Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 18, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 18, 2020

Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 18, 1863.

Carl Vinson was born on November 18, 1883 in Baldwin County, Georgia. At noon on that day, U.S. and Canadian railroads implemented four time zones for the first time.

Efficient rail transportation demanded a more uniform time-keeping system. Rather than turning to the federal governments of the United States and Canada to create a North American system of time zones, the powerful railroad companies took it upon themselves to create a new time code system. The companies agreed to divide the continent into four time zones; the dividing lines adopted were very close to the ones we still use today.

Most Americans and Canadians quickly embraced their new time zones, since railroads were often their lifeblood and main link with the rest of the world. However, it was not until 1918 that Congress officially adopted the railroad time zones and put them under the supervision of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Mickey Mouse debuted in a black-and-white film called “Steamboat Willie” on November 18, 1928.

On November 18, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled from Washington, DC to Savannah, Georgia by train for Georgia’s Bicentennial and delivered a speech at Municipal Stadium.

Carl Vinson was honored on his 81st birthday in Milledgeville, Georgia on November 18, 1964; Vinson did not run for reelection in 1964 and retired after 50 years in office.

President Richard M. Nixon flew into Robins Air Force Base for Carl Vinson’s 90th birthday on November 18, 1973; on the trip he announced the next American nuclear supercarrier would be named USS Carl Vinson.

Nixon Vinson 1973

President Richard Nixon, Secretary of the Navy John Warner, Carl Vinson, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird on November 18, 1973. John Warner would later be the namesake of USS John Warner, a Virginia-class nuclear submarine.

On November 18, 1989, Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey signed the Abortion Control Act, the first abortion restrictions enacted after Roe v. Wade.

The private railcar used by FDR for many trips during his presidency was loaned by Norfolk Southern to the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth this weekend. From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s private rail car during his days as governor of New York and through the first years of his presidency, known as the Marco Polo, now resides in Duluth.

This past Saturday Norfolk Southern honored its rich history by officially loaning the Marco Polo train car to the Southeastern Railway Museum — Georgia’s official transportation history museum. The exchange comes just days after the presidential election in the U.S., making the car’s history that much more significant.

Roosevelt rented the almost-new car from the Pullman Company in 1927 and had it modified to meet his special needs in coping with his disability. Only one of those modifications, a brass rail above the president’s bed, remains in place today. Roosevelt most likely used this rail to help himself out of bed.

The loan of the Marco Polo to the Southeastern Railway Museum comes on the eve of Norfolk Southern’s relocation of its headquarters to Atlanta, expected to be completed by the summer of 2021. Norfolk Southern’s purpose for the loan was to begin sharing the historical freight rail past with local communities, and claim a stake in the ground as neighbors in the Duluth community.

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The results of the statewide audit/recount will not change the official election results, according to the AJC.

Georgia election officials said Tuesday they no longer intend to make the results of the state’s manual recount the official tally in the presidential race, with a couple of exceptions.

But some votes that weren’t originally counted will be added to the state’s totals. Election officials in Floyd and Fayette counties discovered ballots they hadn’t previously been tabulated, and those votes will be included in final counts. After accounting for those ballots, Biden’s lead will shrink to about 13,000 votes.

The change in how the recount is handled came after lawyers for the secretary of state’s office reviewed Georgia law and concluded that the new hand count shouldn’t replace the original machine count of scanned ballots, said Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager.

If the audit uncovers serious discrepancies, as it did when ballots were found in Floyd and Fayette counties this week, county election officials will redo their original machine counts and then report a new total that will become a part of the official count.

The audit is intended to verify which candidate won rather than determine a perfect vote count, he said.

From the AJC:

In more tweets on Saturday, Trump railed against a non-existent consent decree approved by Gov. Kemp, apparently referring to a settlement this year between Raffensperger and the Democratic Party of Georgia requiring election workers to consult with two of their peers before rejecting absentee ballots because of possible mismatched signatures.

“What are they trying to hide. They know, and so does everyone else. EXPOSE THE CRIME!” Trump said….

Trump continued his broadside against the state’s recount on Sunday, tweeting that the effort “is a scam, means nothing,” though there’s no evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities.

Sterling, the voting system manager, said the signatures on envelopes were verified by counties on the front end. County elections managers say they matched them against signatures from voter registration applications, signatures on file with the Department of Driver Services, or signatures on applications to receive the ballots.

The envelopes have since been separated from ballots, so while the signatures could be verified yet again, it’s not possible to tell who the person voted for. Ballot secrecy is protected by state and federal election laws.

Another audit was completed, this of voting machines, according to the Gainesville Times.

A random audit of a sample of Georgia’s new voting machines found no evidence of hacking or tampering, the state’s top elections official said Tuesday.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger last week asked Pro V&V, an Alabama-based testing laboratory, to do the audit, his office said in a news release. The company “found no evidence of the machines being tampered.”

“We are glad but not surprised that the audit of the state’s voting machines was an unqualified success,” Raffensperger said in the release.

The audit was done on a random sample of voting machines from Cobb, Douglas, Floyd, Morgan, Paulding and Spalding counties. The equipment tested included the touchscreen voting machines, precinct scanners and absentee ballot scanners.

The company took the software and firmware out of the equipment to check that the only software and firmware present was that certified for use by the secretary of state’s office, the release says.

Fayette County election workers found 2700 votes that were not previously counted during the audit/recount, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

State election officials said Tuesday that one Georgia county initially failed to upload 2,800 ballots, which when tallied cut President-elect Joe Biden’s lead by 500 votes.

Biden currently leads Trump in Georgia by almost 13,000 votes.

Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system implementation manager, said Fayette County election workers will upload those votes and recertify their election results. Of the 2,755 early in-person votes, about 1,600 were cast for Donald Trump and 1,100 were cast for Biden.

In cases of errors like the ones in Floyd and Fayette, counties will update their election results. The purpose of Georgia’s audit under current law is to confirm the outcome of the election, not the exact margins.

There’s a potential vote issue in Walton County as well, Sterling said. There may be a memory card with 224 votes that were not uploaded.

From the Newnan Times-Herald:

The only change in Coweta’s presidential election numbers was some write-in votes for Joe Biden. Those were sent to a ballot review board and counted, said Coweta Elections Director Jane Scoggins.

From WDEF:

Murray County had no changes.

Catoosa County had one more for President Trump

Whitfield reported a net swing of 33 for President Trump.

Going into the recount, Joe Biden led Donald Trump by about 14,000 votes.

Now, with the new Floyd and Fayette numbers, the Biden lead is down to 12,929 votes.

From the Athens Banner Herald:

Athens-Clarke County elections workers finished their hand recount of votes in the Nov. 3 presidential election Tuesday morning, well ahead of a midnight Wednesday deadline, and with results closely matching the original tally.

Oconee County has also finished its hand recount, called a “risk limiting audit,” completing the process Saturday.

Athens-Clarke County Director of Elections and Voter Registration Charlotte Sosebee said she was pleased with the results of the audit. The final totals were only six ballots off from the 51,773 Clarke votes originally recorded from the Nov. 3 election, she said.

In the presidential election in Oconee, Trump got 16,595 votes, Biden 8,162 and Libertarian Party candidate Jo Jorgensen 411.

In Clarke, Biden got 36,048 votes, Trump 14,446 and Jorgensen 839.

From the Gainesville Times:

Hall County completed its hand recount of the presidential race Sunday, Nov. 15, a process that took about three days to review 91,035 ballots in Hall.

On Friday, people in Hall counted 16,000, then another 24,000 Saturday. Now, 150 ballots will go to adjudication panels. Although 1,093 ballots went to adjudication in the county’s first count, some ballots do not need to be adjudicated twice and are sorted separately, such as those with an “overvote,” according to Elections Director Lori Wurtz.

Final election results by candidate have not been tallied yet, and the county is awaiting further details from the state about final tallying, Wurtz said Monday.

From the Savannah Morning News:

On Tuesday, they were entering information from the hand audit into the system. They were up to around 100,000 of the 133,496 total votes cast, on pace to be finished by the Wednesday deadline.

As the BOE team finishes the audit process, the results are put into a database and uploaded to a tool called ARLO. Once uploaded, the results from the hand audit will be compared with the certified Chatham results already on file with the Secretary of State’s office.

“The whole intent of the audit is not a new set of results. The audit is a test of the certified results,” BOE Supervisor Russell Bridges said.

Sterling also addressed claims of illegal votes being cast in the election, noting that “in every single election in the history of mankind,” illegal votes have been cast. He said the SOS office will investigate any claims of illegal voting.

“There have been illegal votes cast. We know that,” Sterling said. “We have not seen any evidence of 13,378 of those cast.”

Georgia State Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan (R-Carrollton) said the legislature will not replace Georgia’s presidential electors with a pro-Trump slate, according to the Times-Georgian.

The majority leader of the state senate said Tuesday he will not support substituting a slate of Trump electors for one pledged to President-elect Joe Biden.

Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, also told Carrollton Rotary Club members that while he was personally disappointed with former Vice President Joe Biden’s apparent victory over President Donald Trump, he seemed to discount theories and strategies advanced by fellow Republicans to reverse that loss.

“At the end of the day, I think [the vote] is going to turn out differently than what I wanted — but that has happened to me before in elections,” he said. “I will respect the people in this state on how that election has turned out.”

In particular, he rejected a plan suggested by some to send a special slate of Trump electors to vote in the Electoral College instead of electors pledged to vote for Biden.

“Our nation as we know it would collapse, and everything we’ve ever fought for, stood for, and argued for would go out the window because we did not like the results for the president’s race in our state,” he said.

“I swore, as many people have in this room, that I would support and defend the Constitution, not a person. Whether I like that person or not, I am not going to change my colors right now to go against everything I fought for and everything that I believe in.”

[H]e added the likelihood that a special session will be called is slim because it lacks the required three-fifths majority vote from both chambers of the state legislature.

The Floyd County Board of Elections meets Thursday, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Floyd County Elections Board called meeting on Thursday will likely focus on a call from Georgia’s Secretary of State for chief elections clerk Robert Brady to step down, after an audit found over 2,500 ballots in the presidential race weren’t counted.

The board is scheduled to meet at the county administration building at noon, and will go directly into closed session to discuss a personnel matter, according to Elections Board member Melanie Conrad.

Brady is currently in quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure, but has been in touch with county officials concerning the findings of the audit.

Gwinnett County announced it will start early voting for the January runoff elections in mid December, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County commissioners voted Tuesday afternoon to approve a late December early voting schedule that will run Dec. 14-31, with the exception of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which are county holidays. Gwinnett Elections Supervisor Kristi Royston said the early voting period will end on a Thursday because the Friday of that week — New Year’s Day — is a county holiday.

The early voting period includes two weekends where voters would be able to cast ballots.

In addition to the Senate runoffs, there will also be a runoff for Georgia Public Service Commissioner Bubba McDonald’s seat on the Jan. 5 ballot. McDonald finished just shy of the 50% he needed to secure re-election on Nov. 3.

Voting hours at Gwinnett’s early voting locations would be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the elections headquarters in Lawrenceville and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Bogan Park community recreation center, Dacula Park activity building, George Pierce Park community recreation center, Lenora Park gym, Lucky Shoals Park community recreation center, Mountain Park activity building, Shorty Howell Park activity building and possibly the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds — depending on whether the fairgrounds are available.

“We have not discussed an additional site if the fairgrounds are not available,” Royston told commissioners.

Dalton City Council is asking residents to wear masks, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Dalton Mayor David Pennington said at the start of Monday’s City Council meeting that the Greater Dalton area is “seeing signs of a resurgence” of the new coronavirus (COVID-19).

In a statement on behalf of the council, Pennington noted that the council has mandated that everyone entering a city building must wear a mask and continued to uphold that mandate.

“We all still need to take steps to protect ourselves and others from the virus,” Pennington said. “Those actions include, but are not limited to, wearing masks or facial coverings over the nose and mouth when in public places, keeping a minimum safe distance of 6 feet from other people, avoiding large gatherings and frequently washing hands and sanitizing surfaces.”

“We urge the people of Dalton to take this seriously and wear your masks and keep your social distancing up. This isn’t a political issue — it’s about public health and keeping our economic recovery going,” Pennington said.

Cook County public schools will close for 14 days to quarantine, according to the Valdosta Daily News.

Cook County School System is planning a 14-day school closure, allowing faculty, staff and students to quarantine. The plan’s details are forthcoming, Superintendent Dr. Timothy Dixon said Tuesday.

As it stands, Nov. 16-18 will be regular school days, but the school system is giving the option of self-quarantining before the official period starts with no consequence to attendance.

The official period of self-quarantining begins Thursday, Nov. 19, through Wednesday, Dec. 2, officially reopening on Thursday, Dec. 3.

“We were getting shorthanded as far as adults in one of our buildings and our teachers were just really stretched thin in covering classes of teachers that were out,” [Superintendent Dr. Timothy] Dixon said.

In Clarke County, a second school went to online learning after an outbreak, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission passed an anti-discrimination ordinance, according to the Macon Telegraph.

If Mayor Robert Reichert does not veto the ordinance, it will prohibit discrimination in these areas based on race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity or military status.

The Augusta Commission adopted a reduced FY 2021 budget due to lower than expected revenues caused by the pandemic, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The $802.6 million total budget for 2021 passed 9-1, with Commissioner Marion Williams the sole objector. The total budget for 2020 was almost $130 million more than the 2021 budget and included about $45 million less in capital expenditures and $50 million less in its Enterprise Funds among other reductions.

The commission was able to get to a balanced budget by wiping out a $8.125 million difference between revenues and expenditures in the $167.7 million General Fund. That came from eliminating a transfer to Transit of $3.868 million, taking $2.5 million from reserves, an upward adjustment to the revenue projections of $1,029,500 and reductions in travel and contributions.

Some commissioners and Mayor Hardie Davis also want to look at potentially reducing licensing fees by 25% but that discussion will happen at a later meeting. Commissioner Brandon Garrett said the reduction would reflect the amount of time many of the city’s small businesses were closed by shelter-in-place orders and other factors.

Lula voters approved two referendums on Sunday alcohol sales, according to the Gainesville Times.

On Nov. 3, voters in Lula gave the okay to two alcohol sales questions – Sunday sales of beer and wine and sales of alcohol by the drink – but so far businesses have not been able to take advantage of the new rules.

City attorney Joey Homans told Lula City Council members at a Monday night meeting elections officials in Hall County have certified the results of the local election, but so far have not sent the verification to him.

“I’ve asked them to provide something to the city showing that the results of the referendum are certified because that’s when the Sunday sales would be permitted,” Homans said.

Gwinnett County Commission Chair Charlotte Nash presented her final budget proposal, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“It is a transitional budget,” Nash said. “(And) we’ve also taken a little bit different approach with it because of the uncertainty related to the pandemic, both impact on revenues and potential additional costs, the uncertainty of how things are going to play out, the timing of the vaccine distribution process and that sort of thing.”

On Tuesday morning, Nash presented her final budget proposal to county leaders, including current commissioners as well as the three new commissioners — including a new chairwoman — who will take office in January.

There wasn’t much in the way of frills in the $1.91 billion budget — which is up from the $1.84 billion approved for this year — but it does include some new items. Although it does include about 60 new positions, 33 of them are in the Gwinnett County Police Department.

The county is planning to cut general operating expenses in each department by 3%, but Nash said that will not impact employees salaries. Those are cost savings that could be made elsewhere, she said.

Commission Chairwoman-elect Nicole Love Hendrickson, who will have to see the budget carried out, said she plans to ask staff several questions about the budget during a meeting scheduled for next week, but she thanked Nash for the flexibility built into the budget.

“I really appreciate you giving us some flexibility for allowing us to have funding in the budget to do some things that we want to do collectively as board,” Hendrickson said. “There are some things, from a goals standpoint, that we would like to address collectively and I think that it is very important that we have that flexibility.”

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