Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 19, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 19, 2021

On February 20, 1792, President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act, creating the United States Postal Service.

The act allowed for newspapers to be included in mail deliveries and made it illegal for postal officials to open anyone’s mail.

On February 19, 1807, Aaron Burr was arrested in the Mississippi Territory, in what is now Alabama. Burr had served as Vice President during the first term of President Thomas Jefferson, leaving the administration after the 1804 election; later Jefferson issued a warrant accusing Burr of treason.

The Washington Monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885.

On February 21, 1940, John Robert Lewis was born in Pike County, Alabama. In 1963, Lewis became President of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, based in Atlanta. In 1981, Lewis was elected to an at-large seat on the Atlanta City Council, and in 1986, he was elected to Congress, defeating Julian Bond in the Democratic Primary. He represented Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District from 1987 until his death on July 17, 2020.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the military to remove from military areas any people whose exclusion was “necessary or desirable.” By June 1942, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans had been interned in concentration camps in the western United States. On the same day, the United States War Department announced that a new bomber plant would be built in Marietta, Georgia.

On February 21, 1958, Governor Marvin Griffin signed legislation creating the Stone Mountain Memorial Association to oversee construction and operation of a Confederate memorial and public park at the site.

On February 20, 1970, Georgia ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote. The Amendment states:

Section 1. The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Seriously. 1970. Luckily ratification occurred when Tennessee approved adoption of the Amendment on April 18, 1920.

Interestingly, the only case in which the United States Supreme Court has addressed the Nineteenth Amendment arose in Georgia. Breedlove v. Suttles was a suit brought in Fulton County Superior Court concerning the poll tax. Here’s an excerpt:

The tax being upon persons, women may be exempted on the basis of special considerations to which they are naturally entitled. In view of burdens necessarily borne by them for the preservation of the race, the state reasonably may exempt them from poll taxes.

The laws of Georgia declare the husband to be the head of the family and the wife to be subject to him. To subject her to the levy would be to add to his burden. Moreover, Georgia poll taxes are laid to raise money for educational purposes, and it is the father’s duty to provide for education of the children. Discrimination in favor of all women being permissible, appellant may not complain because the tax is laid only upon some or object to registration of women without payment of taxes for previous years.

Privilege of voting is not derived from the United States, but is conferred by the state and, save as restrained by the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments and other provisions of the Federal Constitution, the state may condition suffrage as it deems appropriate.

It is fanciful to suggest that the Georgia law is a mere disguise under which to deny or abridge the right of men to vote on account of their sex. The challenged enactment is not repugnant to the Nineteenth Amendment.

Bless their hearts.

On February 20, 1974, Reg Murphy, an editor for The Atlanta Constitution was kidnapped and held until managing editor G. James Minter delivered $700,000 in ransom. I’m not sure if they’d pay 700 cents to get any employee back nowadays.

On February 21, 1998, Julian Bond was selected as Chairman of the NAACP. Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, but the House initially refused to seat him due to his opposition to the war in Vietnam. The United States Supreme Court eventually ruled against the House and Bond was sworn in on January 9, 1967, serving there until his election to the Georgia State Senate. In 1986, Bond left the Senate to run for Congress.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp announced a new website, MyVaccineGeorgia, to pre-register for Covid vaccination, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The governor’s update came as more than 1.6 million vaccines have been given to eligible Georgians so far, including roughly 500,000 second doses, according to state Department of Public Health data.

The website, myvaccinegeorgia.com, allows Georgians to pre-register for a vaccine appointment even if they do not yet qualify under the governor’s eligibility criteria. They will be notified once they qualify and scheduled for an appointment.

Kemp said on Thursday he is not yet ready to expand who is eligible in Georgia for the vaccine beyond health-care workers, nursing home residents and staff, first responders and people age 65 and older and their caregivers — but that he may do so in the next couple of weeks.

The four mass vaccination sites in metro Atlanta, Clarkesville, Macon and Albany will open Monday and initially administer around 22,000 vaccines per week among them, Kemp said. Those sites can gear up quickly to handle more doses once the federal government allocates more weekly shipments, he added.

From 13WMAZ:

Kemp kicked it off by talking about the decline in seven day COVID-19 numbers. He says there’s been a 70% decrease since January, as well as a 55% decrease in hospitalizations.

He then said there are still high death totals, which is why vaccinations are important.

“This virus is still deadly and still must be taken very seriously,” Kemp said. “We must remain vigilant.”

From WSB-TV:

“Given the significant progress made over the last few weeks in vaccinating our current 1A+ population and the gradually increasing supply we are receiving from the federal government, the state and the department of public health will be finalizing our plans for expanded vaccination criteria within the next two weeks,” Kemp said during the news conference Thursday.

Kemp said the Georgia Department of Education sent out a survey to the school districts to get an understanding of how many teachers and staff would get the vaccine.

Kemp said roughly 45% of roughly 171,000 staff members said they “would choose to be vaccinated,” though it didn’t include responses from about three dozen school districts.

Senate Bill 40 by State Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta) was recommended for passage by the Senate Ethics Committee, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The legislation would require counties to begin opening absentee ballot envelopes the Monday before Election Day to speed up the tabulating process. The original legislation would have allowed counties to open absentees early if they wished. But the committee amended the bill to require it.

An emergency order before the general election authorized counties to begin processing absentee ballots the Monday ahead of Election Day. Before the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs in Georgia, the secretary of state issued another order that required it.

“We saw a very smooth process after that, All this bill does is try to get in line with that so that counties can pre-process — not tabulate absentee ballot — so that we can get results to people sooner,” Jordan said Thursday. “So that people can feel like the process is working, and it also takes a significant burden off the counties and local election officials with respect to Election Day.”

In the same meeting Thursday, a handful of bills passed in a split vote with Democrats against and Republicans in favor. They include a bill that would require voters to submit a photocopy of their ID, a driver’s license number or another form of accepted ID when requesting an absentee ballot.

“There is nothing in here that is an attempt to make it harder to vote or to obstruct people from being able to vote by absentee,” Sen. Larry Walker, R-Perry, said. “It is simply a measure to kind of bring our code up to what is currently being practiced. Practices have changed over time and especially in this past election cycle, due to COVID.”

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Augusta Chronicle:

[Senate Bill 67] sponsored by state Sen. Larry Walker III, R-Perry, would require voters seeking to request and cast absentee ballots to provide their driver’s license or other valid ID such as passports, employee ID cards, utility bills or bank statements.

Other bills that passed included legislation to create a new state elections supervisor, allow county officials to count absentee ballots before Election Day and tighten reporting requirements for voting results.

They are among a legislative package backed by Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who presides over the Senate. He has called for tightening absentee voter ID requirements but opposed efforts by some Republican leaders to restrict who in Georgia can vote by mail.

The [Walker] bill would require registered Georgia voters to provide their date of birth and driver’s license number, or the number on their personal ID cards if they do not have a driver’s license, in order to request an absentee ballot.

Without a driver’s license or personal ID card, voters would have to submit photocopies of a different form of valid ID such as a passport or utility bill to their local elections board or registrar.

The stricter absentee ID rules in Walker’s bill would do away with the state’s current system of verifying signatures on mail-in ballot request forms and envelopes, eliminating a focal point for attacks by Trump and his allies who alleged absentee voter fraud and called for deeper audits of the 2020 election results.

“I think you’re trying to cure a problem in your mind,” said Sen. Ed Harbison, D-Columbus, the Senate’s longest-serving member. “But the truth is, it opens the privacy door.”

Walker dismissed those concerns, acknowledging some voters are “going to have to make an effort” to verify their identities without a driver’s license, but that the benefits of tightening absentee voter ID verification would outweigh the privacy risks.

Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain, countered that sending personal information in the mail is different from flashing an ID to a police officer or clerk at a liquor store — and should face tighter protections against identity theft.

“There’s a huge difference in mailing something in, filing it away and keeping it, than it is me just having it and showing it and the person looking at it and leaving,” Butler said. “So I think we need to stop confusing that [since] it’s not a correct statement.”

From the Associated Press via AccessWDUN:

House Bill 531 would require a photo ID for absentee voting, limit the time when an absentee ballot could be requested, restrict where ballot drop boxes could be placed, ban counties from holding early voting on Sundays and restrict the use of mobile voting units, among many other changes.

Fair Fight, a voting rights group founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams, said on Twitter that the proposal “would have devastating consequences for voting rights in Georgia” and “raises too many concerns to count.”

From GPB News:

In HB 531, voters would need to include their driver’s license number, state ID number, or a copy of acceptable form of photo ID. The driver’s license number or state ID number is already required for the newly created online request portal, and photo ID is required to vote in person.

But the proposal would also shrink the window voters can request an absentee ballot and limit the timeline that county officials can mail them out. No absentee ballot could be requested earlier than 11 weeks before an election or later than two Fridays before the election, and absentee-by-mail ballots would not be sent out until four weeks before day of the election.

The bill restricts the location of secure drop boxes to early voting sites, and limits the use of those drop boxes to just the days and times where early voting takes place. Another section would ban county elections offices from directly accepting outside funding for elections, coming after the Center for Tech and Civic Life and the Schwarzenegger Institute gave tens of millions of dollars to counties across Georgia to run the November and January elections amidst a pandemic.

Senate Bill 46 by Senator Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) expands the professionals who can administer the Covid vaccine, according to the AJC.

When states got word last year that COVID-19 vaccines would likely be making their way to the states, Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order that allows more medical professionals such as pharmacists, nurses and medics to administer the shots.

On Thursday, the Georgia Senate passed legislation that would make the practice a law going forward, whether or not there’s a health emergency. Senate Bill 46 now goes to the House for its consideration.

“The theory behind that is we’re probably never coming out of the need for COVID vaccine,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Dean Burke, a Bainbridge Republican and physician. “We’re going to be giving that probably for years. Hopefully it won’t be in a pandemic situation, but (the need will) be there. This allows those people to continue to provide access.”

Former Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) is joining a Clarkesville law firm, according to the Gainesville Times.

“There has been a lot of talk on what I’m planning to do (in 2022),” Collins said in a Feb. 18 interview with the Times. “I’m enjoying the stage I’m in right now, coming down from a busy role as a representative and just enjoying life with my wife here in Gainesville.

As for right now? He’s returning to the legal arena, joining Clarkesville-based law firm Oliver & Weidner, specializing in civil and criminal litigation.

“A lot of people are asking me what my next move is going to be,” Collins said. “We’re not ruling anything in. We’re not ruling anything out. But I’m focused on being the same guy born and raised from Gainesville, who wants to continue to serve people and find out where I can best help.”

“By joining Oliver & Wiedner, I get to go back to doing what I love and representing people who are in need of legal counsel,” he said. “(Public service) is about people making connections, understanding what’s affecting people and defending them and their principles.”

Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson responded to an ethics complaint targeting his public statements, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

In a prepared statement issued this week, Matheson said the ethics complaint fails to cite one act he’s done that he thinks violated the city’s code of ethics.

“The complaint states that I cannot serve as your mayor because I have a job as a radio talk show host and express opinions,” he said. “I have been a community talk show host for 19 years including the time when I was running for election as mayor.”

Matheson said his accusers “appear to be using their political views to divide our City and prevent all of us from working together for the common good,” adding, “I think this is wrong.”

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