgia Public Service Commissioner Bubba McDonald, will join Pence at the rallies.

More than 2500 uncounted ballots were found in Floyd County during the audit, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office is sending an investigator to Floyd County first thing Tuesday to help determine what happened to throw the Presidential election count off by 2,500 ballots.

Hancock said elections officials are working with Dominion Voting Systems to determine where the breakdown occurred. They’re waiting for the company to find out who was logged into the computer at the time.

“It was either their rep or our rep. And when we find out who was responsible, we will take action,” he said.

Reports that a memory card was not removed from a machine are disputed. Local elections officials said a replacement scanner used at the Floyd County Administration Building for early voting apparently did not tabulate some of the ballots.

Board of Elections Chairman Tom Rees said the hand count added over 2,500 more votes than were registered by computers on election night and the following morning.

According to Floyd County GOP Chairman Luke Martin, and tentatively confirmed by Rees, there were an additional 1,643 votes for Republican President Donald Trump, 865 for Democrat President-elect Joe Biden and 16 for Libertarian Jo Jorgensen.

According to the Secretary of State’s website: 27,120 Floyd County residents cast a ballot for Trump, 10,972 for Biden and 496 for Jorgensen. The newly reported ballots aren’t included in those totals.

While Polk County’s elections office works to complete the mandated recount, it is also preparing to mail out absentee ballot requests for the local runoff for District 2 Polk County Commissioner between Ricky Clark and Linda Liles that is scheduled for Dec. 1.

Walker County Director of Elections and Registration Danielle L. Montgomery said their count was completed Monday afternoon. Only 18 votes changed out of a total 29,496 ballots, which she chalked up to human error.

At some level, you can say that the audit worked the way it’s supposed to: it identified a discrepancy that allowed the local elections office to determine they erred and fix it. At the same time, it will fuel the fire of those who believe the election was stolen, especially as the displaced ballot favored President Trump nearly 2:1.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Savannah Morning News:

Locating those 2,600 votes is set to cut Biden’s lead over Trump by 800 votes in Georgia, leaving the Republican president with a deficit unlikely to be surmounted once the audit’s hand recount finishes by a Wednesday deadline ahead of the election’s formal certification later this week, Sterling said.

“Nothing is making us see any substantive change in the outcome,” said Sterling, a top deputy in Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office. “It’s verifying what we saw on election night.”

As for the ballots found in Floyd County, Sterling attributed the issue to human error and “gross negligence” on the part of the county’s election director, Robert Brady, who has been asked to resign by Raffensperger’s office.

State officials have been unable to reach Brady to discuss what caused the issue since the Floyd elections director is in quarantine due to COVID-19, Sterling said. An investigator from Raffensperger’s office is in Floyd County now to determine exactly what happened.

Even with the Floyd County issue, Sterling on Monday called the unprecedented statewide audit effort a success as elections boards in the state’s 159 counties closed in on recounting every ballot by hand. He said the state next plans to create a website to publish data on the recount results for transparency.

“We’re about accuracy, we’re about process and we’re about following the law,” Sterling said.

From the AJC:

[Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager] called it “an amazing blunder” and said the county’s elections director should resign.

“It’s not an equipment issue. It’s a person not executing their job properly,” Sterling said. This is the kind of situation that requires a change at the top of their management side.”

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says that South Carolina United States Senator Lindsay Graham (R) asked him if he could discard ballots in the audit/recount, according to NBC News.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Monday that Sen. Lindsey Graham asked him whether he had the power to reject certain absentee ballots, a question he interpreted as a suggestion to toss out legally cast votes.

“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” Raffensperger said.

Raffensperger made the comments to The Washington Post, saying he’s faced rising pressure from fellow Republicans who want to see Democrat Joe Biden’s narrow lead in the state reversed. Nearly 5 million votes were cast in the presidential election in Georgia, and Biden was leading President Donald Trump by about 14,000 votes.

Graham asked him whether political bias might have caused elections workers to accept ballots with nonmatching signatures and whether Raffensperger could throw out all absentee ballots in counties with higher rates of nonmatching signatures, the secretary of state told the newspaper.

When asked about the conversation with Raffensperger, Graham said Monday that he was “trying to find out how the signature stuff worked.” He said Raffensperger “did a good job of explaining to me how they verify signatures.”

Asked about Raffensperger’s interpretation that he was suggesting that legally cast ballots should be thrown out, Graham said, “That’s ridiculous.”

Raffensperger also questioned Congressman Doug Collins’s truthiness. From Fox News:

“Failed candidate Doug Collins is a liar — but what’s new?”

Chatham County finished its hand recount/audit, according to the Savannah Morning News.

As Georgia’s recount entered its fourth day, most counties around the state, including Chatham, had finished counting their ballots and had moved on to the next step in the process: inputting the data.

Chatham had already finished recounting all the absentee ballots, all the in-person Election Day ballots and by noon Monday, they were done with the early in-person ballots as well.

Five batches of ballots were being counted by three tables of poll workers on Monday.

Recount Manager Billy Wooten said these were getting an additional count in the interest of transparency, and since the lion’s share of the counting finished relatively quickly, they have time to thoroughly check any discrepancies.

“There was a discrepancy in the count, and we just want to redo it just to be on the safe side. We’ve got time,” Wooten said.

Meanwhile, Oconee County has completed its audit of the Nov. 3 presidential election and will present the results to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office once all other counties have completed their recounts.

Bryan County wrapped up Monday, as well.

Columbus-Muscogee County finished their recount/audit, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

After working through the weekend, volunteers auditing Columbus’ 80,000-plus votes cast in the Nov. 3 presidential election finished their work Monday night.

Nancy Boren, executive director of the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registration, said the unpaid auditors representing the local Democratic and Republican parties were done by 7 p.m., so they would not have to come back Tuesday to wrap up.

Ballots that were not clearly marked were set aside for an auditing committee to review to see whether the voters’ intent could be determined. That committee has a Republican, a Democrat and an elections board appointee.

According to the official election results the five-member county elections board certified on Nov. 6, the total votes cast here in the presidential race came to 80,835 out 130,878 residents registered, a turnout of 61.75%.

Columbia and Richmond counties completed their audit/recount, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

In Richmond County, 42 tables staffed by two workers each methodically confirmed the chosen candidate on each ballot and sorted the pieces of paper by hand at Bell Auditorium in downtown Augusta.

Columbia County finished its recount at the former Euchee Creek Library on Louisville Road in Appling. Eight volunteers staffed four tables.

In Richmond County, with ballots from 38 polling sites to tally, the recounting wrapped up about 1 p.m., said Lynn Bailey, executive director of the county’s Board of Elections. There were 87,530 ballots in all to recount since Friday, and all of them have been accounted for, she said.

In Columbia County, the final seven cases of ballots of 71 cases were completely re-tallied by about 1:45 p.m. Each one of the 80,973 ballots cast has been accounted for, said Larry Wiggins, chairman of the Columbia County Board of Elections.

Only one ballot was briefly unaccounted for during the recount, after the originally recorded number for one of the sealed ballot boxes came up short, Wiggins said.

The ballot was found later to have been stuck onto the back of another ballot — their paper borders lining up so precisely that it wasn’t discovered until a worker recognized that the stuck ballots felt slightly thicker than the others during one of the hand recounts, he said.

In Richmond County, 59,124 voters chose Joe Biden and 26,781 chose President Trump. In Columbia County, 50,013 voters chose Trump and 29,236 chose Biden. Other votes comprising the full vote totals were cast for Libertarian Party candidate Jo Jorgensen and assorted write-in candidates.

The Wall Street Journal looks at how the current feud could play out in the Senate runoff elections.

The Senate’s partisan breakdown after the Nov. 3 election stands at 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats. If Democrats win both Georgia runoffs, they will hold a majority in the chamber, since Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, in her role as president of the Senate, could cast tiebreaking votes.

Energizing Mr. Trump’s base is essential to the GOP’s runoff strategy, and Republicans in Georgia and in Washington, D.C., would like to see the president train his fire on Messrs. Ossoff and Warnock. But Mr. Trump, apparently preoccupied with a continuing recount of the state’s presidential results, instead spent the past few days on Twitter attacking top Georgia Republicans: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both once considered allies of Mr. Trump.

“This could really go off the rails and really cause long-term damage,” former GOP state Rep. Buzz Brockway said Saturday. “The long-term health of the GOP is on the line here in Georgia.”

More than a dozen Republican officials and strategists said they worried the intraparty feud was distracting from the runoff effort and could hurt the party’s chances in 2022, when the governor and one of the Senate seats will be on the ballot.

Rusty Paul, a former chairman of the Georgia GOP, said the senators had no choice but to publicly disavow Mr. Raffensperger because if Mr. Trump turned on them in frustration, it would be disastrous for their re-election prospects. “If the president is tweeting bad things, the base is not coming out,” Mr. Paul said.

The Senate candidates threw Mr. Raffensperger overboard to save themselves, he said. “Somebody’s got to go,” Mr. Paul said. “This is about survival.”

Talking head Sean Hannity spoke to Congressman Doug Collins about the Georgia election, according to Media Matters.

Hannity: Now, one of the things that I’ve spent a lot of time talking to a lot of people on the ground in Georgia, and everybody that I know is pretty ticked off at your governor — including me, and if you want to set me straight on this, you can — and also the secretary of state. You know, apparently this consent decree after a lawsuit in the early part of this year, by the Georgia Democratic Party, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, that there was a consent decree that created two standards of signatures.

Athens-area Democrats are preparing for the runoff elections, which also include their local District Attorney, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Commissioners Russell Edwards, Mariah Parker and Tim Denson on Monday announced the launch of what they call the “Athens Progressive Canvassing Corps.”

State Rep. Spencer Frye is also joining the effort, Edwards said.

The elected officials are raising money to train and pay 10 local organizers to hit the streets, knocking on nearly 28,000 Athens doors; they are also looking for volunteers.

The immediate goal is to score Democratic wins in the runoff for Western Judicial Circuit district attorney Dec. 1, in two U.S. Senate runoffs on Jan. 5, and a Public Service Commission runoff, also Jan. 5.

In the Dec. 1 runoff, Democrat Deborah Gonzalez faces James Chafin, who is running with no party affiliation.

State Senator Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain) was elected Leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus, according to AccessWDUN.

Butler, first elected to the Senate in 1998, was Democratic caucus chair under former minority leader Steve Henson in the term now ending. Henson chose not to run for reelection after 26 years in the state Senate over two separate stints. Henson had been the Democrats’ minority leader for 10 years.

The minority party also elected Sen. Elena Parent of Decatur as caucus chair, and Sen. Harold Jones of Augusta was elected whip.

Democrats will have 22 seats in the 56-member chamber in the coming two-year term, a gain of one seat after Nikki Merritt defeated Republican P.K. Martin in a Gwinnett County district. The final Democratic member will be determined in a Dec. 1 runoff between Sonya Halpern and Linda Pritchett in a district covering parts of Atlanta and Fulton County.

Macon-Bibb County Commissioners are expected to vote today on an anti-discrimination ordinance, according to the Macon Telegraph.

If passed, the ordinance will prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity or military status.

A public hearing to discuss the ordinance will be held on at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the chambers of the Government Center, according to a news release.

In a shock to no one, Fulton County homeowners pay the highest property taxes in the state, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Fulton County residents on average paid $2,901 annually in property taxes, the highest such tax levies among all regions of Georgia, according to a new Tax Foundation analysis.

The Tax Foundation study was based on median property taxes paid within counties in 2018, based on five-year estimates.

The first pre-filed bill of the 2021 Georgia Legislative Session was filed by State Rep.Josh Bonner, (R-Fayetteville), according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

House Bill 1, pre-filed on Monday by Georgia Rep. Josh Bonner, R-Fayetteville, reintroduces a bill the state Senate’s Republican majority passed last March 32-21 along party lines. The legislation cleared a committee in the House of Representatives but failed to get a floor vote during the final hectic week of the 2020 General Assembly session in June.

The FORUM Act would bar the practice of establishing “speech zones” effectively limiting where student groups could convene on campuses. It also would eliminate speech codes in state law by protecting what students can say and protect students’ right to free association for the expression of ideas.

Peachtree Corners has joined the surveillance nation after purchasing license plate readers. From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

The city council approved a contract to lease 25 license plate readers which will be installed at major ingress and egress points in the city. The goal is to use the cameras to capture information from vehicles reported as stolen or being driven by people wanted for entering autos, thefts, property damage and other crimes, which will in turn lead to the arrests of people wanted for those crimes.

“The City Council and I consider community safety of utmost importance,” Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason said. “The Gwinnett County Police Department provides excellent service to our residents and businesses, but we felt there was more that we could do to enhance the safety of our city.”

The Columbus Water Works board voted to delay a water rate hike for three months, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Glynn County Commissioners on Thursday will discuss a possible 2021 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to The Brunswick News.

Support for the proposed $110 million SPLOST 2020 all but evaporated among commissioners when faced with the possibility of an economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the time, tourism officials were predicting as much as a 90 percent drop in lodging revenue due to statewide lockdowns designed to slow the spread of the disease. Delta Air Lines experienced a 95 percent reduction in passengers flying in and out of the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport — a trend mirrored on the national stage, according to airport officials.

“I fear there’s quite a few folks who will be without jobs in November,” said commission chairman Mike Browning in April. “There’s going to be quite a few companies that have folded up and gone bankrupt. I’m not sure that’s going to be a good time to get the SPLOST passed.”

Things are starting to look up today, enough so for the county to consider placing a SPLOST referendum on the ballot in a March 16, 2021 special election, a draft memo to the city of Brunswick reads. The memo also includes a request to meet virtually with the Brunswick City Commission on Dec. 1 to hash out details.

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