Category: Georgia Politics

16
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 16, 2020

On June 16, 1736, General James Oglethorpe arrived in England with Tomochichi, the Yamacraw Indian chief, Tomochichi’s wife and several other members of the tribe on a trip to meet the Georgia Trustees and King George II.

On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln addressed the Illiniois Republican Convention as a candidate for U.S. Senate and warned that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

The Atlanta Constitution was first published on June 16, 1868.

Bob Dylan recorded “Like a Rolling Stone” on June 16, 1965.

The Monterey Pop Festival opened at the Monterey Fairgrounds on June 16, 1967, often considered one of the opening events of the “Summer of Love.” Among the artists playing the Festival were the Jefferson Airplane, The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Macon-born Otis Redding.

Six Flags Over Georgia opened on June 16, 1967.

Atlanta Braves player Otis Nixon tied the modern record for steals in one game with six stolen bases agains the Montreal Expos on June 16, 1991.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

My personal condolences to the friends and family of Bill Kokaly, who died of cancer, according to AccessWDUN.

Gwinnett County continues counting ballots in last week’s primary elections, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Still counting,” counting spokesman Joe Sorenson said. “Will be counting through the evening tonight too.”

It was not immediately clear on Monday exactly how many absentee-by-mail ballots the county has left to count.

“They are seeing daylight,” Sorenson said. “They may be wrapping up the main part of the count tonight or tomorrow morning.”

The Clarke County Board of Elections held an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss uncounted votes, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

There is one item on the agenda for the meeting, which will be held virtually: “June 9, 2020 Election Issue: Possibility that Dominion Scanner & Software Did Not Count All Votes Marked on Absentee Ballots.”

“I witnessed dozens of votes that were missed like this,” said Adam Shirley, a member of a bipartisan vote review panel that watched Athens-Clarke elections workers tabulate absentee ballots, in a Facebook post.

Elections workers and volunteers corrected the error when they found it, Shirley said, and there is still time to correct the errors. Local elections boards have until Thursday to certify the results.

Officials or advocates detected the same problem in DeKalb, Morgan and Cherokee counties, according to the Associated Press.

Since the problem has been detected in four counties, it is likely a widespread issue, according to an expert quoted by the AP.

The Secretary of State‘s office has extended the period for voters whose absentee ballots were rejected for a signature mismatch to challenge the action, according to the AJC.

The change came the same day the Democratic Party of Georgia filed a lawsuit arguing that many voters wouldn’t be notified about problems with their ballots until it was too late to correct them.

Voters will have three business days after they’re notified of issues with their absentee ballots to fix problems, according to a bulletin from the secretary of state’s office. Voters can submit photo ID or other documentation to validate their identities.

Georgia Democrats outvoted Republicans last week, according to the AJC.

The latest results, still being tallied as absentee ballots are counted, show Democratic turnout in Georgia surpassed 1,060,851 – the previous high-mark set during the 2008 presidential primary when then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama trounced Hillary Clinton.

Republicans lagged behind, with more than 950,000 votes in last week’s contest. But there was no competitive statewide contest on the ballot, since President Donald Trump had already captured his party’s nomination and U.S. Sen. David Perdue faced no primary opposition.

The turnout numbers soared mainly due to a surge in absentee ballots after an expansion of mail-in voting ordered by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, amid coronavirus restrictions. A review showed those mail-in ballots were roughly split between Democrats and Republicans.

It was also due to intense on-the-ground work cultivating potential voters. Scott Hogan, the party’s executive director, said Democratic officials contacted 1 million potential voters in the four days before the primary.

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

8:00 AM HOUSE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS 606 CLOB

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

11:30 AM HOUSE JUDICIARY 132 CAP

TBD Senate Rules Upon Adjournment 450 CAP

1:00 PM Senate Ethics – CANCELED 450 CAP

1:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES 606 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE RETIREMENT 406 CLOB

2:00 PM HOUSE Environmental Quality Subcommittee of Natural Resources and Environment 506 CLOB

2:15 PM Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities 450 CAP

3:30 PM Senate Banking & Financial Institutions – CANCELED Mezz 1

3:30 PM Senate Natural Resources & Environment 307 CLOB

4:00 PM HOUSE BANKS AND BANKING 606 CLOB

4:45 PM Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs 450 CAP

4:45 PM Senate Transportation- canceled 307 CLOB

Protestors at the Georgia State Capitol called for passage of hate crimes legislation and policing changes, according to the Associated Press.

And only minutes after lawmakers began business, thousands of protesters led by the NAACP marched up to the Capitol. The march was fueled in part over outrage over the death of Rayshard Brooks, 27, a black man who was shot and killed by a white officer on Friday after Brooks seized a stun gun in a struggle and ran away. The city’s police chief resigned hours later and the officer who fired the fatal shot was terminated.

A few protesters came inside the Capitol, their chants echoing through a rotunda adorned with monumental portraits, including onetime Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens.

“I thought it right that we come into the people’s house, and show them we are not afraid,” said Georgia NAACP President James Woodall, his arms linked with protesters encircling the rotunda. “We will not falter, nor will we fail. Nor will we sleep nor eat nor rest until freedom come.”

Woodall said he supports the push for a bill to further penalize hate crimes, as well as a push by some other protesters to remove Confederate statues and symbols from the Capitol grounds. But Woodall said his group’s top priorities are repealing the state’s citizen’s arrest law and repealing its “stand your ground” law that allows people to use force without retreating. Woodall also said top priorities are improving elections and working to change state law to define crimes of moral turpitude in such a way that would allow many people previously convicted of felonies to vote again.

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

Organized by the Georgia NAACP, protesters called for lawmakers to repeal the citizen’s arrest law, expand voting rights for nonviolent felony offenders, amend the state’s stand-your-ground laws and reject an elections bill that Democrats urge will cause more confusion with the process.

“We will shut down this Capitol, if they do not answer our demands with immediate action,” the Rev. James Woodall, president of the Georgia NAACP, said.

Sen. P.K. Martin, R-Lawrenceville — one of the the governor’s floor leaders — stood up in support of passing hate crimes legislation.

“No single law can or will end racism,” he said. “We should pass meaningful hate crimes legislation this session. We should continue to work with law enforcement to bolster and review the training and we should increase outreach to our minority communities.”

From GPB News:

“Let us show the world that Georgia is strong in condemning hate and wanting to move into a world that is better,” said Minority Leader Sen. Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain. “I ask for you the majority party especially join with us … it will only take eight republicans to pass 426.”

“It’s not just a black issue. It’s not just a democratic issue. It is a people’s issue. It’s a human rights issue. It’s just the right thing to do,” said Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R-Forsyth Co) spoke about hate crime legislation with Fox News.

Duncan described the video of Brooks’ encounter with officers Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan as “disturbing, very disturbing.”

“It absolutely grabbed my attention, it has grabbed our city of Atlanta’s attention and our whole country’s attention,” he added.

“As we continue to look for ways to move forward, I think one of the big issues … is trying to define the policies and procedures around the use of deadly force. One of the things we can do is look for a way to create a more uniform definition of the use of deadly force and create more clarity.”

“Trust across all types of bridges and divides and looking for opportunities to earn that trust, not to just put words on a piece of paper.”

“We have an opportunity to perfect a piece of legislation … and have an opportunity to empower communities,” he said. “Not just a single prosecutor that might or might not think it’s a good idea to seek a hate crime [charge].”

“This is an opportunity for us to empower a community and a grand jury to bring forward the charge of a hate crime and allow the opportunity for the courtroom to hear that charge and for us to move forward. I think this is a big opportunity for us here in Georgia.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) said the hate crimes bill stands a better chance of passing his committee this year, according to 11Alive.

The chairman of the committee that’s been holding up the bill for more than a year told 11Alive News he’s “cautiously optimistic” it will come out of his committee before this session ends.

State Sen. Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) said the hate crimes bill, which passed the State House last year, didn’t have enough votes to get out of his judiciary committee early this year.

That, he says, is changing. The members “are pulling together, and that’s what I’m optimistic about,” Stone said.

Sen. Stone said he is working on a substitute for the bill now that he says would “strengthen” the measure.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about it. We’re working very hard behind the scenes, building consensus,” Stone said. “We want to pass something that is more than just a title, ‘hate crimes’ legislation. We want to really have an impact.”

COVID-19 is producing a surge in Medicaid enrollment, according to Georgia Health News.

State figures show Georgia’s Medicaid enrollment increased by 42,000 in May. That rise followed an enrollment spike of 91,000 in April.

During such tough times, more individuals and their family members wind up enrolled in Medicaid, the federal/state program for the poor and the disabled.

Nearly 2 million Georgians are currently members of Medicaid and PeachCare – and most of them are children.

Georgia’s Department of Community Health has suspended the collection of all Medicaid co-pays for services and PeachCare premiums and co-pays. The suspension of payments will continue through the duration of the coronavirus national health emergency, or when the state is approved to reinstate applicable premiums and/or co-pays, whichever comes first.

Community Health officials indicated this week that overall use of medical services by Medicaid members has dropped. That’s part of a trend across the health care system during the COVID-19 crisis, as many patients have chosen to forgo or delay care due to fear of infection, financial hardship or other reasons.

But pent-up demand for medical services is expected to be unleashed at some point, and that will combine with the expiration of the extra federal funding to put a financial squeeze on the Georgia Medicaid program, [Georgia State University healthcare expert Bill] Custer said Friday.

Four groups of doctors are advocating for a tobacco tax hike, according to Georgia Health News.

Four physician groups — the Georgia Society of Clinical Oncology, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Georgia Association of Family Physicians — sent out a strong statement Sunday pushing an increase in the state tobacco tax, which is now at 37 cents per pack of cigarettes.

A fiscal note showed that if Georgia increased its tobacco tax to the national average of $1.87 a pack, it would generate between $485 and $515 million per year in new revenue for Georgia. That’s more than enough, the doctor groups say, to prevent all proposed cuts to the public health and health care delivery system in Georgia.

The Georgia Academy of Family Physicians noted that a program to reduce the state’s high maternal mortality rate is facing a $1.5 million cut. The academy’s president, Dr. Jeff Stone, said that “Georgia’s state ranking for maternal mortality is one of the few rankings lower than our 47th-out-of-50 tobacco tax ranking. Both are unacceptable. But both are fixable with one bill. Let’s support Georgia’s new moms, not subsidize tobacco profits.”

House Resolution 1023 by State Rep. Andy Welch (R-Henry County) passed the State Senate, according to the Albany Herald.

Passed unanimously, the measure proposes a constitutional amendment targeting the doctrine of sovereign immunity, a centuries-old legal concept that holds that the “sovereign” – or government – cannot be sued without its consent.

If ratified by voters this fall, it would change state law to let Georgians sue governments to halt unconstitutional laws but would not allow them to collect monetary damages or attorneys’ fees.

Sen. John Kennedy, who sponsored identical legislation on sovereign immunity in the Senate, said permitting lawsuits against the state and local governments would give Georgians a greater voice in the operations of governance and legislating.

Senate Bill 345 by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Cobb), called the “Save our Sandwiches” bill, passed the State House yesterday, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

The bill, which passed 150-12 and now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk, was prompted when state health inspectors halted a Marietta-based summer food program last summer after 24 years of serving free sandwiches to thousands of school children in Cobb and six other counties.

A stipulation in state law barred MUST Ministries from receiving and distributing donated homemade sandwiches, forcing the group to raise nearly $250,000 to keep the program afloat last summer.

“Every community that’s represented here has children that if they don’t go to school, they do not eat,” said Georgia Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, who carried the bill in the House on behalf of state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta, who introduced the bill in the Senate.

The Georgia Senate Public Safety Committee stripped a bill of its contents and inserted protection against COVID-19 lawsuit for businesses, according to the AJC.

Senate Public Safety Chairman John Albers, a Roswell Republican, shepherded the legislation through his committee on Monday, amending a bill that initially would have created a specialty license plate for the Georgia Tennis Foundation.

The legislation would protect businesses, organizations and health care providers from March 14, the date Gov. Brian Kemp declared a public health emergency, through two years after the emergency order expires. The current order is set to expire June 30.

The panel’s three Democrats voted against the measure, which passed 5-3.

According to the proposed legislation, businesses and other organizations — including charity groups and municipal and state governments — would be protected from civil lawsuits if a person gets sick and/or dies from COVID-19 after being exposed to the disease on the property. Health care providers also would be protected from liability lawsuits.

The groups would not be protected if it was found the disease was spread as a result of “gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm or intentional infliction of harm.”

The Georgia Supreme Court extended the COVID-19 state of emergency that affects courts in Georgia, according to the AJC.

The emergency order was reissued just hours before it was set to expire last week. It now extends until midnight on Sunday, July 12.

“[T]he Judicial Covid19 Task Force is developing policies, procedures, and templates to allow the safe resumption of jury trials and grand jury proceedings,” the order reads. “These materials should be available in July 2020, but it is unlikely that any jury proceedings will begin until August or later.”

The new order also included a plan to reimpose many of the deadlines for civil and criminal cases that have been suspended since the emergency first went into effect in March.

Most deadlines will be reimposed as of July 14.

Athens-Clarke County Attorney Judd Drake opines that votes cast for late commissioner Jerry NeSmith  should be voided and his opponent declared the winner, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Votes for the late Jerry NeSmith in Tuesday’s election for the District 6 seat on the Athens-Clarke County should be declared null and void under Georgia law and his opponent in the race, Jesse Houle, should be declared the winner, according to Athens-Clarke County Attorney Judd Drake.

In response to requests for legal opinions from Director of Voter Registration and Elections Charlotte Sosebee and Board of Elections Chair Jesse Evans, Drake also said a special election should be scheduled with the upcoming Nov. 3 general election for the remainder of NeSmith’s current term.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) campaigned in Rome, according to the Rome News Tribune.

“I’m not a believer than we need to extend the federal part of unemployment any further, because we’re hearing from businesses all the time that it’s keeping employees from coming back to work,” Collins said. “They’re making more per week now than they would be if they were working.”

The congressman said he feels the U.S. economy will return to some semblance of normalcy following the COVID-19 problem much quicker than it did after the recession a decade ago.

“This one was not an internal monetary issue, this is not an economic issue,” Collins said. “This came out of the simple fact that our government said no, for our own safety, we need to make sure people are social distancing and keeping out.”

Coastal State Prison in Savannah is in the midst of a deadly COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Dougherty County Commissioners heard a report on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and mental health services, according to the Albany Herald.

Some uncertainty also applies to Aspire, whose primary state funding agency, like all state agencies, is looking at a possible 11 percent budget cut. That is the amount of budget reduction state lawmakers are considering to deal with the impact of decreased economic activity due to COVID-19.

State funding makes up about 50 percent of Aspire’s budget, followed by about 45 percent from payments through Medicaid and Medicare. Glass told commissioners she has not gotten a figure for the exact amount of cuts Aspire could face for the budget year beginning July 1.

Aspire’s ability to provide services online and by telephone has been significant during the pandemic, Commissioner Clinton Johnson said. Continuing services through that method in the future will help those who may see a “stigma” in seeking services in person.

“To be able to connect to services in their homes, I think that can make a big difference,” Johnson said. “I think it gives access to your services.”

Dalton residents met to discuss a Confederate statue, according to the Dalton Daily News.

Kennesaw City Council voted to remove a confederate flag from a public monument, according to the AJC.

Kennesaw’s decision was based on its interpretation of a state law some believe prohibits the city removing the flag from the memorial. That law originated from a 2001 compromise in the Legislature that removed the segregation-era state flag that incorporated the Confederate battle flag; and stated no publicly owned monument on public property can be moved or altered in any way.

According to a resolution read by Mayor Derek Easterling, this statute also allows the city to “take appropriate measures for the preservation, protection, and interpretation” of memorials by replacing the “historically unrelated” battle flag with the one Georgia flew during the Civil War.

Resident Debra Williams said the City Council would be breaking state law if it removed the flag.

“When you break the law, you are at that moment a criminal and immediately should be arrested,” she said, adding elected officials should not base their decisions on their likes and dislikes.

Athens-Clarke County will begin budget hearings, including a proposal by two Commissioners to defund local police, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Valdosta and Lowndes County will both hold budget meetings, according to the Valdosta Daily Times

 

15
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 15, 2020

The Magna Carta was sealed by King John on June 15, 1215.

The charter consisted of a preamble and 63 clauses and dealt mainly with feudal concerns that had little impact outside 13th century England. However, the document was remarkable in that it implied there were laws the king was bound to observe, thus precluding any future claim to absolutism by the English monarch. Of greatest interest to later generations was clause 39, which stated that “no free man shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseised [dispossessed] or outlawed or exiled or in any way victimised…except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” This clause has been celebrated as an early guarantee of trial by jury and of habeas corpus and inspired England’s Petition of Right (1628) and the Habeas Corpus Act (1679).

On June 15, 1740, Spanish troops attacked the English who were led by James Oglethorpe, at Fort Mose, two miles north of St. Augustine, Florida. With 68 English killed and 34 wounded, it was the heaviest losses sustained by Oglethorpe during his campaign against St. Augustine.

George Washington accepted the assignment of leading the Continental Army on June 15, 1775.

The Oregon Treaty was signed on June 15, 1815 between England and the United States, establishing the border between the U.S. and Canada.

On June 15, 1864, a funeral was held at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta for Confederate General Leonidas Polk, who was killed the day before at Pine Mountain near Marietta.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

LEGISLATIVE MEETING SCHEDULE

8:00 AM Senate Rules 450 CAP

9:00 AM HOUSE RULES 341 CAP

10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 30) House Chamber

11:30 AM HOUSE JUDICIARY 132 CAP

TBD Senate Rules upon Adjournment 450 CAP

1:00 PM Senate Finance 450 CAP

1:00 PM Senate Insurance & Labor 307 CLOB

2:15 PM Senate Education & Youth 307 CLOB

2:15 PM Senate Public Safety Mezz 1

3:30 PM Senate Health & Human Services 450 CAP

4:45 PM Senate Judiciary 307 CLOB

The House has committee meetings scheduled through Wednesday, and the Senate through Thursday, plus a Senate Rules Committee meeting for Friday. Make of it what you will.

On Friday’s Lunchapalooza, Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller joined us, and discussed how the legislative session that reconvenes today will differ from all that came before.

Our sincere thanks to Senator Miller and to all who joined us. We’re trying to figure out how to schedule the next one in light of the session.

The main limitation for members of the public will be that the Capitol building is now limited to 800 occupants. Given that the House and Senate plus staff number roughly 500, that’s going to be a hard limit on lobbyists, activists, and ordinary citizens.

The State House published a Memo for Session, discussing that chamber’s procedures. Among the highlights:

•  Infrared temperature screening and no admission to anyone with a temperature above 100.4 degrees;

•  House members who register a higher temp must be COVID-19 tested and get clean result to return

•  Masks must be worn by Members and House staff when in the Capitol Complex, particularly when social distancing is difficult to maintain. Members are permitted to remove their masks when they are alone in their private offices but must wear masks when they are interacting with others (including House staff) in any location, particularly when social distancing is difficult to maintain.

•  Masks must be worn by Members, House Staff, and members of the public who enter House Committee Rooms.

•  Where non-members and staff are allowed in committee rooms, masks and social distancing are in effect

•  Committee chairs may allow committee members to participate via Zoom.

•  The House session will split members roughly 50/50 between the Chamber and the Gallery above, with some possibly in Room 341.

•  The Committee recommends that all votes conducted for the remainder of the 2020 Legislative Session be conducted by voice, including the morning roll call, and that, if possible, the votes should be displayed on the screen in the House Chamber for verification purposes. The Clerk of the House should, after the initial roll call voice vote, re-call the names of those Members who (a) are not marked as “Excused” and (b) have not yet registered their vote.

The State Senate also published a memo on new procedures.

•  The hallway outside the Senate chamber will be closed to the public and curtained off and the elevator that lets out there will be reserved for no more than 4 senators at a time.

•  Press will be moved from the Senate chamber to the gallery and the gallery closed to the public.

In both chambers, voting will be an extended period of time to accomodate members distributed throughout the building and social distancing.

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

Rep. Clay Pirkle, R-Ashburn, called the new safety protocols “uncharted territory” and while he understands the necessity, it will be hard for members “to get a feel for the room” when taking votes if they are split in three different locations.

“It bothers me a little bit all the social distancing we will have to do,” he said. “But ultimately, it’s to make sure any compromised representative or representative in the ‘at-risk’ category feels as safe as I do.”

Pirkle said he was tested this week and is still awaiting results.

Rep. John LaHood agreed while the extra steps will be inconvenient, they’re “reasonable” given the situation. LaHood has been tested and said the chamber is striving toward all members being tested before Monday.

From the AJC:

The pandemic has caused a massive recession, with record unemployment and thousands of business either closed or struggling to remain open. That, in turn, has sent state tax collections – mostly income and sales taxes – plummeting.

Lawmakers must, by law, pass a budget before the new fiscal year starts July 1 – and they face cutting about $2.6 billion for everything from K-12 schools and universities to the state patrol, food safety inspections, highway construction, mental health and substance abuse programs and county health department funding.

While the budget will be a priority, they will also debate creating a new hate-crimes law at a time when recent police killings of black men and the shooting of an unarmed black jogger near Brunswick have increased the call for reform.

But some powerful Senate leaders have raised objections, including Jesse Stone, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, the Senate’s president, wants changes to the House measure that he says would strengthen it. That means even if a version is approved by the Senate, it would have to return to the House for another vote, and it barely got enough support to pass the last time.

Major health groups will also be making a big push to raise Georgia’s relatively low tobacco tax in order to raise an estimated $575 million a year. Georgia’s tobacco tax is among the lowest in the country and hasn’t been increased since 2003.

Meanwhile, outside the building, thousands are expected to attend a Georgia NAACP march on Monday to demand that lawmakers overhaul the criminal justice system and address “electoral failures” after last week’s primary was marred by long lines and malfunctioning machines.

Organizers of the “March on Georgia” will call on legislators to repeal citizen’s arrest rules, take steps to restrict police violence and block new elections rules that Democrats fear could sow confusion.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald:

“We’re facing some real challenges,” said Sen. Ellis Black, R-Valdosta. “We’ve got to put together a budget, and it’s going to involve some cuts that’s gonna hurt.”

Georgia’s finances look to be a few billion dollars in the hole after months of social distancing and business closures compelled by the virus, the global pandemic that had infected at least 55,000 people and killed more than 2,400 in Georgia by Friday afternoon.

“I hope maybe we can find with looking at tax credits that may not be so beneficial, to find ways to bring some revenue back in, as well as perhaps an increase in the cigarette tax,” said Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell.

“I think this year, more than any other year at least since I’ve been here, the amended budget process is going to be super important because there are so many unknowns,” said Sen. Dean Burke, R-Bainbridge, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Community Health Subcommittee.

“I know I’m going to be disappointed that I can’t do more. But know that what we are able to adjust will come from the combined wisdom of everyone here.”

From the Rome News Tribune:

“The main focus for us will be to see where we can have the least impact on services in mental gealth and developmental disabilities — so people can stay on the right path, have a meaningful life,” [State Rep. Katie Dempsey] said Friday.

“If there are savings that can be found in another part of the budget, perhaps that can help. … We may not need across-the-board cuts in every agency,” Dempsey said. “We’ll see what we can do, to at least keep the footprint in place.”

“Tax credits will probably have the most extensive look they’ve had in many, many years,” said Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome. “Some of them, to me, havent made sense. I think you’re going to see a hard look at them.”

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said there also are “a lot of proposals out there” for increased taxes. Hufstetler said he couldn’t predict which, if any, would gain traction but he has always favored raising the tobacco tax.

“It doesn’t make sense to cut money for health care when we could raise revenue from something that negatively affects health,” he said.

The AJC has its latest post mortem on voting problems.

An examination by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that human error, equipment failure and a complicated, multicomputer voting system combined to create chaos that left some voters waiting as long as eight hours to cast ballots.

The coronavirus pandemic made matters worse, preventing in-person training for many election workers and requiring social distancing and continual sanitizing of sensitive equipment that added to logjams at many polling places.

Precinct workers, some of them hired just a day earlier, didn’t always know how to operate the equipment. Some couldn’t even plug all four of the system’s components — a tablet computer, a touchscreen voting machine, a printer and a scanner — into the correct power supplies.

Fulton has a history of struggling to efficiently run major elections. The county fired its elections director and replaced most of its elections board after problems surfaced in 2012 voting. Fulton precincts also had extremely long lines during the 2018 election for governor.

Mary Carole Cooney, the chairwoman of Fulton’s elections board, said the county elections office was overwhelmed last week, in part because of the coronavirus. “We felt like it was an avalanche.”

Continue Reading..

12
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 12, 2020

On June 14, 1736, James Oglethorpe ordered plans to be drawn for a new city to be called Augusta.

The first Georgia-Florida war game weekend began on June 12, 1740, as Georgia founder James Oglethorpe led 400 soldiers landing opposite the Spanish fort at St. Augustine.

A “Liberty Tree” was planted in Savannah on June 13, 1775 to symbolize support for independence. The first liberty tree was an elm in Boston that became a meeting spot for patriots, but Savannah’s was actually a Liberty Pole. In 2006, a seedling grown from the last of the original Liberty Trees on the campus of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland was planted in Dalton, Georgia.

Happy birthday to the United States Army, established on June 14, 1775.

The Marquis de Lafayette arrived in South Carolina to assist General George Washington on June 13, 1775.

The Virginia Convention adopted George Mason’s “Declaration of Rights” on June 12, 1776. From Wikipedia:

The Declaration was adopted unanimously by the Fifth Virginia Convention at Williamsburg, Virginia on June 12, 1776 as a separate document from the Constitution of Virginia which was later adopted on June 29, 1776. In 1830, the Declaration of Rights was incorporated within the Virginia State Constitution as Article I, but even before that Virginia’s Declaration of Rights stated that it was ‘”the basis and foundation of government” in Virginia. A slightly updated version may still be seen in Virginia’s Constitution, making it legally in effect to this day.

It was initially drafted by George Mason circa May 20, 1776; James Madison assisted him with the section on religious freedom.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights heavily influenced later documents. Thomas Jefferson is thought to have drawn on it when he drafted the United States Declaration of Independence in the same month (June 1776). James Madison was also influenced by the Declaration while drafting the Bill of Rights (introduced September 1789, ratified 1791), as was the Marquis de Lafayette in voting the French Revolution‘s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789).

The importance of the Virginia Declaration of Rights is that it was the first constitutional protection of individual rights, rather than protecting only members of Parliament or consisting of simple laws that can be changed as easily as passed.

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution, “the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white” and that “the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” One hundred years later, on June 14, 1877, was the first observance of Flag Day.

On June 13, 1966, the United States Supreme Court released its decision in Miranda v. Arizona. In Miranda, the Court held that a confession obtained by police without informing the suspect of his rights against self-incrimination (Fifth Amendment) and to the service of a lawyer (Sixth Amendment) was inadmissible.

Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Lyndon B. Johnson on June 13, 1967.

As the NAACP’s chief counsel from 1938 to 1961, he argued 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, successfully challenging racial segregation, most notably in public education. He won 29 of these cases, including a groundbreaking victory in 1954′s Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court ruled that segregation violated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and was thus illegal. The decision served as a great impetus for the African American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and ultimately led to the abolishment of segregation in all public facilities and accommodations.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals, but his nomination was opposed by many Southern senators, and he was not confirmed until the next year. In June 1967, President Johnson nominated him to the Supreme Court, and in late August he was confirmed. During his 24 years on the high court, Associate Justice Marshall consistently challenged discrimination based on race or sex, opposed the death penalty, and supported the rights of criminal defendants. He also defended affirmative action and women’s right to abortion. As appointments by a largely Republican White House changed the politics of the Court, Marshall found his liberal opinions increasingly in the minority. He retired in 1991, and two years later passed away.

The New York Times began publishing excerpts from the “Pentagon Papers” on June 13, 1971.

After failing to persuade the Times to voluntarily cease publication on June 14, Attorney General John N. Mitchell and Nixon obtained a federal court injunction forcing the Times to cease publication after three articles.Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger said:

Newspapers, as our editorial said this morning, we’re really a part of history that should have been made available, considerably longer ago. I just didn’t feel there was any breach of national security, in the sense that we were giving secrets to the enemy.

The newspaper appealed the injunction, and the case New York Times Co. v. United States (403 U.S. 713) quickly rose through the U.S. legal system to the Supreme Court.

On June 18, 1971, The Washington Post began publishing its own series of articles based upon the Pentagon Papers; Ellsberg gave portions to editor Ben Bradlee. That day, Assistant U.S. Attorney General William Rehnquist asked the Post to cease publication. After the paper refused, Rehnquist sought an injunction in U.S. district court. Judge Murray Gurfein declined to issue such an injunction, writing that “[t]he security of the Nation is not at the ramparts alone. Security also lies in the value of our free institutions. A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, a ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know.” The government appealed that decision, and on June 26 the Supreme Court agreed to hear it jointly with the New York Times case.Fifteen other newspapers received copies of the study and began publishing it.

On June 30, 1971, the Supreme Court decided, 6–3, that the government failed to meet the heavy burden of proof required for prior restraint injunction. The nine justices wrote nine opinions disagreeing on significant, substantive matters.

Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.

—Justice Black

On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan spoke in then-divided Berlin and challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday signed Executive Order 06.11.20.01, revising the shelter in place order. From a press release:

The order addresses ongoing emergency response efforts for fighting the spread of COVID-19. Unless noted otherwise in specific sections, the order goes into effect at 12 AM on June 16, 2020 and runs through 11:59 PM on June 30, 2020.

Sports: Effective June 16, professional sports teams and organizations must follow the rules and guidelines set by their respective leagues. High school and collegiate teams and organizations must follow the rules and guidelines set by their applicable conferences or associations. Amateur sports teams and organizations must follow the criteria for non-critical infrastructure entities outlined in the order.

Sheltering in Place: Effective immediately, residents and visitors of Georgia who are sixty-five years of age or older are no longer required to shelter in place unless they meet any of the following categories:

Those persons who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility, including inpatient hospice, assisted living communities, personal care homes, intermediate care homes, community living arrangements, and community integration homes
Those persons who have chronic lung disease
Those persons who have moderate to severe asthma
Those persons who have severe heart disease
Those persons who are immunocompromised
Those persons, of any age, with class III or severe obesity
Those persons diagnosed with the following underlying medical conditions: diabetes, liver disease, and persons with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis

Gatherings: Effective June 16, gatherings of more than fifty people are banned unless there is at least six feet between each person. This rule does not apply to critical infrastructure entities, incidental or transitory groupings, or cohabitating individuals.

Drinking and Eating (effective June 16): In restaurants and dining rooms, there is no longer a party maximum for the number of people who can sit together. There is no longer a limit on the number of patrons allowed per square foot. Workers at restaurants, dining rooms, banquet facilities, private event facilities, and private reception venues are only required to wear face coverings when they are interacting with patrons. In a bar, now you can have fifty people – up from twenty-five – or thirty-five percent of total listed fire capacity, whichever is greater. For salad bars and buffets, a worker can use cafeteria-style service to serve patrons or the establishment can provide hand sanitizer, install a sneeze guard, enforce social distancing, and regularly replace shared utensils to allow patron self-service.

Overnight Summer Camps (effective June 16): Campers and workers may not attend an overnight summer camp unless they have received a negative COVID-19 test within twelve days – up from seven days – prior to starting camp.

Conventions: Effective July 1, a “convention” may occur if it meets twenty-one specific requirements in addition to the requirements for non-critical infrastructure entities. “Convention” means “an organized event of more than 100 persons that are required to register or obtain a license to gather for a common purpose at a single indoor facility or grouping of indoor facilities for more than four hours and in some cases for more than one day” and “shall include exhibitions, trade shows, conferences, and business retreats.” The term “convention” does not include any regular operation of a business that occurs on property owned or leased for the exclusive operation of such business, nor does the term encompass regular religious services, business meetings, sports competitions, or events categorized by O.C.G.A. § 16-11-173(b)(1)(A).

Live Performance Venues: Effective July 1, a “live performance venue” may reopen for business if it complies with specific criteria based on whether it is designated Tier I, II, or III. There are certain exceptions in the order for drive-in performances; private recording sessions, livestream performances, practices, fanless events, and rehearsals; and non-ticketed or free events. “Live Performance Venue” means “any indoor or outdoor location that requires patrons to purchase a license to attend an event featuring live musical, dramatical, automotive, educational, or any other type of entertainment performed before in-person patrons.” The term does not include restaurants and dining rooms, banquet facilities, private event facilities, private reception venues, weddings, drive-in venues, or events held as part of a convention, and the term does not include outdoor recreational fields used for amateur sporting events.

Effective June 16: At indoor movie theaters and cinemas, there is no longer a limit on the number of people who may sit together in a party. Walk-ins are now allowed at body art studios, barber shops, hair salons, their respective schools, massage therapy establishments, and tanning facilities subject to specific requirements.

Mandatory requirements for operating non-critical infrastructure businesses, for-profit corporations, non-profit corporations, and organizations are extended through the end of the month. Specific requirements for previously closed businesses remain in effect.

Higher tobacco taxes are being called for to fund state government, according to the AJC.

Only a few days before the restart of the 2020 legislative session, a coalition of more than three dozen groups sent Gov. Brian Kemp and lawmakers a letter asking them to support a tobacco tax hike and other measures to mitigate spending cuts.

The coalition, which includes the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute think tank, the Latin American Association, the NAACP, Georgia Conservation Voters, Georgia Equality and the League of Women Voters said proposed cuts would hurt schools, family services and “disproportionately harm people of color.”

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said last week he hasn’t heard support from his Republican majority for raising any taxes during the session, which resumes Monday after being suspended in March because of the pandemic.

In fact, Ralston backed a move before the session was suspended to cut the state’s income tax rate for the second time in two years. He did so on the same day the House pushed a 2021 budget that reduced spending in numerous agencies.

“Republicans cut taxes,” he said.

From AccessWDUN:

A letter from the groups said the cuts would adversely affect schools and family services. It said finding new sources of revenue, such as a tobacco tax hike would prevent the acceleration of a massive economic downturn.

The letter said a tobacco tax increase would raise about $575 million a year.

From GPB News:

“And so if we just assessed that fee of $1.80 on vaping and cigarettes that would raise $600 million a year and just make us average in the nation,” [Georgia Budget and Policy Institute Analyst Danny] Kanso said.

Georgia ranks 48th out of 50 when it comes to having the lowest cigarette tax in the nation.

Georgia Governor Romance Author Stacey Abrams is trashing Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in her latest work of fiction. From the Wisconsin State Journal:

Abrams blames Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for the problems Tuesday.

“First and foremost, we need a secretary of state who actually takes responsibility for his job,” she said in advance of her online appearance Thursday, June 18, at the Wisconsin Book Festival.

“Unfortunately, in every interview he’s given and in every public statement he has made, he has refused to take responsibility, which is deeply concerning given his constitutional obligation. He has shown a deliberate indifference to the needs of the citizens of Georgia,” she said. “And he has refused to take common sense steps to implement a brand new process for voting in a time of pandemic. He has instead fallen back on the traditional tropes of voter suppression that we’ve seen play out here in Georgia.”

In her new book, “Our Time Is Now,” Abrams writes that she ran against one of the worst purveyors of voter suppression and xenophobia since George Wallace, and “watched in real time as the conflicts in our evolving nation became fodder for racist commercials, horrific suppression — and the largest turnout of voters of color in Georgia’s history.”

The Georgia Department of Labor said that new unemployment claims were down for the fifth week, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The state Department of Labor processed 135,254 claims last week, down about 14,000 from the week before, the agency reported Thursday. That marked the fifth weekly decline in claims in the last six weeks.

The labor department paid out $156.4 million in regular unemployment benefits last week, $4.1 million less than the previous week.

In the 12 weeks since Georgia’s economy shut down because of the global pandemic, the state has paid out more than $1.4 billion in regular benefits to unemployed Georgians.

Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan spoke about hate crimes legislation, according to the AJC.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, the head of the Senate, has said that while he believes Georgia needs a hate-crimes law, he thinks HB 426 requires work.

“I think we can do better than House Bill 426,” Duncan told CNN. “I’ve been told by an African American gentleman sitting in my office that House Bill 426, if passed, would be the weakest hate-crimes law in the country. And quite honestly, that’s not good enough. …

“We have 11 days to craft a hate crimes bill that will make Georgia the worst place to commit a hate crime and the best place to love your neighbor.”

“Hemp University” to educate about the newly legal crop , according to the Albany Herald.

Hemp is grown for the industrial use in a variety of products including paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation biofuel food products and oil. It is a fast-growing plant and was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber more than 50,000 years ago when it was turned into clothing.

Although marijuana plants and industrial hemp derive from the same species and contain the psychoactive component THC, the hemp strains approved for agricultural cultivation in the United States must have a THC level below .3%, eliminating any potential psychoactive effect.

“You better pay attention to your labels and buy your CBD from a reputable source,” Farmer said. “Some CBD oil, and it could be very good CBD oil, might have the level below .3% of THC and still be picked up on a drug test. We will also make a version of CBD oil that is guaranteed to be THC free.”

Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson recused herself from the case in which county Police Chief John Powell was indicted, according to the AJC.

Powell, who was placed on paid administrative leave following the grand jury indictment, did not comment on Thursday. His attorney, Mitch Shook said the charges were politically motivated stemming from animus DA Johnson’s office had for Powell and the agency he leads.

Two Athens-Clarke County Commissioners released a plan to partially defund local police, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Tim Denson in District 5 and Mariah Parker in District 2 have proposed what they call a “50/10 Plan to Reimagine Public Safety,” gradually reducing the size of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department over 10 years.

The plan is similar to many other efforts to “defund” police departments now circulating around the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minnesota police officer, and other examples of police brutality.

As the number of police officers lessens, the personnel would be replaced with unarmed, non-police mental health professionals, social workers and restorative justice mediators, according to the commissioners’ proposal.

Specifics of the plan include a first step of making permanent five planned police officer vacancies built into Athens-Clarke County’s proposed 2020-21 budget; bringing 911 emergency dispatching into Athens-Clarke’s 911 system, rather than a private company; funding an additional social worker position for the Athens-Clarke Public Defender office; pay raises for public defender lawyers to bring them closer to the pay of assistant district attorneys; and eliminating local salary supplements for the Western Circuit District Attorney and for five assistant district attorneys.

Senate District Four, vacated by the death of Sen. Jack Hill, has two runoff elections August 10th, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Billy Hickman, the certified public accountant from Statesboro, and Dr. Scott Bohlke, the family practice physician from Brooklet, now advance to an Aug. 11 runoff – or really two simultaneous runoffs – in the race for the District 4 seat in the Georgia Senate.

In the first stage of the election, which culminated Tuesday, Hickman took the lead in the district overall, while Bohlke had the most votes in Bulloch County, the home county of both front-runners. But that’s not why there are two runoffs. They appeared in what were technically two separate elections, among a total of four Republican candidates in one race and five candidates, including one independent, in the other.

Twin runoffs, with the same two names, will occur because Hickman and Bohlke emerged as the front-runners in both the special election to fill Hill’s unexpired term through December and the simultaneous Republican primary for a two-year term as Hill’s successor. But neither got the required 50%-plus majority.

The special election appeared on Tuesday’s nonpartisan ballot, received by Democrats as well as Republicans along with their party primary ballots.

So, voters who chose the Republican ballot were able to vote in both the primary and the special election, while Democratic Party voters saw only the special election, with “Republican” under the names of Bohlke, Hickman, Kathy Palmer and Neil Singleton, and nothing suggesting a party affiliation under the name of Stephen Jared Sammons, the independent.

From WTOC:

Both agreed the sudden and abbreviated campaign felt different due to the pandemic.

“A lot of word of mouth because we couldn’t reach all the people like we could in previous times, going to churches,” said candidate Scott Bohlke.

Both said they heard the voters about the issues, even if through calls, emails, and social media. They hope they get more of a chance to interact with voters this time.

“We’ll be able to be more active now because of the coronavirus loosening up. People will be more out and about and we’ll be more out and about too,” said candidate Billy Hickman.

Athens-Clarke County Commission District Six will be filled in a special election after the late Commissioner Jerry NeSmith won the election, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

District 6 Commissioner Jerry NeSmith, who died in an accidental fall Sunday, took 57 percent of the vote over challenger Jesse Houle, 1,864 votes to 1,404, setting the stage for a special election.

Sheriff Ira Edwards lost narrowly in a Democratic Party primary to Athens-Clarke police officer John Q. Williams, 9,512 votes to 9,120. In strongly Democratic Clarke County, Williams will be favored to win the November general election over the lone Republican candidate, Robert Hare.

Supreme Court Justice Charlie Bethel appears to have won reelection, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Bethel was leading Atlanta attorney and former state House of Representatives member Beth Beskin by 909,265 votes (53.17%) to 800,844 votes (46.83%) on Thursday.

Bethel said Tuesday night he went to bed “feeling good about what we were seeing and where the math was lining up but still with a lot of questions” because of the number of outstanding votes.

“It became pretty clear on Wednesday as more votes came that the margin we had was not likely to erode,” he said. “It looks like what is still outstanding are absentee votes and maybe some advance. And across the board, in every jurisdiction, it appears we polled better in absentee and advance than on Election Day.”

“I am proud to be from Northwest Georgia and Dalton and Whitfield County,” he said. “I always try to do whatever I can to represent our community well. I’m extremely gratified by the overwhelming support I continue to receive there. And I will continue to do everything I can to make the people there proud.”

Democratic Attorney Mark Jones won the primary for District Attorney of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, beating incumbent Julia Slater, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The final tally left Jones with 52% of the vote to Slater’s 48%.

The circuit’s [] counties include Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, [Muscogee,] Talbot and Taylor.

Jones, 38, made headlines recently because of his arrest stemming from the May 17 filming of a campaign ad at the Columbus Civic Center, where he’s alleged to have recruited two custom-car enthusiasts to cut doughnuts in the parking lot. Authorities claimed the tire marks left there caused more than $300,000 damage.

Jones also has been in the news for representing protesters police arrested after a May 31 downtown demonstration against racial injustice.

Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman won the Democratic Primary to challenge Republican Muscogee County Sheriff Mark LaJoye, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Floyd County Republicans will return to the polls in a runoff election for Sheriff between Tom Caldwell and Dave Roberson, according to the Rome News Tribune.

When the final ballots were tabulated, Roberson led the way with 7,130 votes, equal to 48.1%. Caldwell received 5,079 votes, 34.3%, and Ronnie Kilgo took 2,598, which is 17.5%.

Kilgo posed with Roberson for a social media post early Thursday in which Roberson thanked him for his support.

Fulton County Democratic voters will choose between candidates for Sheriff, according to the Rome News Tribune.

In the sheriff’s race, incumbent Ted Jackson (44.71%) and Pat Labat (22.99%) are bound for a Democratic runoff after leading a field that also included Myron Freeman (17.45%), Walter Calloway (8.93%) and Charles Rambo (5.92%), with the winner unopposed in November.

In the district attorney campaign, Fani Willis (42.39%) and incumbent Paul Howard Jr. (34.99%) are headed to the runoff after outpacing Christian Wise Smith (22.62%), with the winner unopposed in November.

DeKalb County‘s two elections for Sheriff are likely to go into extra innings, according to the Champion.

In the special election for sheriff—of which its winner will only serve through Dec. 31—incumbent Melody Maddox will likely face a runoff against Ruth Stringer or Antonio Block Johnson, the top vote getters in the nine candidate field. Maddox received 26,415 votes; Stinger received 14,111 votes and Johnson received 12,362 votes of the more than 82,000 votes that have been counted.

For the full four-year sheriff term which begins Jan. 1, it appears that Maddox will head to a runoff against Stringer for the Democratic nomination to the sheriff’s seat. The two lead in the eight-person Democrat race. Maddox received approximately 33,986 votes and Stringer received 11,633 of the 77,346 votes. The winner will face sole Republican candidate Harold Dennis in November General Election.

Gwinnett County is discussing logistical issues that caused some voting problems on Tuesday, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The county had previously rented trucks and hired off-duty firefighters to take voting machines to precincts on the Fridays and Mondays before elections. For this week’s primary, however, the county hired a private trucking company to deliver the machines.

“Using a company for delivery provides more drivers and eliminates the need to coordinate truck rental,” county spokesman Joe Sorenson said. “The late delivery of the equipment on June 9, the first Election Day the new delivery system was implemented, was a result of equipment staging issues and coordination issues between Elections workers and the trucking company.”

County officials have said there were issues with equipment still not having been delivered at 16 voting precincts in the county when polls opened on Tuesday morning, but another list distributed by state Rep. Donna McCleod suggested as many as 28 precincts experienced issues.

Voter error caused delays in tallying ballots in Bibb County, according to 13WMAZ.

The absentee ballots instructs voter to fully fill in the oval next to the candidate of your choice. Kaplan says thousands of people circled a candidate’s name, used an “X,” or a check mark to select their choice.

Elections workers are fixing the errors by hand and entering the choices into Georgia’s new voting system to ensure that all the votes count.

Kaplan hopes voters will learn how to mark the ballots properly before a potential runoff in August and the November election.

The Conasauga Judicial Circuit, serving Whitfield and Murray Counties, will start an accountability court for veterans, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

The Whitfield County Board of Commissioners on April 13 unanimously approved a grant from the state of Georgia establishing a Veterans Accountability Court for the local circuit. As Chairman Lynn Laughter called for a vote, she said, “We ought to all be seen as trying to help our veterans. They have gotten the short end of the stick for a long time.”

Veterans Court is funded through a grant awarded from the Office of the Governor’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council under the Council of Accountability Court Judges grant program.

Accountability courts such as Veterans Court return a savings of approximately $27 per dollar invested due to alleviating court and incarceration costs. The grant provides $44,493 for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020. A new grant request has already been made for fiscal year 2021, which starts July 1 of this year.

The Veterans Court will be geared toward addressing criminal defendants whose behavior is driven by substance abuse and mental health issues that may be related to experiences during their service to the United States. Veteran status with the United States military will be a requirement.

State House Democrats launched a platform focused on criminal justice reform, according to The Brunswick News.

The package, called “Justice for All,” comes as an ambitious set of 12 different bills responding to recent instances of police violence and racial injustice, including the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky.

“These measures go to the core of combating the disparities that exist in the administration of criminal justice in Georgia,” said House Minority Leader Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville.

Democratic lawmakers in the Georgia Senate also put forth their own slate of bills Thursday, called the “Georgia Justice Act,” that mirrors much of what House Democrats are seeking. Many of those have already been filed in the session, while others would be introduced next week.

Savannah City Council will consider a 1/3 increase in the hotel/motel tax rate, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The Savannah City Council will consider a resolution to increase the hotel/motel tax from 6 percent to 8 percent during their meeting on Thursday, meaning Savannah visitors could soon find themselves paying a few dollars more for overnight stays.

According to the resolution, 14.7 percent of the taxes collected at the new rate would be expended for tourism product development and fund projects according to the following distributions: 50 percent for Canal District improvements; 30 percent for improvements to Savannah’s waterfront plaza and River Street; 10 percent for improvements to Bay Street and the Dorothy Barnes Pelote Bridge Gateway Project and 10 percent to the Tide to Town Urban Trail System.

The Savannah Convention Center would receive 14 percent of the total amount collected to the new rate and 33.8 percent would be used for promoting tourism, conventions and trade shows by a private sector nonprofit registered 501(c)(6) organization designated as the destination marketing organization for the city of Savannah, which is Visit Savannah.

The remaining 37.5 percent of the taxes collected will go to the city’s General Fund.

Hall County Commissioners are considering a rollback millage rate for property taxes, according to the Gainesville Times.

Hall County’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes a rolled back millage rate and 5.7% fewer dollars as the county deals with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Republican National Convention is unlikely to pad Savannah tax revenues, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah is no longer in the discussion as a possible site for the Republican National Convention, the head of Savannah’s Tourism Leadership Council said on Wednesday.

“I am confident that we are not being further considered for a RNC event or any other political party,” said Michael Owens, president and CEO of the group that represents the majority of the area’s tourism and hospitality businesses.

The City of Rome will host a meeting to discuss moving a statue of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, according to the Rome News Tribune.

11
Jun

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for June 11, 2020

Izzy Circle of Friends Animal Society Athens

Izzy is a five-month old female German Shepherd and Feist mix puppy who is available for adoption from Circle of Friends Animal Society in Athens, GA.

Izzy and her 3 sisters were basically living as “farm dogs.” They did not know what being a loved pet was, did not even know what toys or treats were. They were people socialized and have been around children. They are very sweet but need some work on their manners and what it is like to be a pet. They are working on their house training (they lived outside and were never in a house before).

Izzy is 5 months old, born on 1/6/2020. Mom was a Shepherd/Feist mix(?) and Dad was a Mastiff/Hound mix(?). Judging on the parents size she may be around 50lbs to 55lbs as an adult.

Duke Athens Canine Rescue

Duke is an adult male Great Dane & Anatolian Shepherd mix who is available for adoption from Athens Canine Rescue in Athens, GA.

Introducing Duke! ACR’s premiere Great Dane mix comes to us at 3 years old and a whopping 115 pounds! Our enormous boy is settling into his foster home well and already does great with other dogs. Stay tuned as we learn more about Duke!

Tenzin Athens Canine Rescue

Tenzin is an adult male Treeing Walker Coonhound who is available for adoption from Athens Canine Rescue in Athens, GA.

Welcome Tenzin! Our newest hound boy is 2 years old and about 50 pounds, and he’s as big as he’s going to get unless he lucks out and finds a family that’s very generous with the treats.

Tenzin is already housebroken and crate-trained. He will go into his crate on command (but appreciates a treat or two), and he likes to bring some entertainment in with him — Foster Mom’s slippers are a favorite. With whatever prized items he brings in, he never chews them up; he just temporarily re-locates them to keep him company!

11
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 11, 2020

On June 11, 1776, the Continental Congress appointed Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Robert R. Livingston of New York to draft a declaration of independence from Britain. Language in the original draft that condemned the introduction of the slave trade in the colonies did not make the final draft.

Abraham Baldwin, founder of the University of Georgia, arrived in Philadelphia on June 11, 1787 to attend the Constitutional Convention. Baldwin was joined by three other delegates, William Few Jr., William Houston, and William Pierce; Baldwin and Few would sign the Constitution on behalf of Georgia.

On June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy issued proclamation 3542 ordering Governor George Wallace of Alabama to allow two African-American students to register at the University of Alabama, as ordered by a federal court.

On the morning of June 11, the day the students were expected to register, Wallace stood in front of the University of Alabama campus auditorium flanked by Alabama state troopers while cameras flashed and recorders from the press corps whirred. Kennedy, at the White House, and Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, in Tuscaloosa, kept in touch by phone.

When Wallace refused to let the students enter for registration, Katzenbach phoned Kennedy. Kennedy upped the pressure on Wallace, immediately issuing Presidential Proclamation 3542, which ordered the governor to comply, and authorizing the secretary of defense to call up the Alabama National Guard with Executive Order 11111.

That afternoon, Katzenbach returned with the students and asked Wallace to step aside. Wallace, knowing he was beaten, relented, having saved face with his hard-line, anti-segregation constituency.

On June 11, 1986, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was released.

[T]he most memorable performer may have been an automobile: the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California, a custom-built car revered by auto collectors.

According to Motor Trend, the first Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California—colloquially known as the “Cal Spyder”—was produced in 1957 and the last was built in early 1963. In addition to the long-wheelbase (LWB) Spyder, Ferrari also produced a sportier, short-wheelbase (SWB) model. Though estimates vary as to exactly how many were made—Cameron says “less than a hundred” in the film—approximately 46 LWB and between 50 and 57 SWB Spyders were produced in all. For “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the filmmakers used a modified MGB roadster with a fiberglass body as a stand-in for the Ferrari. The filmmakers reportedly received angry letters from car enthusiasts who believed that a real Ferrari had been damaged.

One 1961 250 GT SWB Spyder California, with chassis number GT 2377GT, belonged to the actor James Coburn (“The Magnificent Seven”), who died in 2002. On May 18, 2008, at the second annual Ferrari Leggenda e Passione event at Maranello, Italy, the British deejay Chris Evans bought that car at auction for 6.4 million Euros, or $10,894,400 (including fees), the highest price ever paid for an automobile at auction.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

Today at 10 AM, House Natural Resources and Environment, Virtual Meeting.

Friday, June 12, 2020 at 10 AM, House Judiciary Non Civil, Virtual Meeting.

Sunday, June 14, 2020 at 2 PM, Senate Health and Human Services, 450 CAP

The Chatham County Board of Elections may not certify election results until next week, according to the Savannah Morning News.

In most elections, the BOE certifies elections by the Friday following the Tuesday vote. But because of the massive absentee voter turnout, largely a result of the encouragement from officials to choose that option due to COVID-19, [Board of Election Chairman Tom] Mahoney said that a Friday certification is an unrealistic expectation.

“I think that it is probably a little overly optimistic for people to think that maybe we could finish this by Friday,” Mahoney said. “I think that’s probably unrealistic.”

Mahoney said it will likely be next week before the election is certified, and the entirety of the votes may not even be counted by Friday.

Mahoney said most of the issues stemmed from setting up the machines.

“People didn’t know how to set it up. Sometimes they didn’t know where the stuff they needed to set it up was; sometimes the equipment wasn’t really cooperating with setup,” Mahoney said. “It wasn’t as easy to set up as it should have been. Plus, we had new poll locations. Some of those poll locations were not as easy to set up as others.”

Democrat Jon Ossoff appears to have won the Democratic Primary election without a runoff for the seat held by Senator David Perdue, according to the New York Times.

With 97 percent of precincts reporting on Wednesday evening, Mr. Ossoff had 50.5 percent of the vote, just over the 50 percent threshold to avoid a runoff election against Teresa Tomlinson, a former mayor of Columbus, Ga., who trailed far behind with 15 percent.

Mr. Ossoff’s run three years ago in a special election in Georgia’s Sixth District, a longtime Republican redoubt, was fueled by hostility toward Mr. Trump, particularly among educated suburban women. But Mr. Ossoff also benefited from anti-Trump sentiment beyond the district, attracting significant funding from beyond Georgia and shattering congressional fund-raising records.

From the Associated Press:

In his livestreamed victory speech Wednesday night, Ossoff took immediate aim at his opponent’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying Perdue was “too busy adjusting his stock portfolio to warn us of the gravest public health emergency in a century.” A Perdue spokeswoman has previously said the senator “goes above and beyond to fully comply with the law.”

“This is not a moment to let up — this is a moment to double down,” Ossoff said. “The president of the United States and his allies in Congress are leading this country down a dark path and we can go down this path no longer. We can no longer go down a path of authoritarianism, of racism, of corruption. We are better than this and Georgia is better than this.”

From the AJC:

As Democrats dueled for the right to challenge him, Perdue tied them to “socialists” and questioned whether they support the nascent movement sparked by the George Floyd protests for racial justice to cut funding to law enforcement agencies.

“Now more than ever, Georgians need outsider David Perdue and his experienced leadership in the U.S. Senate,” said his campaign manager, Ben Fry, late Wednesday.

“While Jon Ossoff is a favorite of liberal elites and Hollywood celebrities, he will be nothing but a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and their radical agenda.”

The Georgia General Assembly reconvenes Monday, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Jackson Progress-Argus.

Lawmakers have not yet settled on the logistics of holding the session in accordance with social distancing practices adopted during the pandemic. A task force set up by Ralston is expected to issue recommendations on measures like remote voting and physical separation inside the Capitol building.

They did, however, offer a preview of some social distancing measures during in-person committee hearings this week and last, at which speakers waited outside meeting rooms for their turn to give testimony and watched proceedings mostly on video monitors installed in the Capitol.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services met yesterday, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

On Wednesday, the state public health commissioner, Dr. Kathleen Toomey, urged lawmakers on one of several committees looking at the budget to let her agency avoid forcing employees to take 12-day furloughs, adding about $1.5 million back to the budget for the Department of Public Health.

She also asked lawmakers to accept fewer cuts to critical grants that fund county boards of health as state and local health officials continue fighting coronavirus. The agency’s initial 14% reduction proposal called for trimming about $17.7 million from the grants.

“We really would like to lessen the impact on our county health departments that are working hard right now to support our work on [coronavirus] as well as other issues,” Toomey told lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations Human Development and Public Health Subcommittee.

The state’s mental health chief asked state lawmakers Wednesday to restore much of the funding to meet Kemp’s pared back 11% budget reductions rather than the 14% cuts originally requested. That would help save around $29 million and reduce the initially proposed 24 furlough days for staff to 12 days instead.

State House Speaker David Ralston has called for a legislative look into voting issues, according to WABE.

“We were getting reports from northeast Georgia, from southeast Georgia, from all regions of the state about these kinds of problems, and so it was not limited just to the metro area,” said Ralston.

The Georgia secretary of state’s office has placed much of the blame for the lines and issues with voting machines on a lack of preparation by counties, including Fulton and DeKalb. But Ralston says the state has a role to play in training.

“We have to do a better job of training both the workers as well as those who train the workers at the local level, said Ralston. “I think there’s a role – a large role — there for the state and one that I want to find out how well we discharged that yesterday.”

Ralston maintained his view that Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger rushed to push vote-by-mail when he sent out 6.9 million absentee ballot applications back in March.

“We weren’t advised here in the House of Representatives until a week or so prior to the public announcement that this was being done. And it’s a big deal, I mean, it’s a big undertaking, and I don’t know that we were ready for it. That’s one of the things I want us to look at.”

Ralston has asked the House Governmental Affairs Committee to investigate what went wrong in Tuesday’s election.

In State Senate District 50, Republicans Stacy Hall and Bo Hatchett head to an August 10 runoff election, according to the Gainesville Times.

The District 50 race drew six Republicans seeking to fill the seat vacated by State Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, who decided to run for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Both Hall and Hatchett are from Habersham County. Hall is the chairman of the Habersham County Board of Commissioners, and he and his wife Ivy own a real estate development business. Hatchett is an attorney, and he owns a real estate business.

Three Augusta City Commission elections appear headed for runoff elections, according to WRDW.

In District 1, Michael Thurman and Jordan Johnson were separated only a handful of votes with each candidate receiving 27 and 25 percent of support, respectively.

The story was similar over in District 3, where Sean Mooney nursed a less than 200 vote lead over Catherine Smith McKnight.

In District 9, Corey Johnson had a command of 47 percent of voters in the race, but fell shy of the majority threshold to avoid a runoff against Francine Scott.

Richmond County voters also appeared to support TSPLOST, granting the county the opportunity for more than $555 million in new projects across the region. The initiative received the support of 73 percent at last check.

Two incumbent State Representatives lost their reelections, according to the Telegraph.

Pastor and bank manager Sharon Henderson beat five-term Conyers Democrat Pam Dickerson on Tuesday in House District 113 after losing to her two years ago. Three-term Republican Jeff Jones of Brunswick lost to former House member Buddy DeLoach in House District 167. Jones had been one of a group of Republicans who had been critics of GOP House Speaker David Ralston.

Neither of the victorious challengers face opposition in November, meaning they have effectively won two-year terms.

State Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague a Red Oak Democrat first elected in 1992, was pushed into a runoff with Democratic party activist and business owner Mandisha Thomas in House District 65, which includes parts of Fulton and Douglas counties. In DeKalb County, Stone Mountain Democrat Michele Henson, first elected in 1990, will compete in a runoff against Zulma Lopez in House District 86. Demographic changes in the DeKalb County district encouraged minority candidates to run.

Democrat Mark Jones appears to have upset incumbent Chattahoochee County Judicial Circuit District Attorney Julia Slater, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

“I feel like a boss,” Mark Jones told reporters and supporters Wednesday night after his underdog victory over incumbent District Attorney Julia Slater.

Asked whether he had a message for those employees, he said: “They are going to have to re-interview, because there’s obviously some issues with the office, so everyone’s going to have to re-interview for their job…. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but they did choose a political career to be in.”

He said voters have given him a “clear mandate” to reform the office.

Jones defeated Slater by 52% to 48, in the circuit that besides Muscogee includes the counties of Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Talbot and Taylor.

Jones won the Democratic Primary for district attorney, but that decided the race because no Republican qualified to seek the post in November.

Asked what impact he thought his arrest had on the election, he said: “I think it proved the case that they are prosecuting non-serious cases, and that their time is better spent elsewhere, prosecuting the 100-so alleged murders in our jail, and serious violent felonies.”

Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown won his GOP Primary and head to the General Election against Democrat Rey Rodriguez, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Houston County District Attorney George Hartwig won the GOP nomination and faces Democrat Erikka Williams in November, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Two Democratic candidates will head to a runoff to take on Congressman Buddy Carter, according to the Savannah Morning News.

By 3 p.m. Wednesday with 91% of precincts reporting, the three-way [Democratic Primary election] had [Joyce Marie] Griggs and [Lisa] Ring nearly tied with about 43% of the vote and Barbara Seidman trailing with 14%.

Griggs was the Democratic nominee for the seat in 2000. Ring, a former correctional officer and self-described “military mom,” was the nominee in 2018.

Two Republican candidates for Floyd County Sheriff meet in a runoff election, with the winner unopposed in November, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Whitfield County voters passed a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Fifteen months after Whitfield County voters defeated one Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) in a landslide, they approved a second, smaller SPLOST by an almost identical margin.

On Tuesday, voters approved a four-year, $66 million SPLOST by 9,338 votes (58.7%) to 6,577 votes (41.3%). A SPLOST is a 1% tax on most goods sold in a county. The money it generates can be used for capital projects and some other items but not operating expenses. The tax will start being collected on Oct. 1.

Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Lynn Laughter said she thinks the 2020 SPLOST passed because “there was more citizen involvement before the project list was final. I think the fact it is four years also made a big difference to people. Looking back, I wish we had put one administrative building in the SPLOST last year and made it five years.”

Muscogee County voters appear to have renewed the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education (E-SPLOST), according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The referendum to continue the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax in Columbus was approved by 69% (21,077) of the 30,631 voters, according to the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registration.

The results released late Wednesday afternoon are from all 25 voting precincts but are unofficial until they are certified by the five-member county elections board.

It’s the fifth time Columbus voters have been asked to approve this 1% sales tax — and supporters have won every time, following successful campaigns in 1997, 2003, 2009 and 2015.

The renewed ESPLOST, which keeps the city’s total sales tax at 8%, will pay for 22 projects totaling an estimated $189 million. It will last for five years or until the total amount is collected. The projects include the consolidation of two schools into a new building, the construction of a postponed sports complex and the replacement of a public library.

Hall County voters passed several funding measures, according to the Gainesville Times.

Both the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and bond referendums for Hall County and Gainesville City schools passed in Tuesday’s primary election.

The vote will keep the one penny for every dollar spent sales tax in place, which will fund projects for the Hall, Gainesville and Buford school systems. It will also grant a bond of $258 million to the Hall County School District, and a bond of $83 million to the Gainesville City School System.

Stockbridge City Council passed a resolution urging passage of state hate crimes legislation, according to the AJC.

Defunding Police

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners Mariah Parker and Tim Denson wants to cut back on police funding, according to 11Alive.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Mariah Parker says they also could have possibly been prevented.
“Serious reforms are necessary,” she told 11Alive Investigator Faith Abubey in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

Commissioner Parker has put together a four-page proposal laying out what those reforms would look like. The measure could be put up for a vote as soon as next Tuesday, June 16.

“There is a variety of community response that we can implement in order to take the burden off our police department and ensure that people experiencing crises get the help that they need,” Parker explained, adding that the plan includes:

•   Decreasing the Athens-Clarke County police force by 50% over the next 10 years.
•   Deauthorizing hiring for current vacant officer positions
•   Redirecting money to mental health and social services

From the Athens Banner Herald:

Athens commissioners Tim Denson, who was among the protesters tear-gassed on May 31, and Mariah Parker jointly issued a proposal Tuesday, calling for a 50 percent reduction in the ACCPD over the next 10 years. The “50/10 Plan to Reimagine Public Safety in Athens-Clarke” is proposed as part of the 2021 budget, which is being voted upon by the commission on June 16.

DeKalb County Commission Candidate Ted Terry advocates for defunding not only county police, but those of municipalities also, according to Fox News.

A supporter of Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff backed calls by members of the Minneapolis City Council this week to dismantle the city’s police department and said that, if he is elected to the county commission seat he is currently running for, he would put forward similar legislation.

Ted Terry, who previously ran in the Georgia Democratic Senate primary before dropping out and running for DeKalb County commissioner, tweeted on Sunday that he stands with the veto-proof majority of Minneapolis political leaders who announced they would attempt to “dismantle” the city’s police department.

“Today, #Minneapolis took a bold step in reimagining public safety beyond policing & incarceration,” he wrote, before continuing to say that “I stand w/” the nine members of the Minneapolis City Council who support taking apart the city’s police department. “It’s time for transformation!”

Terry added: “If elected to the #DeKalb County Commission I will introduce legislation to end the current policing mode[l] not just in unincorporated DeKalb but in each of our municipalities. It’s time for change at all levels of County policing. Community safety and support is the new mission.”

10
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 10, 2020

Bridget Bishop was the first person hanged after being convicted of practicing witchcraft in the Salem witch trials on June 10, 1692.

On June 10, 1793, Washington, DC officially replaced Philadelphia as the Capital of the United States. To honor Washington, today we will adopt a smugly superior attitude, name-drop constantly, and speak condescendingly to those who currently live in the states we used to live in.

Rebecca Latimer Felton was born on June 10, 1835 in Decatur, Georgia and later became the first woman to serve in the United States Senate after being appointed by Governor Thomas Hardwick to fill a vacancy in 1922.

The United States Naval Academy graduated its first class on June 10, 1854.

The Girl Scouts of America were incorporated in Washington, DC on June 10, 1915.

The Republican National Convention in Cleveland became the first political convention broadcast on the radio on June 10, 1924.

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded on June 10, 1935.

President John F. Kennedy signed the 1963 Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963.

I am delighted today to approve the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits arbitrary discrimination against women in the payment of wages. This act represents many years of effort by labor, management, and several private organizations unassociated with labor or management, to call attention to the unconscionable practice of paying female employees less wages than male employees for the same job. This measure adds to our laws another structure basic to democracy. It will add protection at the working place to the women, the same rights at the working place in a sense that they have enjoyed at the polling place.

While much remains to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity–for the average woman worker earns only 60 percent of the average wage for men–this legislation is a significant step forward.

Apple Computer shipped the first Apple II computers on June 10, 1977.

Coca-Cola introduced Classic Coke on June 10, 1985.

Ray Charles, who was born in Albany, Georgia died on June 10, 2004.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and ElectionsSslkjlskjflksjdflksjlfkj

MARK THIS IN RED ON YOUR CALENDAR: PRIMARY RUNOFF ELECTIONS, AUGUST 11, 2020.

Governor Brian Kemp allowed the Executive Orders placing Georgia National Guard troops to expire overnight. From a press release:

“I greatly appreciate the men and women of the Georgia National Guard, state and local law enforcement, and all first responders who kept Georgians safe and ensured peaceful demonstrations across our great state. This coordinated team worked tirelessly to protect communities, businesses, and everyone exercising their Constitutional rights. Given the success of this partnership and after several discussions with public safety officials and community leaders, my executive orders authorizing a State of Emergency and mobilizing Georgia National Guard troops will expire at 11:59 PM tonight. Moving forward, we will continue to monitor activity around the state and remain prepared to respond if necessary.”

The national media, conditioned by eighteen months of non-stop propaganda from the Governor Vice President Stacey Abrams campaign, is gleefully attacking Governor Kemp over yesterday’s cluster.

Rachel Maddow  – Kemp admin seems intent on keeping Georgia voting broken for 2020

The Root – What Could Possibly Be Going Wrong With Primary Voting in Brian Kemp’s Georgia?

Stacey Abrams SOS

Governor Ms. Abrams gets that much correct.

From the Associated Press via the Valdosta Daily Times:

Many Democrats blamed the Republican secretary of state for hours-long lines, voting machine malfunctions, provisional ballot shortages and absentee ballots failing to arrive in time for Tuesday’s elections. Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential campaign called it “completely unacceptable.” Georgia Republicans deflected responsibility to metro Atlanta’s heavily minority and Democratic-controlled counties, while President Donald Trump’s top campaign attorney decried “the chaos in Georgia.”

At Trump’s campaign headquarters, senior counsel Justin Clark blamed Georgia’s vote-by-mail push amid the COVID-19 pandemic, alluding to the president’s unfounded claims that absentee voting yields widespread fraud.

“The American people want to know that the results of an election accurately reflect the will of the voters,” Clark said. “The only way to make sure that the American people will have faith in the results is if people who can, show up and vote in person.”

In an interview with The Associated Press, Raffensperger laid blame elsewhere, noting state law charges counties with on-ground operation of elections.

“It’s really specifically in one or two counties, in Fulton and DeKalb counties, that had these issues today,” Raffensperger said. “It has nothing to do with what we’re doing in the rest of Georgia.”

Raffensperger, minimizing problems that were documented in other counties, promised investigations of Fulton’s and DeKalb’s handling of the primary. The Republican speaker of Georgia’s state legislature, meanwhile, called for an investigation of the entire primary process, singling out Fulton County as “particularly” troubling.

From the Rome News Tribune:

There were several issues in counting the massive number of absentee ballots cast in the race. Chief Elections Clerk Robert Brady said they had technical complications with the ballot counting machines.

A number of times through the evening, local elections officials were on the phone with the state’s tech support — and were again at just after midnight. The machines appeared to not want to read some ballots and Brady attributed it to having two contests condensed into one day.

Brady said there were several problems Tuesday morning, but he described them as annoyances, rather than full blown issues.

“Nobody turned anybody away and nothing caused long lines,” Brady said.

More than one precinct opened late and one piece of voting equipment had a low battery and had to be replaced with another piece of equipment, Brady said.

Muscogee County sent election workers home before vote counting was finished, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

The elections office ceased counting ballots shortly after 1 a.m., and said workers will return at 10 a.m. to finish a handful of precincts as well as the absentee ballots.

Nancy Boren, the county elections director, said the Georgia Secretary of State’s office around 1 a.m. gave counties the option of suspending the vote count, leaving the decision to members of Muscogee’s board of elections, who agreed with the overnight delay.

Polls closed around Columbus at 9 p.m. after technical issues with machines and other voting devices forced a Superior Court Judge to sign the extension order.

From the Albany Herald:

“About the only problem we had reported was that the tape ran out in one machine, and we had to send a technician to replace it,” Dougherty Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson said just after polls closed at 7 p.m. “About the only complaints we had were from people who had to sign affidavits that they had not voted by absentee ballot when they showed up to vote in person.”

“And we had some of the issues we usually have with the primaries: especially people choosing a ballot from one party when they wanted to vote for a candidate that’s on the other party’s ballot. But that’s the beauty of the new machines: Voters get a chance to review their ballot, and if they decide they want to make a change, they can do so.”

From the Savannah Morning News:

Reports of Georgia’s new voting machines not working across the county rolled into the office of Chatham County Board of Elections Chairman Tom Mahoney.

Mahoney said there were a variety of problems affecting different polling locations, and the BOE’s technician teams are working to diagnose and fix the problems.

“The first thing is correcting these problems, gathering accurate information about which polls are affected and how they’re affected, and finding out what the problems are,” Mahoney said.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey said there were problems at Vineyard Church and Stevens Creek Church setting up equipment Tuesday morning that caused opening delays. Vineyard Church ended up opening at 7:30 a.m., while Stevens Creek Church opened at 8:40 a.m.

“We did have two polling places that weren’t able to get opened up on time because of technical problems with the new voting system. Those have been resolved,” she said. “The problem was setting up the equipment. I can’t say it was the equipment itself.”

From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

“There were several polling places that opened today at 7 a.m., but did not open with their equipment, or not all of their equipment set up and ready to go,” county spokesman Joe Sorenson said. “So, those people who came to vote were offered ‘emergency ballots.’

“Emergency ballots are a kind of provisional ballot (but) one of the biggest differences between an emergency ballot and a regular provisional ballot is those people (who cast the emergency ballot) don’t have to do anything else. They cast their ballot as though they were casting another kind of ballot, like an advance by mail, so their ballot is done. There’s nothing else they need to do. They voted. Their votes will be counted in with all the other votes.”

At 8:55 AM on Tuesday, the Secretary of State’s website does not appear to have updated since last night, and shows incomplete numbers. Since I wrote that last line, the SOS website has updated.

SOS WEBSITE NOT UPDATED

Where the SOS website currently shows 172, 570 votes cast in the Democratic Presidential Preference Primary, the AJC shows more than 666k votes in that race.

SOS 172kDEM

AJC 666k DEM

So, it’s unclear if election numbers are fully reported yet, and so it may be problematic to report much on them for the next couple days. So, I’ll highlight a few races here and there that caught my eye and talk about a couple trends I’ve seen.

1.) Judicial incumbents losing in Metro Atlanta

Cobb County Superior Court

Reuben Green (i) – 40.32%

Angela Brown – 59.68%

Gwinnett County Superior Court

Randy Rich (i) – 39.68%

Tamela Adkins – 60.32%

Fulton County Superior Court

Rebeca Crumrine Rieder (i) – 43.57%

Shermela Williams 56.43%

Clayton Circuit Superior Court

Katherine Katie Powere (i) – 40.22%

Jewel Scott – 59.78%

2.) Experienced office holders shut out in Congressional bids (blue means runoff, red means former or current elected). Matt Gurtler is an outlier here, as he is technically an incumbent state legislator, but he is clearly the least “establishment” Republican in the General Assembly, and he was endorsed by the Club for Growth, which almost never endorses state legislators looking to upgrade to DC.

CD7 – Republican

Rich McCormick – 55%

Renee Unterman (State Senator) – 17%

Mark Gonsalves – 8%

Eugene Yu – 6%

Lisa Babbage – 6%

Lynne Homrich – 6%

Zachary Kennemore – 2%

CD9 – Republican

Matt Gurtler (anti-establishment State Rep.) – 22%

Andrew Clyde – 19%

Kevin Tanner (State Rep.) 16%

Paul Broun (former Congressman) – 13%

John Wilkinson (State Senator) – 12%

Ethan Underwood – 8%

Kellie Weeks – 4%

Maria Strickland – 3%

Michael Boggus – 3%

CD14 – Republican

Marjorie Greene – 41%

John Cowan – 20%

John Barge (former statewide) – 9%

Clayton Fuller – 7%

Bill Hembree (former State Rep.) – 7%

Kevin Cooke (former State Rep.) – 6%

Matt Laughridge – 6%

Ben Bullock – 4%

Andy Gunther – 1%

3.) Club for Growth 2 for 2 in GOP Primary Elections  so far – the conservative group endorsed State Rep. Matt Gurtler in the 14th Congressional District and Rich McCormick in the 7th. Gurtler is in a runoff, so that might change, but the CFG put up as good numbers as anyone.

4.) Gwinnett County looking pretty blue for November

Votes cast for President

Republican – 35,108

Democrat – 65,058

Votes cast for U.S. Senate Perdue seat

Republican – 36,746

Democrat – 69,559

In that race, Democrat Jon Ossoff, in a field of 7 candidates, took 36,803 votes, besting Senator Perdue’s total for the county.

Votes cast for District Attorney

Republican – 35,347

Democrat – 65,374

Votes cast for Sheriff

Republican – 34,738

Democrat – 65,506

Votes cast for County Commission Chair

Republican – 34,161

Democrat – 65,532

Votes cast for SD 45, currently held by Renee Unterman (R)

Republican – 11,457

Democrat – 11,601

Votes cast for SD 48, currently held by Zahra Karinshak (D)

Republican – 6,077

Democrat – 12,139

5.) Democratic challengers to incumbent mid-size city District Attorneys fared unexpectedly well.

Democratic Challenger Mark Jones appears to lead incumbent Julia Slater for District Attorney for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Columbus lawyer Mark Jones took an early lead over incumbent District Attorney Julia Slater in the race for chief prosecutor in the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit based in Columbus.

The circuit’s other counties include Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Talbot and Taylor.

Early results showed Jones leading Slater in two of the counties reporting that all of their votes had been tallied.

Click here to see the latest vote totals in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit DA race.

The Ledger-Enquirer posts higher vote totals than the state at the time this was written and shows Jones handily besting Slater.

Democrat Challenger Anita Howard beat incumbent Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Macon Judicial Circuit will have a new district attorney after Anita Reynolds Howard defeated incumbent David Cooke.

Howard, a Middle Georgia native with 15 years’ experience as a prosecutor, leads Cooke 17,005 votes to 6,545 in the Macon DA’s race, according to the most recent numbers released by local election boards. The Macon Judicial Circuit represents Bibb, Crawford and Peach counties. All ballots have been reported in Crawford and Peach, and all precincts have reported in Bibb County. Some 8,000 Bibb County absentee ballots till need to be counted.

Howard believes there is a lack of transparency and accountability in the DA’s office, something she expects to change. She wants to make sure that prosecutors and district attorneys are held accountable by the communities they serve.

“What everyone wants and what everyone deserves is to feel safe,” Howard said. “And with the continuing violent crime that Macon has, especially with the murders… I just believe that people want to see priority placed on public safety.”

Democrat Challenger Fani Willis came in first over incumbent Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, according to the AJC.

With 25 percent of the precincts reporting, six-term incumbent Paul Howard is trailing Fani Willis, his former chief deputy prosecutor, 40 to 34 percent. Christian Wise Smith, another former Fulton assistant district attorney, checks in with 25 percent of the vote.

Howard is seeking a seventh term as he faces three civil lawsuits from female employees past and present alleging harassment. He’s also under investigation by the GBI for use of a nonprofit to supplement his salary.

Willis made her former boss’ character a central issue of the campaign. Howard has fought back hard over the past week, alleging Willis is a Republican stalking horse who, in exchange for the Atlanta Police Union’s endorsement, agreed not to prosecute cops for excessive force. He supplied no proof in support of those accusations.

In Macon, Lester Miller and Cliffard Whitby appear headed for a runoff for Mayor of Macon-Bibb County, according to the Telegraph.

Lester Miller and Cliffard Whitby are the leading candidates in the race with early voting ballots, in person ballots and some absentee ballots reported. Roughly 8,000 absentee ballots still need to be counted.

Miller received the most votes, with 13,186 (43.3%), followed by Whitby with 8,456 (27.8%). Since no candidate received more than 50% of the vote, Miller and Whitby will compete in a runoff election on Aug. 11.

Senate District 4, previously held by Appropriations Chair Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) heads to a runoff, according to the Statesboro Herald.

In State Senate District 4 to fill the seat of the late Jack Hill, Billy Hickman and Scott Bohlke will head to a runoff on August 11, With 98 percent of the vote counted among the six counties that make up the district, Hickman had 33 percent of the vote, while Bohlke had 32 percent.

SD 4 had both a Special Election for the remainder of the current term, and a regular election for the 2021-22 sessions.

Democratic State Rep. Vernon Jones (D-DeKalb) will offer an amendment to hate crimes legislation to troll his Democratic colleagues add party affiliation as a protected class, according to Valdosta Today.

State Representative Vernon Jones (D-Lithonia) today announced that he will introduce the Jones Amendment when the 2020 legislative session resumes that will accompany other hate crime legislation to make it punishable by law to commit a crime based on a person’s political party affiliation or ideology. The Jones Amendment will be modeled after legislation that Rep. Jones previously introduced, House Bill 1120, before the 2020 legislative session was suspended due to COVID-19.

“Americans are being attacked nationwide because of their party affiliation and political ideology. I have personally been subjected to hate speech and threats because of my support for President Trump’s reelection,” said Rep. Jones. “While we are discussing hate crimes legislation in Georgia, this could address another form of hate crime that people are experiencing.”

Chatham County chose party candidates for County Commission Chair, but may head to round two, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Initial results from the 2020 primary election for Chatham County Commission Chair held on Tuesday, June 9, indicate that former Tybee Island mayor Jason Buelterman has a decisive lead over fellow Republican Billy Hair. In the Democratic race, Chester A. Ellis holds a smaller advantage over James “Jay” Jones.

With 80.43% of precincts reporting by 1 a.m. on Wednesday, June 10, Buelterman — who has enjoyed a sizable fundraising advantage in this race — garnered 6,280 votes to earn 73.80% of the total. Hair, who was commission chair during 1996-2004, had a vote count of 2,229 for 26.20% of the total.

Democrats Ellis and Jones, who are both current County Commissioners for Districts 8 and 6, respectively, had a close primary race, with Ellis pulling ahead with 8,338 votes for 52% of the total, while Jones ended the night at 48% with 7,696 votes.

Thirty-seven Chatham County precincts were ordered to stay open late, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Cobb County voters will return to the polls to choose a new Superior Court Judge, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Republican Jevin Jensen will be the next Whitfield County Commission Chair, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Businessman Jevin Jensen defeated incumbent Lynn Laughter for the Republican Party nomination for chairman of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday in incomplete results with 6,929 votes (58.5%) to 4,915 votes (41.5%).

No Democrat had qualified for the position.

At press time, all precincts were in, but elections officials said there were “a couple of hundred” absentee ballots yet to be counted, not enough to affect the outcome of the race.

Whitfield County voters approved a four-year, $66 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) by a vote of 9,209 for (58.6%) to 6,494 against (41.4%). The SPLOST will, among other things, fund a county Riverbend Park near Southeast Whitfield High School and a new John Davis Recreation Center for the city of Dalton.

Whitfield County Registrar Mary Hammontree said the county’s first election with a new voting system adopted by the state went fairly smoothly.

“We did get a lot of phone calls from people who’d asked for absentee ballots and wanted to vote in person, and our poll workers were getting a lot of questions from them,” she said.

T. Wright Barksdale has been elected District Attorney for the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, according to the Union Recorder.

The 33-year-old Barksdale, a native of Washington County, who lives in Gray, turned back a strong challenge from Carl Cansino, a well-known criminal defense attorney from Milledgeville to win the Republican Primary on Tuesday.

Barksdale, who currently prosecutes criminal cases in Putnam and Hancock counties as an assistant district attorney, will replace current District Attorney Stephen A. Bradley, who decided not to seek re-election. Instead, Bradley ran for the seat that is being vacated by the retirement of Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Chief Superior Court Judge William A. Prior Jr.

Since Bradley was unopposed, he won election to the judgeship.

In the race for district attorney, it boiled down to a pair of Republican candidates battling for the winner take all.

Gwinnett County will dole out $20 million dollars in federal pandemic aid, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The county has $20 million in federal CARES Act loans and grants that it can distribute to businesses. That includes $10 million in funding for loans and $10 million for grants that are available through the Gwinnett Small Business Assistance Program.

Business owners have until June 30 to apply for funding.

Gwinnett Board of Education member Louise Radloff appears to have lost her reelection bid, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

After nearly half a century on the Gwinnett county Board of Education, voters appeared to turn away from veteran school board member Louise Radloff on Tuesday and chose to go in a new direction as she appeared to lose her bid for a ninth term to Tarece Johnson.

Radloff, who is the Gwinnett school board’s current chairwoman, is the longest serving member of a school board in Georgia. She has sat on the Gwinnett Board of Education for nearly 47 years.

With 92% of the precincts counted, Johnson received 67.8% of the 8,192 votes counted in the race up to that point. She led the longtime incumbent by a more than two-to-one margin.

9
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 9, 2020

Georgia’s colonial charter, signed by King George II was witnessed on June 9, 1732.

Click here for the full text of Georgia’s Royal Charter from 1732.

Click here to see the oldest copy of Georgia’s Royal Charter, which was presented to Georgia by South Carolina.

The Battle of Bloody Marsh was fought between Spanish forces and colonists under James Oglethorpe on St Simons Island, Georgia in 1742 on a date that is variously cited as June 9 or June 7, 1742. Thus began the rivalry between Georgia and Florida.

On June 9, 1772, the first naval attack of the Revolutionary War took place near Providence, Rhode Island, as HMS Gaspee, a British tax enforcement ship was baited into running aground and attacked by a boarding party the next day.

On June 9, 1864, Gen. W.T. Sherman moved his troops to Big Shanty, Georgia, now called Kennesaw, and beginning a four-week period sometimes called the Battle of Marietta.

Cream was formed on June 9, 1966 by Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce.

On June 9, 1973, Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown, the first to win all three of the Triple Crown races since 1948. Secretariat was bred by Christopher Chenery, a graduate of Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, whose jockeys wore blue-and-white silks in honor of Chenery’s alma mater.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp announced that state tax collections were down again in May, according to a press release.

The State of Georgia’s May net tax collections totaled $1.58 billion for a decrease of $178 million, or -10.1 percent, compared to May 2019 when net tax collections totaled nearly $1.76 billion. Year-to-date net tax collections totaled $20.81 billion for a decrease of roughly $857.9 million, or -4 percent, compared to the previous fiscal year when net tax revenues totaled nearly $21.67 billion.

One area I noticed had an increase:

Motor Vehicle – Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees increased by $3.8 million, or 15.7 percent, in May while Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections declined by $44.3 million, or -57.5 percent, compared to FY 2019.

The AJC noted another area of strong growth:

Alcohol sales tax collections remained strong with a 12.3% improvement over May 2019.

Governor Kemp appointed Marie G. Broder of Spalding County as District Attorney for the Griffin Judicial Circuit, serving Fayette, Pike, Spalding, and Upson Counties. Gov. Kemp also appointed Ben J. Miller, Jr. as Superior Court Judge for the Griffin Judicial Circuit.

Gov. Kemp spent yesterday in Savannah, as officials from the Republican National Committee toured the city under consideration to host some part of the Republican National Convention. From the Savannah Morning News:

RNC president and CEO Marcia Lee Kelly and her team joined Kemp for the visit. After a late lunch at The Olde Pink House, Kemp spoke with members of the media. Kelly did not.

Kemp said the RNC is considering having multiple events in different cities, though the exact path forward is not yet clear.

He said during Kelly’s visit he was “really letting her get the feel for this great historic city and explaining to her and emphasizing how great we are at tourism in Savannah and in the state of Georgia and that we’re great at hosting large crowds.”

“I’m very certain that we could have a very large event here. Who knows what the president is gonna be doing?” Kemp said. “He may have multiple large events in conjunction with all these things, whether it be Georgia, Florida, South Carolina at the same time. That’s why we’re working with them. We’re open to hosting any or all of what they want to do as they move forward.”

“If it is gonna be a regional event, which, I don’t know exactly what they’re gonna do, but if it is, this is in the heart of a very important region when you think about Florida and South Carolina being very close by.”

From WJCL:

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson issued the following statement in response: “I am strongly concerned about the impact that a convention of this magnitude would have on the health, safety and welfare of our city, her citizens and our budget. That being said, I am not privy to, or familiar with, any proposal or plans relating to the 2020 Republican National Convention, but I am open and willing to hear what they have to say.”

Today is Primary Election Day in Georgia. From the Valdosta Daily Times:

After being delayed twice due to COVID-19, voters will be able to cast ballots Tuesday, June 9, in the presidential primary, state primaries and non-partisan races. The polls open 7 a.m. and close 7 p.m.

Voters wishing to cast a ballot in-person will need to be aware if their usual voting precinct is closed or not. Due to the pandemic, four precincts in Lowndes County will be closed for the election Tuesday.

The coronavirus has altered the election not only in date but how people vote. In Lowndes, nearly 7,000 mail-in absentee ballots have been received by the county elections office as of Monday morning, [Lowndes County Election Supervisor Deb] Cox said.

Having already scanned in all the absentee ballots received at the time, she said that the high volume of mail in votes should not delay results. Those ballots already are in the computers and will be tabulated 7 p.m. Tuesday.

“We should know 99% of the results tomorrow night,” Cox said Monday.

Absentee ballots will continue to be accepted until 7 p.m Tuesday.

From the Dalton Daily Citizen News:

Almost a fifth of registered voters in both Whitfield and Murray counties will have already voted when polls open on Tuesday at 7 a.m.

Whitfield County Registrar Mary Hammontree said 1,980 people voted in early voting and as of about 3:30 p.m. on Monday the elections office had received 6,509 absentee ballots. Whitfield County has 52,773 registered voters.

The Murray County elections office reported that 1,587 took part in early voting there and as of about noon on Monday it had received 2,774 absentee ballots. The county has about 22,000 registered voters, so roughly 20% of registered voters have already voted in Murray County.

Whitfield County voters will decide on a proposed four-year, $66 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) that would, among other things, fund projects that include a county Riverbend Park near Southeast Whitfield High School; a new John Davis Recreation Center for the city of Dalton; and sewer expansion to the Carbondale interchange, the Connector 3 interchange and north along Cleveland Highway to about Frontier Trail to encourage economic development in those areas.

In both Whitfield and Murray counties, all of the contested general primary races will be on the Republican Party ballot.

From The Brunswick News:

Turnout during early voting was record-breaking for Glynn County among absentee voters and those looking to vote in person. According to the Glynn County Board of Elections, during the 16 days of early voting 3,601 people cast ballots, surpassing 2016 and 2018.

More impressive was the number of absentee ballots — in excess of 9,000 as of 5:30 p.m. Monday. According to board member Keith Rustin, that’s more than the last five elections combined.

Georgia elections officials expect in-person election day turnout to lag behind past years, largely due to COVID-19.

Nearly 325,000 statewide voted in-person during the last three weeks, easily surpassing the record set in during the 2016 primary of 255,000.

Nearly one million people cast a ballot by mail, he said, and will likely pass a million before the polls close at 7 p.m. today.

In total, 1.2 million had voted as of 10:30 a.m. Monday, more than the total turnout during the 2016 primary.

Historically, half of voters cast their ballots during early voting and half on election day.

From the Rome News Tribune:

More than 14,000 Floyd County residents have already cast ballots by mail or in person during the early voting period that ended Friday. Chief Elections Clerk Robert Brady said there were 3,246 votes cast at the Rome Civic Center and his office had received 11,207 ballots by mail.

“No more absentee by mail ballots can be issued, but they will continue to be collected until the polls close,” he said.

Ballots can be returned at the drop boxes in front of the elections office at the County Administration Building, 12 E. Fourth Ave., and the Rome Floyd County Library, 205 Riverside Parkway.

Brady said he’s expecting a turnout rate of about 32%. With the active registered voter list standing at 57,115, that would mean another 3,800 voters or so will cast ballots across the 25 precincts today.

“Primaries draw 26% to 32% traditionally, so I’m being optimistic,” Brady said.

From the Athens Banner Herald:

In District 6, incumbent Jerry NeSmith, who died Sunday, was seeking re-election, and should he garner more votes than his challenger Jesse Houle, the race would require a special election later.

Lines got longer and longer during last week of advance voting in Athens-Clarke and other places around the state. In Fulton County, some voters waited in line until midnight to cast a ballot, according to newspaper and television reports.

As of Monday morning, 14,681 people had voted in Clarke County, and 8,315 in neighboring Oconee County, Jones said. By contrast, 7,615 people in Oconee County voted in the 2018 nonpartisan party primaries, featuring contested races for party nominations for governor, and 17,385 in Clarke County.

Hotly contested races without incumbents for sheriff and probate court judge may be fueling voter interest in Oconee County this year.

From the Gainesville Times:

The county elections office had processed about 14,700 absentee ballots as of Friday morning, Elections Director Lori Wurtz said. Another 2,400 had arrived at the office but had not been processed yet.

Although a third-party vendor contracted with the state had been processing absentee ballots, the responsibility shifted back to county offices during the last week of early voting, Wurtz said.

The county has received about 60,000 absentee ballot applications and sent out about 31,000 ballots. County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said of the remaining applications, about 18,000 were duplicate requests, or people who sent in multiple applications. Another 6,000 were returned mail, including many people whose mailing addresses were different from their physical addresses, and the Secretary of State’s vendor re-sent many of those ballots. She said 100 were being held for additional information, such as if the voter did not sign the ballot or designate a party. Elections officials had been unable to reach those 100 voters.

About 3,400 people had cast their ballots in person during early voting as of Friday morning, Wurtz said.

There are about 125,000 registered voters in Hall.

From the AJC:

Election results will also be delayed, possibly for days, in some contests because of the time it might take to count so many absentee ballots. A record 943,000 voters have returned absentee ballots so far.

Raffensperger announced Monday that he wouldn’t release any election results until the last precinct in the state closes Tuesday night. While precincts are scheduled to be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., voting locations will keep their doors open late to accommodate voters waiting in line.

“I ask everyone to be patient. We are in fact all in this together,” Raffensperger said. “I just don’t believe in releasing results while other voters are actively voting.”

A Dalton City Council majority favors removing a statute of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

“Any time you have something that offends so many people, it should be moved,” said Mayor David Pennington when reached after the march. But Pennington cautioned that moving it could violate a state law passed last year.

“The law says we’d have to move it to a place of equal prominence, which sort of defeats the purpose,” he said.

Pennington said the statue is still owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which was responsible for its creation. He said he does not know the details of any agreement for the statue to be maintained by the city but it always has been. Melissa Burchfield, a representative of the United Daughters of the Confederacy Pvt. Drewry R. Smith Chapter 2522, declined comment Monday night.

Protesters in Macon will advocate for removal of a Confederate memorial, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) spoke to the Glynn County Republican Party, according to The Brunswick News.

The Floyd County Judicial Center will be closed through at least June 22 after several more COVID-19 cases, according to the Rome News Tribune.

An emergency order issued Monday stated that a “significant number of courthouse employees have tested positive or required treatment.” The Department of Public Health has determined that many have had close contact with an infected employee.

There are currently seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 among courthouse staff, said Northwest Georgia District Public Health spokesman Logan Boss

“This requirement has resulted in all of the judges and staff of the probate court being in self-quarantine,” the order stated. “In addition, the Office of the Clerk of Superior Court has most, if not all, of its employees in self-quarantine.”

Rome City Commission voted against a proposal to allow some public alcohol consumption in downtown, according to the Rome News Tribune.

8
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 8, 2020

The first Porsche automobile was completed on June 8, 1948.

Ghostbusters was released on June 8, 1984.

On June 8, 2004, Georgia hosted the G-8 summit meeting of the world’s major industrial democracies, which included representatives from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom, plus a representative from the European Union. The 30th meeting of the G-8 was held at Sea Island at the Cloister.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Legislative Meetings this week

Monday, June 08, 2020

9:00 AM Senate Appropriations- Higher Education Subcommittee 450 CAP.

12:30 PM Senate Appropriations- Community Health Subcommittee 450 CAP.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

10:00 AM Senate Judiciary 307 CLOB

3:00 PM Senate Appropriations- Human Development and Public Health Subcommittee 450 CAP.

Republican National Committee representatives will tour Savannah as a possible site for all or part of this year’s Republican National Convention, according to the AJC.

The RNC plans to scout the coastal Georgia city after Trump and national Republicans decided to shift most convention proceedings out of Charlotte, according to a senior official with direct knowledge of the tour.

Gov. Brian Kemp, who has steadily rolled back economic restrictions, has vowed the state can “safely host” the gathering during the pandemic and urged Trump to keep “Georgia on your mind.”

Kemp, who plans to join the tour in Savannah, said in a statement Monday that the state will “offer a truly unmatched experience” to the RNC organizers.

“With world-renowned southern hospitality, first-class facilities and a top-notch workforce, ‘The Hostess City of the South’ will leave a lasting impression on Marcia Lee Kelly and her team,” Kemp said of the convention’s CEO.

Republican officials have indicated they would split up this year’s meeting across several different locations, clearing the way for smaller cities to make their pitch.

Some convention business will still be held in Charlotte to avoid breaking a contract, though Trump’s nominating speech on the final night of the meeting will be elsewhere. Party officials could also scatter parts of the event to other states.

RNC officials are also considering several other potential locations, including Nashville and the Florida cities of Jacksonville and Orlando.

Northeast Georgia Health System could lost a quarter-billion dollars over COVID-19, according to the Gainesville Times.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Northeast Georgia Health System has seen a decline in admissions at its hospitals, which has led to an expected revenue loss of $200 to $250 million through September.

The system has seen reductions in patient volumes in all departments, including 50% in the emergency department, 70% in outpatient surgery and up to 100% in outpatient rehabilitation and some physician practices, Chief Financial Officer Brian Steines said. NGHS fell 15% short of expected admissions in March, 29% short in April and was projected to fall 21% short in May as of May 27.

“We want to encourage everyone to not be afraid to come to the hospital if you need care. We’ve seen a reduction in the number of patients coming to our hospitals for heart attacks, strokes, miscarriages and other health emergencies — and delaying that care is life-threatening,” Steines said in an email. “The best place anyone can be in those situations is in a hospital, and our staff is taking all precautions possible to keep them safe while they are here.”

NGHS has received about $54 million in federal funding from the CARES Act, the federal coronavirus relief funding legislation. Those funds will offset about 21% to 27% of the projected $200 to $250 million revenue loss through September.

Steines said that while the health system was strong financially before the pandemic, “no nonprofit health system can take this kind of financial loss without making adjustments.”

Senior leadership is taking a 25% to 30% pay cut for the year, and NGHS paused matching employees’ contributions to their 401(k) plans through September. The system has adjusted staffing to match patient volumes in non-essential areas and is evaluating other adjustments that may be needed through September, Steines said. Expansion and improvement projects are also being reconsidered.

More than one million votes were cast before the end of early voting, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

As of Friday, 1,108,732 people have participated in early voting — roughly 76% by mail-in ballots.

So far, during early voting, 262,135 Georgians voted in person.

There are still 699,940 outstanding absentee ballots, which are required to be returned to county elections offices no later than 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

If a voter has an absentee ballot but decides to vote in person instead, the voter must bring the absentee ballot to the polling location so it can be disposed of.

For voters who decide to take to the voting booth, the secretary of state’s office advised them to bring a mask and prepare for longer wait times.

From the Statesboro Herald:

Elections Supervisor Pat Lanier Jones said her office is preparing to open all 16 voting precincts for in person voting Tuesday, with three polls being moved temporarily to larger locations due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We will have fewer poll workers (Tuesday) because of the COVID,” Jones said. “And with social distancing, we will have fewer machines at each location. Masks are encouraged for voters, but are not required. We are in the process of getting gloves for voters to have one for the hand touching the equipment.”

Through Tuesday afternoon, 1,120 people had voted early in person at the Elections Office on North Main Street, according to Shontay Jones, deputy registrar for Bulloch County Elections. In May 2016, the last presidential year primary, 2,988 people voted early.

But, through Tuesday, Shontay Jones said her office had received 5,513 absentee ballots, compared to 270 in 2016. About 10,000 Bulloch residents have requested absentee ballots and Friday is also the final day to request an absentee ballot.

Pat Jones said all absentee ballots must be returned in person or received by mail no later than 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Ballots postmarked Tuesday, but not in the Elections Office by 7 p.m., will not be counted. There is an active military exception.

From the Savannah Morning News:

In order to provide enough space for social distancing, a few polling places have been changed, and a few have been combined.

In a typical election, Chatham County has 92 polling places. This time, there will be only 90.

Poll workers will be required to wash their hands frequently, and work stations will be wiped down with alcohol. Voting machines will be wiped with a cleaning solution on “a very regular, periodic basis,” BOE Chairman Russell Bridges said.

“If we observe somebody putting their hands all over the machine or sneezing on it or something, we will clean it immediately after their visit,” Bridges said.

Additionally, 50 masks will be available at each polling place for voters, though Bridges said the supply is strictly limited to 50, and the BOE is strongly encouraging voters to wear their own mask. Tape on the ground inside and outside will mark proper social distance, and the voting machines will be placed six feet apart.

Each voter will receive a single-use stylus-pen as they cast their ballot.

The stylus-pens will be returned and sanitized, not to be re-used until the next election, after sanitization.

As of Thursday, June 4, 44,758 absentee ballots have been requested, and 26,537 completed ballots have been returned. Absentee ballots alone eclipse the 2016 general primary turnout of 23,750 total votes cast.

As of Thursday, 4,054 early in-person ballots have been cast.

Absentee ballots can be turned in up until 7 p.m. on election day, June 9, after which they’ll be tabulated.

Early voting numbers for 2020 show a total turnout of 4,054 ballots cast early as of Thursday, with 1,090 Republican ballots, 2,931 Democratic ballots and 33 nonpartisan ballots.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

As of Friday, more than 24,700 voters had cast ballots, either by mail or in person at advance voting sites in Richmond County. Nearly 14,000 had already voted in Columbia County.

“We don’t expect to see as many come to the polls to vote,” said Lynn Bailey, executive director for Richmond County Board of Elections. “We expect to see fewer faces and that was the whole idea.”

Total turnout in the 2016 primary and nonpartisan election was 28% and so far, 18.5% of registered voters had cast ballots in Richmond County at the end of advance voting Friday.

From the Newnan Times-Herald:

As of mid-afternoon Friday, 3,236 Cowetans had participated in early voting, and over 11,000 absentee ballots had been returned. But more than 10,000 absentee ballots were still outstanding.

[Assistant Elections Director Ashley] Gay expects many of those to arrive by election day – many of them brought by voters to their polling place. On average during early voting, about 25 percent of the people who showed up had already requested and received absentee ballots. Those ballots have to be turned in and cancelled before a voter can vote on the electronic machines – a process that can take 15 to 20 minutes during early voting, and possibly much longer on election day.

Over the last few days, that percentage was more like 40 to 50 percent, Gay said.

“If people have a ballot that they got in the mail, they need to make every effort to vote that ballot – because on election day there will be 26 precincts calling the Voter Registration Office to have ballots canceled,” she said.

Because of the large number of paper ballots, [Elections Director Jane] Scoggins estimated it could take some 30 hours just to scan the ballots. That means results may not be available Tuesday night, though Scoggins said they plan to work through the night.

From the AJC:

Over 1.2 million people have already voted — about three-quarters of them on absentee ballots, according to state elections data after early voting ended Friday. Voters were closely split between Democrats and Republicans heading into election day on Tuesday.

Georgians embraced voting from home, avoiding human contact at polling places. A record 943,000 voters had returned their absentee ballots through Sunday, a 2,500% increase compared to absentee-by-mail voting in the 2016 presidential primary.

Voters were nearly evenly split, 49% to 49%, among those who returned Democratic Party ballots and those who used Republican Party ballots, with the remainder completing nonpartisan ballots. Overall, including in-person voters, slightly more Georgians had cast Democratic Party ballots through Sunday, with the parties separated by just 11,000 votes across the state.

Many voters haven’t yet returned their absentee ballots. Of 1.6 million voters who requested absentee ballots, about 657,000 ballots haven’t been returned.

Dougherty County has changed some voting precincts due to worker shortages, according to the Albany Herald.

Twelve of Dougherty County’s voting precincts will be combined into six for Tuesday’s primary election as county Elections officials deal with the impact of COVID-19.

“These people are on the front line,” [Dougherty County Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson] said. “A lot of our poll workers are in this critical age group, and they opted not to work. We want to ensure there are enough people available at each precinct to serve our voters. This is the only way we can facilitate that.”

Poll workers will wear masks and gloves to protect themselves and others, and the state has provided styluses for use by voters. When voters enter a voting precinct, they will receive a stylus to sign a digital poll pad, be given a voter card and proceed to a touchscreen voting machine. Voters will use the same stylus to make selections on the ballot.

After the voter finishes, the stylus will be sanitized before being used by another voter.

“We have signage provided by the state requesting voters keep a 6-foot distance,” she said.

DeKalb County has twenty-seven precinct changes for tomorrow’s election, according to the AJC.

“Some of the locations, such as churches, have not reopened due to the pandemic,” county spokesman Andrew Cauthen said last week. “Other locations, such as senior living facilities, are not available due to COVID-19 related concerns.”

The latest tally of relocated precincts, which was released late Friday, includes three new changes. Most of the affected precincts are in northern DeKalb or the Decatur area.

Officials have previously said that affected voters would be notified by mail, and that signs would be posted at relocated voting locations.

State Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) spoke to the Gwinnett Daily Post about hate crimes legislation.

The Dacula Republican is calling on the [Senate Judiciary] committee to give House Bill 426 a hearing and forward it on to the full Senate once the Georgia General Assembly reconvenes June 15. The Senate Judiciary Committee has had the bill since March 2019, but has not yet taken it up.

“This bill has been sitting in the Senate for over a year so it’s important (that) the Senate takes action as soon as possible,” Efstration said. “Any attempt to further delay consideration of the bill or to amend the bill is really just an effort to defeat the measure.

“So I encourage the Senate, and I’ve been encouraging my colleagues in the Senate, to take action on House Bill 426 as soon as possible.”

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who presides over the state Senate, recently signaled support for passage of a hate crimes bill, but indicated he felt the bill pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee needed some work.

“This is an important piece of legislation to get right,” Duncan said in a statement. “It is time to make it clear that Georgians will not stand for hate and violence. As we work through this legislation we want to make sure that victims of hate crimes have certain tools at their disposal.”

Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) said he opposes the $600 weekly unemployment supplement, according to the Gainesville Times.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, has written to House and Senate leadership to express concerns about extending the $600 supplemental unemployment insurance offered under the CARES Act, the federal legislation offering coronavirus relief funding.

“At this critical point in reopening, our economy and our business owners cannot afford to have their employees earning a substantial income from their fellow taxpayers,” the letter states. “Small businesses receiving loans from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) are especially harmed if they cannot provide competitive wages and persuade their employees to return to work within the allotted time frame for PPP forgiveness.”

The $600 supplements are provided to people eligible for state and federal unemployment programs, and the payments are in addition to state unemployment benefits. In the letter, the members of Congress ask that the supplements expire at the end of July as first approved in the CARES Act.

“The supplemental (unemployment insurance) was intended to be a lifeline for those whose employer was unable to retain them, not set individuals on a path to continued reliance on government assistance,” the letter states. “If these benefits are extended, it would only reinforce and deepen the structural issues and rampant abuse of our public assistance programs that existed prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

Fetch Your News spoke to Ninth District Congressional Candidate John Wilkinson about his campaign.

“If you really look at America and what makes us great, one of the reasons we’re great is we have the most abundant food, the safest food at the lowest price in the world,” he said. “That makes a big difference. I heard someone say one time, ‘we couldn’t have planned a space shot and a moon walk if the people planning it had been concerned about where their next meal was coming from.’”

Wilkinson was raised on a farm in Stephens County. He has experience as a classroom teacher and served on the State Agricultural Education staff for 26 years. He has served as State Advisor to the Georgia Future Farmers of America Association, as well as the Georgia Young Farmer Association. He was recognized as the Outstanding Member of the National Association of Supervisors of Agricultural Education in 2006.

“Agriculture, agribusiness is the biggest business in our state,” Wilkins told host Brian Pritchard. “It has a $72 billion impact on our economy. A lot of people think agriculture is focused in south Georgia. Peanuts and cotton and those kind of things are but out of that $72 billion, $32 billion of it is from the poultry industry and the poultry industry is concentrated in north Georgia in my senate district. Sen. District 50 for instance, four of those counties are in the top 10 in Georgia in farm income.”

About one of every seven jobs in Georgia is directly linked to agriculture. “So, for Georgia to remain strong, for our country to remain strong, we’ve got to continue to be a leader in food production,” he said.

The Albany Herald looks at the election for Senate District 13.

Two Democratic candidates in Georgia Senate District 13 who are hoping to run against the Republican incumbent will face off in Tuesday’s primary.

Both Leesburg resident Mary Egler and Ruenett Melton of Tifton have sought political office in the past.

The winner in the contest will face incumbent Carden Summers, who won a special election for the seat last year, in the fall general election. The district includes all of Crisp, Dodge, Dooly, Lee, Turner and Wilcox counties and a portion of Sumter and Tift counties.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer profiles the four candidates for Muscogee County Sheriff and two Democrats running for Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit District Attorney.

[Challenger Mark] Jones, 38, has made headlines recently because of his arrest stemming from the May 17 filming of a campaign ad at the Columbus Civic Center, where he’s alleged to have recruited two custom-car enthusiasts to cut doughnuts in the parking lot. Authorities claimed the tire marks left there caused more than $300,000 damage.

Jones also has been in the news for representing protesters police arrested after a May 31 downtown demonstration against racial injustice.

The Gwinnett Daily Post writes about local offices on Tuesday’s ballot.

One of several key local races is the one for county commission chairman, where Republicans and Democrats are vying to replace retiring chairwoman Charlotte Nash.

Republicans George Awuku, Marcia L. Neaton and David Post are facing off in the GOP primary. Meanwhile, the primary for Democrats is between Nicole Love Hendrickson, Andy Morgan, Desmond A. Nembhard, Curt Thompson and Lee Thompson Jr.

Another key local race to watch will be for sheriff, to determine who will replace retiring Sheriff Butch Conway.

The Republican primary for this race will include Conway’s choice to be his successor, Chief Deputy Lou Solis, and Keith Van Nus. The Democratic primary for this seat is a contest between Curtis Clemons, Ben Haynes, Floyd Scott and Keybo Taylor.

One contested commission district race to keep an eye on will be in Commission District 3, where candidates are vying to replace controversial Commissioner Tommy Hunter. The Republican field includes Ben Archer, Matt DeReimer and Kim Walker while the Democratic Party’s field includes Roger Marmol, John Moye Jr., Justin Walsh, Jasper Watkins and Derrick J. Wilson.

The Republican primary for Commission District 1, where candidates are vying to replace retiring Commissioner Jace Brooks, will also be contested on Tuesday. Republicans Laurie McClain and Jacqueline Tseng are facing off to see who will challenge Democrat Kirkland Carden in November.

Athens-Clarke County commissioner Jerry NeSmith has died, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The City of Albany will begin reopening parks and recreation facilities, according to the Albany Herald.

“The community’s safety is a top priority, and it was important that we made sure that the decision to reopen parks and recreation facilities would be at the appropriate time,” City Manager Sharon Subadan said. “I am thankful for the community support. As we continue to see the decline of COVID-19 cases, we are confident that these facilities could be reopened and activities resumed.”

The public is strongly encouraged to wear a mask at all city facilities. Staff will be required to wear a mask.

The Glynn County Board of Education is planning to maintain the same millage rate as last year, according to The Brunswick News.

The school board will not be able to vote on next year’s budget until the state officially approves its own budget. Cole said he doesn’t expect the state to have its final budget ready for several weeks.

When it meets Tuesday, the school board will vote on a spending resolution authorizing Spence to expend funds beginning in July while the board formally adopts its budget.

The board will combine millage rate hearings and budget hearings in July, Preston said.

The school system also received a grant from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, through the Georgia Department of Education, in the amount of $3.5 million.

5
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 5, 2020

The Battle of Bloody Marsh was fought between Spanish forces and colonists under James Oglethorpe on St Simons Island, Georgia in 1742 on a date that is variously cited as June 9 or June 7, 1742. Thus began the rivalry between Georgia and Florida.

According to “This Day in Georgia History,” on June 5, 1775, the first Liberty Pole in Georgia was raised in Augusta, Georgia. Another account holds that the first Liberty Pole in Georgia was raised June 4, 1775 at Tondee’s Tavern in Savannah. Those who fly the “Appeal to Heaven” flag should know that it has some common history with Liberty Poles.

Richard_Henry_Lee_at_Nat._Portrait_Gallery_IMG_4471

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced a resolution before the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia calling for American independence from Great Britain.

Lee’s resolution declared: “That these United Colonies are, and of right out to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; that measures should be immediately taken for procuring the assistance of foreign powers, and a Confederation be formed to bind the colonies more closely together.”

“Light Horse Harry” Lee, (aka Henry Lee, III), later the father of Robert E. Lee, led a group of Continental soldiers, South Carolina and Georgia militia as the British surrendered Augusta on June 5, 1781. The capture of Augusta led to Georgia’s inclusion in the United States, though it had previously been so divided between Patriots and Loyalists that Georgia was the only American colony to not participate in the First Continental Congress. Henry Lee, III was a nephew of Richard Henry Lee and served as Governor of Virginia and represented the Commonwealth in Congress.

The expulsion of the Cherokee from Georgia began on June 6, 1838 as 800 members left by riverboat.

The Republican National Convention met in Philadelphia on June 5, 1872, nominating Ulysses S. Grant for President the next day. Twelve years later, on June 5, 1884, William T. Sherman refused the Republican nomination for President, saying, “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected.”

The first successful ascent of Mt. McKinley, also called Denali, in Alaska, the highest mountain in North America, was completed on June 7, 1913.

On June 7, 1942, Japanese troops occupied American territory in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska.

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower began the invasion of France, called D-Day.

On the morning of June 5, 1944, U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe gave the go-ahead for Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious military operation in history. On his orders, 6,000 landing craft, ships and other vessels carrying 176,000 troops began to leave England for the trip to France. That night, 822 aircraft filled with parachutists headed for drop zones in Normandy. An additional 13,000 aircraft were mobilized to provide air cover and support for the invasion.

By dawn on June 6, 18,000 parachutists were already on the ground; the land invasions began at 6:30 a.m. The British and Canadians overcame light opposition to capture Gold, Juno and Sword beaches; so did the Americans at Utah. The task was much tougher at Omaha beach, however, where 2,000 troops were lost and it was only through the tenacity and quick-wittedness of troops on the ground that the objective was achieved. By day’s end, 155,000 Allied troops–Americans, British and Canadians–had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches.

On June 6, 1949, George Orwell published 1984.

Republican candidate for Governor A. Ed Smith died in a car accident on June 5, 1962.

Ronald Reagan became the Republican nominee for Governor of California on June 7, 1966.

Senator Robert F. Kennedy was shot after winning the California Primary on June 5, 1968 and died the next day.

President Ronald Reagan died on June 5, 2004.

Columbus will celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day on Thursday at the National Infantry Museum, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

June 7, 2016 was declared “Prince Day” in Minnesota under a proclamation issued by Governor Mark Dayton. Prince was born on this day in 1958. Governor Dayton missed his chance to begin a proclamation with “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together today….” The next year, Dayton proclaimed Prince Day on April 21, 2017.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Three protesters are jailed and charged with using Molotov cocktails to try to set fire to police cars in Gwinnett County, according to WSB-TV.

Three protesters are in jail Thursday after being arrested for trying to set police cars on fire with Molotov cocktails.

Police say the vandals tracked those officers down at their homes and tried to torch their cars. Both fires were put out quickly, leaving minor damage to the vehicles.

More than one million ballots have been cast ahead of Tuesday’s Primary elections, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

The overwhelming majority of votes cast so far have come via absentee ballots amid a surge in mail-in voting spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.

Of the more than 1 million votes cast as of Thursday, roughly 80% were absentee ballots sent in the mail or placed in temporary drop-off boxes that county elections officials have installed in recent weeks, [the Secretary of State's] office said.

That amounts to 810,000 absentee ballots cast so far, already dwarfing the roughly 223,000 mail-in votes collected in the high-turnout 2018 gubernatorial election.

Meanwhile, many voters in the state are still waiting to receive absentee ballots after requesting them weeks ago. Elections officials acknowledged Tuesday thousands of voters were still awaiting absentee ballots, particularly in Fulton County.

For instance, Kaleb McMichen, the press secretary for Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, said Thursday on Twitter he had not yet received his absentee ballot after requesting one on April 8.

On Thursday, Rep. David Dreyer, D-Atlanta, urged voters who have not yet mailed in their absentee ballots to put them in a drop-off box that counties have set up to collect those ballots.

Some Georgia faith leaders are advocating for passage of hate crimes legislation when the General Assembly reconvenes, according to Fox5Atlanta.

Georgia’s House of Representatives passed House Bill 426 in March 2019, but the legislation stalled in the Senate. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, would increase penalties for those convicted of crimes where the court “determines beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally selected any victim or group of victims or any property as the object of the offense because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability of such victim or group of victims.”

Under the legislation, those found guilty of a misdemeanor would be subject to an additional 3 to 12 months of jail time and a $5,000 fine. Those convicted on a felony charge would receive an extra two years on their sentence.

“The House passed Chairman Efstration’s hate crimes bill last year and it awaits a vote in the Senate,” said Spokesman Kaleb McMichen. “Speaker Ralston supports that legislation, and he has challenged the Senate to pass it with no delay and no amendments when session resumes.”

Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan presides over the state Senate and in a statement to FOX 5, said lawmakers can do more:

“We can’t keep dancing around this important issue with overtones of partisan politics and expect the situation to improve. Now is the time for the Senate to step up and deliver a meaningful piece of legislation that makes it crystal clear that Georgia will be the worst place to commit a crime of hate against anyone. I’m looking forward to leading this aggressive charge in the remaining 11 days of the session.”

“HB 426 is a solid starting point, but it’s only a one-dimensional approach to a complex issue. I believe the Senate is well-positioned to craft a hate crimes bill that affords victims more protections. Meaningful hate crimes legislation must address important things like law enforcement reporting, ensure due process, close potential loopholes, and empower victims to the maximum extent. I’m looking forward to continuing a dialogue with key stakeholders from around the state. I expect the Senate to take action.”

From the Gainesville Times:

The Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police adopted a resolution late last month in support of legislation that “enhances and mandates the criminal sentence” in cases involving hate crimes.“The Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police support the creation of a civil process for victims to seek redress for any injury or damage to his or her property as a result of crimes of this nature,” according to the resolution.

The bill would increase punishments when it is proven in court “beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally selected any victim or group of victims or any property as the object of the offense because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability of such victim or group of victims.”

If it’s a misdemeanor, it’s a minimum of three months imprisonment and a maximum $5,000 fine. A felony would require at least two years imprisonment.

Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said he feels such a bill will require a great deal of patience and cooperation to create legislation that is both passable and enforceable.

“The hate crimes bill will be a delicate process, and it’s not as simple as either side would have you believe. There is no place for racism or injustice in our society or in our government,” he said.

Miller said there are potentially other substitute bills that have been drafted.

“There are many legislators on both sides of the aisle that are very passionate about the issue, and rightfully so. The scenes that we have witnessed in the last few weeks are troubling to say the least,” Miller said.

The defendants in the Ahmaud Arbery case will face murder charges in Superior Court, according to The Brunswick Times.

In opening statements of the probable cause hearing at the Glynn County Courthouse today for the three men charged in Arbery’s killing, Cobb County Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jesse Evans said the 25-year-old “was chased, hunted down and executed.”

After six hours of testimony, Glynn County Magistrate Judge Wallace Harrell bound all three defendants over to Superior Court for trial. Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, are charged with felony murder and aggravated assault. William “Roddie” Bryan, 50, is charged with felony murder and criminal intent to commit false imprisonment.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the three men appeared via video from the Glynn County Detention Center. The McMichaels were visible on computer screens inside the courtroom; Bryan’s attorney opted to keep him offscreen.

GBI special agent Richard Dial, the lead investigator in the Arbery case, described a scene in which Arbery was pursued relentlessly, cut off from escape and ultimately shot dead by Travis McMichael. It started after Arbery entered a house under construction on Satilla Drive around 1 p.m.

From the New York Times:

A federal civil rights probe into Mr. Floyd’s death was announced last Friday by Attorney General William P. Barr. Lawyers for Mr. Arbery’s family have said that a federal civil rights probe into the Arbery case is also underway.

In an interview on Thursday, L. Chris Stewart, the lawyer for Mr. Arbery’s mother, said the revelation of the racist language should be enough to trigger indictments under the federal hate crimes statute.

“This is the proof they need to actually bring charges,” he said.

Franklin Hogue, a lawyer for Gregory McMichael, said that while “we might agree” that his client leaving the house with a firearm “may not have been a very good idea,” he had a legitimate reason to want to “intercept” someone he thought may have committed a crime.

Protesters might want to get tested for COVID-19, according to the AJC.

“Those individuals that have partaken in these peaceful protests or have been out protesting, and particularly if they’re in metropolitan areas that really haven’t controlled the outbreak…we really want those individuals to highly consider being evaluated and get tested,” Robert Redfield, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a U.S. House of Representatives committee, Reuters reported.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation found three individuals arrested in recent days have criminal records involving previous protests, according to WSB-TV.

•  A 34-year-old man arrested in Atlanta who they believe had participated in riots in Minneapolis before coming to Atlanta.

•  A Florida resident who had multiple obstruction and assault charges related to civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. The convicted felon live streamed his post-arrest detainment on social media while handcuffed.

•  At least ten individuals were bonded out by one individual who is out-of-state. The GBI says that suggests a coordinated effort.

“At first glance, that would dictate to law enforcement, or indicate to law enforcement that there’s probably some connection there,” GBI Director Vic Reynolds told Channel 2′s Richard Elliot.

Reynolds says its too early to name which groups they believe sparked the violence and if they are left-wing or right-wing groups, or both. Reynolds says more analysis will take place at the federal level.

To be fair, I think something similar could have been said about Congressman John Lewis (D-Atlanta) during his days on the frontlines of the civil rights movement. Rep. Lewis

 

Democrats in the Georgia General Assembly will push for repeal of the state’s laws on citizen’s arrests and stand your ground, according to the AJC.

House Democratic Leader Bob Trammell of Luthersville said the measures will be part of a package of bills they will pursue when lawmakers return to the Capitol on June 15 to complete the legislative session.

Trammell cited the February shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was in a Brunswick-area neighborhood when three white men followed, shot and killed him.

“The citizen’s arrest law is a law that was used by a district attorney in Brunswick to justify the non-arrest of the killers of Ahmaud Arbery,” Trammell said. “More distressingly, existence of the citizen’s arrest law confers with some people in our state the notion that they can take the law into their own hands and with, sadly, deadly and tragic consequences.”

Albany City Commissioner B.J. Fletcher has made her first endorsements, and chose one Democrat and one Republican, according to the Albany Herald.

In her more than a decade of political activity, Ward III Albany City Commissioner B.J. Fletcher has made a point of not endorsing political candidates on any level.

So Fletcher’s announcement that she is supporting District 2 U.S. Congressman Sanford Bishop’s re-election campaign and the campaign of current U.S. Senate appointee Kelly Loeffler carries more than a bit of significance.

“As we get ready for this very important election, one of the things that has impressed me about Sanford Bishop is his willingness to cast votes that matter to his constituents, even if it goes against his (Democratic) party,” Fletcher said. “In this day of partisan politics, that’s rare. And Kelly Loeffler, who lives and does business in the heart of Atlanta and is on the board of a hospital there, reached out to our little hospital in southwest Georgia (Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital) and gave $1 million. That shows that she is concerned about the people all over the state, not just metro Atlanta.

“And Kelly is giving her Senate salary to nonprofits in the state, including several in southwest Georgia.”

Chatham County courthouses will be deep-cleaned this weekend, according to the Savannah Morning News.

AccessWDUN profiles the six Republican candidates to replace State Rep. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) in Senate District 50.

The Rome Downtown Development Authority favors passage of an ordinance to allow a temporary outdoor drinking area, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Seventy active Bald Eagle nests have been identified in Coastal Georgia, according to the Savannah Morning News.

About a third of those nests – 23 of them – were located in Chatham County, where the islands and hammocks, tall trees and waterways provide exactly the conditions eagle parents desire.

That’s more than in any other county, though Decatur, which sometimes rivals Chatham, was not included in the survey this year.

Checking by helicopter in January, March and early April, the Department of Natural Resources’ survey leader Bob Sargent counted 117 eagle nest territories in three regions of the state: the six coastal counties; a section of east Georgia bounded roughly by Interstates 16 and 85 and the South Carolina line; and the counties north of Atlanta. This year’s survey results also included seven nests monitored in other areas by volunteers or DNR staff.

Considering that the rest of south Georgia, surveyed in alternate years, usually has about 85 occupied nest territories – or active nests – Sargent said the state likely had 200 or more eagle nests for the sixth straight year.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is asking people who spot Bald Eagle nests to report them, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division is encouraging the public to report bald eagle nests to help monitor the species’ population in the state.

On Wednesday, June 3, the agency reported that Georgia’s bald eagle nesting numbers remained strong. However, the successful nest rate dropped 30% lower than average in counties north of Atlanta, including Hall, Rabun, Dade, Bartow, Floyd and others.

Bob Sargent, leader of the 2020 survey, said substantial rainfall from January through March likely contributed to the lower nest productivity in North Georgia.

Peter Gordon, director of education at Elachee Nature Science Center and longtime birder, said if people are looking for eagle nests around Hall, he would recommend traveling north of Don Carter State Park.

Jim Ozier, wildlife biologist with Georgia Power, said large bodies of water like Lake Lanier are prime areas for eagle spotting.

He has a couple of tips, so people don’t confuse eagle nests with osprey nests. While osprey like to raise their young out in the open on dead trees or atop utility poles, he said eagles prefer a more sheltered home like evergreen trees. In North Georgia, he said they typically settle on pine trees.

“I’ve never seen one in an exposed structure,” Ozier said. “They’re usually near a significant amount of water, reservoir or major river. There’s a balance of being next to the water and high up.”

Wassaw Bald Eagle DSCN0812 (1)

4
Jun

Adoptable (Official) Georgia Dogs for June 4, 2020

Cargo Refuge Rescue Woodstock

Cargo is a young male Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Refuge Rescue, Inc. in Woodstock, GA.

Cargo is 8-weeks-old. His was born April 4th and he currently weighs just over 7 pounds.

He was extra happy when we gave him a ball to play with – almost fascinated. He hunches down and wiggles his booty in the air, like a cat about to pounce, when he’s getting ready to initiate play with other dogs. We named him Cargo and we can’t wait to watch him flourish and grow, and to learn how it feels to be an integral part of a loving family. (He may be as large as 40-60 lbs when fully grown.)

Herbie Refuge Rescue Woodstock

Herbie is a young male Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Refuge Rescue, Inc. in Woodstock, GA.

Herbie was rescued, along with over 700 other dogs, from a horrific puppy mill in Nashville, GA. Refuge Rescue took in 15 of these dogs. Herbie’s lack of veterinary care and poor nutrition resulted in the removal of all of his teeth. He is very timid and slow to build trust with new people that he meets.

He is a handsome, chocolate-brown and white long-haired Dachshund mix, weighing approximately 9 lbs. The veterinarian estimates that he is 5 years old. Because he is shy and skittish, Herbie would do best in a family with a confident dog and a fenced yard. If you would like to meet Herbie and make him a part of your family, please fill out an adoption application at RefugeRescue.org.

Dixie Refuge Rescue Woodstock

Dixie is a young female Jack Russell Terrier mix puppy who is available for adoption from Refuge Rescue, Inc. in Woodstock, GA.

Sweet Dixie was owner-surrendered to us along with her 3 puppies Lexa, Roxie and Xena. The puppies have all been adopted. Now it is Dixie’s turn! She has been spayed and is eager to find her forever home. She gets along well with other dogs and is very friendly to both adults and children. Dixie’is 4 years old.