Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 20, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 20, 2020

On November 21, 1620 (November 11 under the calendar used then), the first governing document of the English colony at Plymouth, Massachusetts, the Mayflower Compact, was signed by most of the male passengers of the Mayflower.

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.

The Georgia Trustees outlawed rum in the colony on November 21, 1733 after James Oglethorpe wrote them that it was responsible for sickness and death in Georgia. Two-hundred eighty-six years later, Richland Rum is being distilled with Georgia-grown sugar cane in Richland, Georgia.

North Carolina ratified the Constitution on November 21, 1789, becoming the twelfth state to do so.

On November 21, 1860 Governor Joseph Brown called a Secession Convention following the election of Abraham Lincoln as President.

The only major battle on Sherman’s March to the Sea occurred at Griswoldsville on November 22, 1864; on the same day, federal troops marched into Milledgeville.

November 21, 1922 was the first day of Rebecca Latimer Fulton’s service in the United States Senate from Georgia as the first woman to serve in that chamber.

Duane Allman was born in Nashville, Tennessee on November 20, 1946.

President John F. Kennedy lifted the naval blockade of Cuba on November 20, 1962, ending the Cuban Missile Crisis.

President John F. Kennedy became the fourth President of the United States to be assassinated in office on November 22, 1963.

On November 20, 1975, Ronald Reagan announced he would run for President of the United States against incumbent Republican Gerald Ford. On May 4, 1976, Reagan won Georgia’s Presidential Primary with 68% over Ford.

On November 22, 1988, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber was first unveiled publicly at Palmdale, California.

Back to the Future II was released on November 22, 1989.

Newt Gingrich was reelected Speaker of the House on November 20, 1996.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia’s unemployment rate hit its lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Georgia’s unemployment rate fell to 4.5% last month, the lowest since the coronavirus pandemic broke out last March, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

Joblessness, which hit a record low of 3.1% before the pandemic, has plummeted from an all-time high of 12.6% last April.

“The fact that we have so quickly reduced our unemployment rate to almost pre-pandemic levels demonstrates how strong our economy was prior to the crisis and how we are successfully recovering economically,” Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said. “(But) we still have a lot of work to do in order for growth to continue.”

The Georgia State Board of Education voted to nearly zero-out the weight of year-end standardized tests, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle.

Year-end standardized tests for Georgia public schools are poised to count for zero this school year after state education officials moved Thursday to lower the weight those scores have on students’ final grades from 20% to 0.01%.

The 0.01% grade weight is the most the annual Georgia Milestones tests can be watered down without running afoul of federal rules requiring schools to administer the tests. Normally, the tests count 20% toward final grades in Georgia.

On Thursday, members of the State Board of Education voted 10-3 to weight the test scores as essentially zero at a minimum, citing the disruptions to education in Georgia resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. School districts could still decide individually whether to increase the grade weights above zero for their students.

The change needs another vote from the state board before it can take effect. It also requires a 30-day public comment period before that vote.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, blamestorming to burnish her credentials for a plum spot in the Biden administration, blames a rash of night club shootings on Governor Brian Kemp, according to the AJC.

During a virtual press briefing with local media, Bottoms said people from other states whose leaders had shut down indoor service at their restaurants and bars because of a resurgence in COVID cases or had yet to reopen them were traveling to Atlanta to party.

“We’re open as if we are not in the midst of a pandemic,” Bottoms said. “There’s not a lot that we can do about that locally because obviously the governor has made the decision to keep the state open.”

The New York Times reports that Georgia’s recount/audit confirms Joe Biden as the next President of the United States.

After six days of hand-counting ballots, the Georgia secretary of state’s office reaffirmed on Thursday that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. had defeated President Trump in the state, which had long been considered a Republican stronghold.

The Trump campaign asked Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of Georgia, a Republican, for a full hand recount one week after Election Day. Mr. Raffensperger announced soon after that all 159 counties would participate in a “risk-limiting audit” that would include a hand recount. The audit of roughly five million votes was completed late Wednesday.

The process revealed a few significant hiccups in the process, with four counties — Floyd, Fayette, Walton and Douglas — discovering votes during the audit that were not part of the original count. Mr. Trump carried Floyd, Fayette and Walton Counties; Mr. Biden won Douglas County.

The state has until Friday to certify the election results. The Trump campaign then has two business days to request a second recount, which would be conducted using high-speed scanners.

The AJC looks at how local election officials confirm absentee ballot signatures.

Before election officials counted absentee ballots in Georgia, they checked voter signatures to help make sure that ballots came from the voters who returned them.

That verification process reviewed signatures on absentee ballot envelopes when they were received at county election offices. Then ballots are separated from envelopes to protect the secret ballot, leaving no way to link voters to the candidates they chose. The right to cast a ballot in secret is guaranteed by the state Constitution.

Another review of signatures on absentee ballot envelopes wouldn’t change election results during Georgia’s recount. That’s because even if more voter signatures were found to be invalid, election workers couldn’t connect those faulty signatures to a ballot after it’s been removed from the envelope.

The Floyd County Board of Elections fired their Chief Elections Clerk, according to the Rome News Tribune.

The Floyd County Board of Elections terminated Chief Elections Clerk Robert Brady during a called meeting Thursday, citing two reprimands in the past six months.

At the beginning of the meeting the board entered into a closed session, which is allowed under Georgia law for a few specific purposes. That closed session, in order to discuss personnel, lasted for over an hour and was followed by a motion to reprimand Brady “on the basis of repeated failure to meet performance objectives,” Elections Board member John Scott Husser said.

“There are a number of people in the community who have had grave concerns about Mr. Brady’s conduct of his office since June,” Rome City Commissioner Wendy Davis said. “I’m saddened that we had to have this complicated and messy election result to bring forward a new director in the elections office, but I think the elections board made the only decision they could logically make today.”

“Mr. Brady is a good guy who did a bad job of managing the election,” Floyd County GOP Chair Luke Martin said. “I don’t think he’s the only one at fault, but I appreciate the board taking a step in the right direction.”

United States District Court Judge Steven Grimberg dismissed a lawsuit by born-again Republican Lin Wood contesting the election results, according to the Albany Herald.

The suit, brought by Atlanta attorney Lin Wood, sought a restraining order to halt the results’ certification and compel another hand recount of Georgia’s more-than 5 million ballots, despite the fact a hand recount was done as part of an expanded audit of the results over the past week.

“To halt the certification at literally the 11th hour would breed confusion and potential disenfranchisement that I find has no basis in fact or in law,” said Grimberg, who is a Trump appointee.

Attorneys representing Wood alleged outside monitors were kept too much at arms-length from observing the recount and took aim at a recent legal settlement making it tougher to reject absentee ballots due to invalid signatures.

But lawyers from often at-odds parties representing both Republican and Democratic sides took turns criticizing Wood’s lawsuit at a hearing Thursday, rejecting both its legal merits and framing it as an ominous attempt to disenfranchise Georgia voters.

“The election is over, and rather than accept that his preferred candidate has lost, [Wood] seeks the largest disenfranchisement of eligible electors since the abolition of the poll tax and other vestiges of Jim Crow in the state of Georgia,” said Russ Willard, an attorney representing Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office.

The judge did, however, leave the door open for Trump and the Republican Party to join the lawsuit and boost its chances for possible future success, noting the president’s absence in the suit as the losing candidate in the election was “extremely significant.”

“That would have certainly changed the analysis when it comes to standing,” Grimberg said.

Hall County reported their audit/recount results, according to the Gainesville Times.

Georgia’s hand recount has reaffirmed former Vice President Joe Biden’s narrow lead over President Donald Trump in the state, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

The hand count found Biden ahead in Georgia by 12,284 votes, while the original count found Biden ahead by 12,780 votes. Trump gained a margin difference of 0.0099%, according to a report from the state. An additional 5,262 votes were counted in the hand count than the original count, according to the report.

In Hall, 90,523 votes were reported in the original count, while 90,643 votes were included in the hand count for a difference of 120 votes. In the original count, Trump was ahead in Hall by 39,139 votes, while in the hand count he came out ahead by 39,185 votes.

“The variation in margin of approximately 120 receipts between the tabulator count and the hand count is believed due primarily to human error in the hand count,” the statement continued. “The variation in margin does not affect any vote total of any candidate. Each candidate has received 100% of every qualified vote cast in their name. The audit confirmed that the election result as originally published and certificated by the Board Elections is valid. Every legally cast vote in Hall County has been properly counted.”

Bulloch County reported the results of their audit/recount, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Bulloch County election workers completed their part in the state-ordered “audit” recount of presidential election results Wednesday morning, with the effect that President-Elect Joseph R. Biden picked up five votes, current President Donald J. Trump picked up one vote, and four qualified write-in candidates were credited with a total of 19 votes in Bulloch.

The six previously uncounted votes for the two major-party nominees all came from hand-marked absentee ballots, said Bulloch County Election Supervisor Patricia Lanier Jones.

Glynn County Commissioners voted to move forward toward a 2021 referendum on a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), according to The Brunswick News.

It would be a follow-up to the 2016 SPLOST, a 1 percent sales tax that ended in September. They dropped initial plans to seek a new SPLOST this year when the COVID-19 outbreak hit Georgia, but the local economic outlook is beginning to look better, said Commissioner David O’Quinn.

County Attorney Aaron Mumford said the county can hold a SPLOST referendum in March or November 2021. To hold a special election in March county officials would need to meet with the Brunswick City Commission at least once to hammer out some details before the end of December.

Because three of the seven commissioners will be replaced in January, the current commission is essentially teeing up a SPLOST for the next group.

“This current (commission) is giving the next (commission) the ability to make that decision, with guidance from the city and the community,” O’Quinn said.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson is reimposing a mask mandate amid rising COVID-19 cases, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Columbus’ mask mandate will be reinstated effective Friday, November 20, Mayor Skip Henderson announced Thursday in a press release.

Muscogee County has had more than 100 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over the previous 14 days. Having a case rate above this number is required to instate a mask mandate, according to Governor Brian Kemp’s executive order. The case rate in Muscogee County is 132 cases per 100,000 people as of November 19.

The mask mandate will go into effect at noon Friday. The mask mandate had previously been suspended October 22 when the city’s case rate had fallen below 100 cases per 100k people for the previous 14 consecutive days. Henderson first issued the mask mandate August 21 when the case rate was 332 cases per 100,000 people. Experts and officials widely endorsed the mask mandate as an effective tactic in lowering COVID-19 case rates.

A facial covering or mask is required in any public place, private business, establishment, or corporation. The mask should be worn over the mouth and nose at all times whenever it is difficult to maintain six feet of social distance between people. Masks are not required in a personal vehicle or residence.

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