Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 24, 2020


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for November 24, 2020

President George Washington declared November 26, 1789 the first “public day of thanksgiving and prayer.”

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
Go. Washington

On November 25, 1864, Sherman’s 14th and 20th Corps moved toward Sandersville while the 17th Corps fought briefly against a mix of Kentucky Militia, Georgia Military Institute cadets, and Georgia convicts.

On November 25, 1867, Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel filed a patent for dynamite. On November 25, 1895, Nobel wrote his will, leaving the equivalent of roughly $186 million (2008 dollars) to endow the Nobel prizes.

On November 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Fourth Thursday in November as the modern Thanksgiving celebration.

[I]t was not until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to fall on the last Thursday of November, that the modern holiday was celebrated nationally.

With a few deviations, Lincoln’s precedent was followed annually by every subsequent president–until 1939. In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt departed from tradition by declaring November 23, the next to last Thursday that year, as Thanksgiving Day. Considerable controversy surrounded this deviation, and some Americans refused to honor Roosevelt’s declaration. For the next two years, Roosevelt repeated the unpopular proclamation, but on November 26, 1941, he admitted his mistake and signed a bill into law officially making the fourth Thursday in November the national holiday of Thanksgiving Day.

On the same day, a Japanese navy fleet left port headed toward Pearl Harbor.

President John F. Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on November 25, 1963.

Construction on the Georgia Dome began on November 24, 1989.

On November 24, 1992, Republican Paul D. Coverdell defeated Democratic incumbent Wyche Fowler in the runoff election for United States Senate. We are thankful that Georgia has runoff elections, not something silly like drawing straws or instant runoff voting.


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp‘s Press Office released the following as he certified this month’s General Elections results.

[F]rom the Governor’s Ceremonial Office at the Georgia State Capitol, Governor Brian P. Kemp delivered the following remarks regarding the results of the 2020 election in Georgia:

“Good afternoon. COVID-19 has introduced numerous challenges to county and state elections officials as they work to keep Georgia elections secure, accessible, and fair. Given the record number of absentee ballots and narrow margin in the November 3rd election for president in Georgia, I joined many in backing a hand recount and urging a thorough investigation into any voting irregularities. The Secretary of State oversaw a complete audit which revealed significant errors made in several counties, including: Floyd, Fayette, Douglas, and Walton.”

“It is important for Georgians to know that the vast majority of local election workers did their job well under unprecedented circumstances, and I thank them for their service. However, it’s quite honestly hard to believe that during the audit, thousands of uncounted ballots were found weeks after a razor-thin outcome in a presidential election. This is simply unacceptable. I have heard directly from countless Georgians. They expect better, and they deserve better.”

“It’s important to note that this audit only looked at ballots, not the signatures on the absentee applications or the signatures on the ballot envelopes. The Georgians I have heard from are extremely concerned about this, so I encourage Secretary Raffensperger to consider addressing these concerns. It seems simple enough to conduct a sample audit of signatures on the absentee ballot envelopes and compare those to the signatures on applications and on file at the Secretary of State’s Office.”

“This morning, the Secretary announced his support of strengthened photo ID requirements for absentee balloting. Voters casting their ballots in person must show photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting. I have heard from many members of the General Assembly, and I appreciate their input and share their concerns. I look forward to working with Lt. Governor Duncan, Speaker Ralston, and members of both bodies to address the issues that have been raised over the last few weeks.”

“Earlier today, Secretary Raffensperger presented the certified results of the 2020 general election to my office. Following Judge Grimberg’s ruling yesterday, state law now requires the Governor’s Office to formalize the certification, which paves the way for the Trump campaign to pursue other legal options and a separate recount if they choose. Georgia has runoff elections for two U.S. Senate seats and a Public Service Commissioner scheduled to occur over the next several weeks. We demand complete explanations for all the discrepancies identified so that our citizens will have complete confidence in our elections. In the runoff election, we cannot have lost memory cards or stacks of uncounted ballots. We must have full transparency in all monitoring and counting. Every legal vote must be counted, and the security of the ballot box must be protected.”

“As Governor, I have the solemn responsibility to follow the law, and that is what I will continue to do. We must all work together to ensure citizens have confidence in future elections in our state. Thank you, God bless you, and may God continue to bless the Great State of Georgia.”

Maybe the third time will be a charm? Georgia begins the recount requested by the Trump campaign of all ballots in the General Election for President, according to the Associated Press via the Gainesville Times.

The Trump campaign on Saturday sent a formal request for a recount to the secretary of state’s office.

The counties can begin the recount at 9 a.m. Tuesday and must finish by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 2, Gabriel Sterling, who oversaw the implementation of the state’s new voting system for the secretary of state’s office, said during a video news conference Monday. The counties are to give public notice of when during that period they will be counting so monitors from political parties and any interested members of the public can be there to observe, Sterling said.

Hall County officials said they will be rescanning all ballots, which include early voting, election day ballots, absentee ballots by mail and provisional ballots.

This will take place from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday and then 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. It will resume at 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30, as well as Tuesday, Dec. 1.

The ballots will be adjudicated Wednesday, Dec. 2, in the lower level of the government center, which is at 2875 Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville.

This will be the third time the votes in the presidential race have been counted in Georgia. After the initial count following Election Day, Raffensperger selected the presidential race for an audit required by state law. Because of the tight margin, he said, the audit required every vote in that contest to be recounted by hand.

From the Rome News Tribune:

The Floyd County Board of Elections will be participating in a statewide recount beginning today on the second floor of the Floyd County Administration Building at 12 East 4th Ave.

The recount will take place from noon to 5 p.m. today and will resume on Wednesday at 9 a.m. and end by 2 p.m. The recount will continue Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of the following week beginning Nov. 30 and will take place from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day with the possibility of longer hours depending on need in order to meet the deadline of Dec. 2 at midnight.

Floyd County Elections Board Chair Tom Rees said he expected the local recount to take no more than a day and a half.

The statewide process will not involve inspecting or matching signatures on absentee ballot envelopes, which Trump’s allies have called for to weed out any potential instances of mail-in voter fraud – though so far no evidence has been presented of such widespread fraud in Georgia.

From the Savannah Morning News:

Chatham County Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges said that the planning and organizing session will preclude the scanning of ballots scheduled to begin Wednesday. Scanner tests will be conducted Wednesday morning.

Scanning ballots for the recount should take about two days, Bridges said, but the plan is to break for the Thanksgiving weekend and resume the count on Monday.

The work will be done at the Elections Annex located at 10 Mall Terrace, Bldg. C.

From the AJC (1/2):

Cobb County began its recount of the presidential race Tuesday by testing the eight scanners that will be used to tally votes in order to make sure they are operating properly.

Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler said election workers will use a test deck of 100 ballots, 25 of which are hand-written and 75 from the ballot-marking devices used at precincts.

“We have to take the memory sticks out of the scanners and take them back to the main office,” Eveler said. “If they don’t come up with the same result as what we expect, then they can’t be used in the scanning.”

Eveler said she expects Cobb’s recount to continue until the deadline on Dec. 2. She said it was “time-consuming” but part of the normal process.

“We do have a short timeframe for the runoff, so we do have lot of work ahead of us,” she said, referring to the two Jan. 5 senate runoffs.

Cobb has already received more than 30,000 absentee ballot applications for that race.

From the AJC (2/2):

DeKalb County planned to start its part of Georgia’s last statewide recount on Tuesday morning.

And while details were still murky, local elections officials said the state was only permitting a certain kind of scanner to be used for the effort — meaning they had only nine machines available to scan some 373,000 ballots. DeKalb officials originally estimated they would have 50 scanners available.

“We only have nine scanners available to use for this recount effort, so we are having to be creative with our staffing and resources,” DeKalb County elections director Erica Hamilton said in a news release. “When you add in a pair of runoffs and a major holiday taking place at the same time, we are stretched thin to accomplish the recount by the designated timeline.”

Hamilton said the county has “moved swiftly to ask the Secretary of State for additional scanners to help us accomplish the recount.”

As of Tuesday morning, DeKalb planned to utilize around 100 staffers to batch and scan ballots during the recount. Operations are being held at a former Sam’s Club store on Turner Hill Road in Stonecrest, which was used as an early voting location and hosted DeKalb’s recent manual audit of presidential ballots.

From Riley Bunch, writing for the Valdosta Daily Times:

The unprecedented statewide hand audit of the presidential race upheld Biden as victor, with only a slight difference after initially untallied votes were discovered and added to the original machine count.

Varying margins between the initial machine tally, the audit and the ongoing recount were always expected, according to election officials.

Statewide voting implementation managers told reporters Monday the Georgia Secretary of State’s office expects the margin to vary again after the recount and likely be even closer to the original machine count because the process will be the same.

Absentee ballots will again be run through the scanner and flagged if the machine cannot read them. A bipartisan panel will adjudicate those ballots — the same process as the initial count after election night — and determine the intent of the voter.

Trump and his supporters have repeatedly requested re-verification of signatures on voters’ absentee ballots with the state’s voter registration file — a process that election officials said is unfounded at this stage.

Sterling said the office has found no widespread evidence that signatures were not matched properly and have “no reason to believe” there have been issues since signature-match rejection rates were as expected and voters were also allowed to “cure” their ballots if they were notified of an issue.

“Both parties knew the rules on this on the front end,” he said. “So now coming up with a generalized grievance afterwards that there may have been an issue because the person that I wanted to win didn’t is not a reason to have an investigation.”

From an explainer by the Ledger-Enquirer:

It’s unlikely the Georgia Secretary of State’s office will further examine absentee voter signatures despite calls from top Republicans ahead of the state’s recount, a top election official told reporters Monday.

Under state law, the identification or signature of voters is checked twice during the absentee voting process, and an accepted ballot can’t be traced back to a signed envelope once the two are separated. The process protects ballot secrecy.

But county election officials keep the signed envelopes for two years. Currently, there’s no state law requiring or outlining the process for rechecking envelope signatures against the state database after those signatures were already confirmed, said Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system implementation manager.

“If a court orders it or if we have specific investigatory reasons, you do it,” he said of auditing the signatures. “If we make a precedent of ‘I don’t like the outcome. Therefore, we should start investigating random parts of the process.’ …It’s a bad precedent.”

In the meantime, counties are processing absentee ballot request for runoff elections, according to the AJC.

The recount comes as election officials in Georgia are preparing for a hotly contested Jan. 5 runoff election for two U.S. Senate seats that will determine which party controls the chamber beginning in January.

As of Monday, 762,000 people had already requested absentee ballots for the runoff – triple the number who voted absentee in the 2018 general election.

What’s more, some counties are also holding special elections next Tuesday. Fulton County, for example, will hold a special runoff election to fill the last few weeks of the unexpired term of Rep. John Lewis, who died in July, plus a runoff for state Senate District 39.

The Georgia State Elections Board adopted new regulations governing the processing of absentee ballots for the runoff elections, according to the AJC.

Some 762,000 people have already requested absentee ballots for the runoff, which features two U.S. Senate races that will determine which party controls the chamber beginning in January.

That’s already three times the number of absentee ballots cast in the 2018 general election, Ryan Germany, general counsel for the secretary of state’s office, told the election board. Some 1.3 million people cast absentee ballots in this month’s general election.

To accommodate those ballots, the board extended an authorization for counties across the state to provide drop boxes for absentee ballots — an authorization made last spring and renewed in July amid the coronavirus pandemic. Counties must use video recording to monitor the boxes and adopt other security measures.

The board also modified another temporary rule approved earlier this year. That rule allowed — but did not require — counties to begin opening and scanning absentee ballots before Election Day. The revised rule requires counties to begin processing absentee ballots a week and a day before Election Day. The votes would not be tabulated until after the polls close on Election Day.

Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Atlanta) will return to campaigning after testing negative for COVID-19, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“Tonight, Senator Loeffler received her second consecutive negative PCR test result. She continues to feel great, and has no symptoms. She looks forward to getting back out on the campaign trail,” Loeffler’s communications director Stephen Lawson announced on Monday.

Loeffler had self-isolated after getting mixed test results — two negative rapid tests, followed by a both a positive test and another polymerase chain reaction screening that was “inconclusive.”

With 50 Senate seats secured, Republicans need a win from Loeffler or Perdue over Jon Ossoff for control. If Warnock and Ossoff were to sweep the races resulting in a 50-50 Senate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would have the tie-breaking vote.

United States District Court Judge Richard Mark Gergel ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to abandon its plan for removing the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

U.S. District Judge Richard Mark Gergel sided with the state of South Carolina and the city of Augusta in finding the proposed plan did not meet the requirements of a 2016 federal law that if the lock and dam were removed, the pool of water must be maintained at the level it was at the time.

“In February of 2019, we all witnessed the damage caused when there was a drawdown to simulate water levels if the proposed plan moved forward,” Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis said in a statement. “The simulation caused the seawall to bend and demonstrated what would happen if one of Augusta’s greatest resources was demolished.”

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission is soliciting proposals for growing and processing the plant, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Savannah Morning News.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission voted Monday to release a Request for Proposals (RFP) that will lead to the granting of two “Class 1” licenses and four “Class 2″ licenses to grow marijuana indoors and manufacture the oil derived from the plants.

The RFP is based on input from the state attorney general’s office and the Georgia Department of Administrative Services (DOAS).

Starting the licensing process is a major step forward for a program that has been slow to get off the ground since the General Assembly passed legislation in April of last year legalizing the cultivation of marijuana in Georgia, conversion of the leaf into cannabis oil and the sale of the drug to eligible patients.

Commission Executive Director Andrew Turnage, appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp last May, said the DOAS is expected to post the RFP on the Georgia Procurement Registry by Wednesday.

Glynn County Commissioners may postpone the effective date of short-term rental regulations they’re considering, according to The Brunswick News.

County commissioners approved new regulations governing short-term rental units in October with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2021. That timeframe might have been a bit optimistic, according to county officials.

The county finance committee will consider today whether to recommend the county commission push the date back to April 1, 2021.

“It’s going to be a complex new ordinance to administer, and all along we’ve been talking about outside third-party outsourcing of the administrative issue,” said commissioner Peter Murphy, the most vocal proponent of the regulations. “It’s a little complicated to be done in-house.”

To make sure there’s enough time for bidding the project out and implementing it, Bragdon writes that IT personnel want to delay the effected date to April 1, 2021.

“One could say maybe we should have anticipated this, but myself being the commissioner most intimately involved with the ordinance, I didn’t know until the vote that we were actually going to pass the ordinance,” Murphy said.

Most Gwinnett County government offices will be closed Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

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