Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 29, 2020

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for September 29, 2020

On September 29, 1526, 600 Spanish colonists led by Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon landed on the Georgia Coast, the first European colonists in Georgia.

Long before Plymouth, or Jamestown or even St. Augustine, there was another settlement in North American: the very first European attempt to establish a permanent colony on the mainland since the Vikings 500 years earlier.

Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon and 600 Spanish colonists landed on Georgia’s coast on this day in 1526, over 200 years before Oglethorpe founded the Georgia Colony.  It also represents another historic moment: the first time enslaved Africans set foot on what is now the United States.

Ayllon established San Miguel de Gualdape on Sapelo Sound in present–day McIntosh County. He sailed north from Hispaniola during the summer and first landed in present–day South Carolina. Meeting no natives, he traveled south along the coast before settling in Georgia.

To help establish the colony, Ayllon brought with him the very first group of slaves.  But hunger, disease, and conflict with the natives all took their toll, and the settlement survived for only three months.

Other sources say that the September 29, 1526 landing was in South Carolina and Vasquez de Ayllon established San Miguel de Gualdape on October 8, 1526.

WSB-TV took to the airwaves for the first time on September 29, 1948.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is election day for the Fifth Congressional District to fill out the remainder of the term of the late-Congressman John Lewis. It’s so meaningless that the Democratic nominee in the November election for a full term, isn’t running.

Governor Brian Kemp supported Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Natalie Paine, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Republican district attorney has been an asset to his law enforcement goals, Kemp said at Evans Towne Center Park.

“I just can’t say enough about the job she has done; how it has lined up with the agenda we have run on,” Kemp said.

The goals include going after street gangs, drug trafficking, elder abuse and First Lady Marty Kemp’s effort to fight human trafficking, he said.

“You have a district attorney who is fighting this fight and will continue to fight this fight,” Kemp said.

Paine said her Crimes Against the Vulnerable and Elderly or CAVE Task Force shut down more than 30 unlicensed personal care homes and rescued more than 100 victims from abusive or neglected situation.

The Chronicle also has a photo gallery from the event.

From WJBF:

“She’s just done a great job supporting law enforcement. Working hand in hand with us fighting against human trafficking which is something the First Lady (Marty Kemp) has been very passionate about. We have too,” said Governor Kemp.

“I’ve always been a big supporter of the governor. I also just support the platform he has run on. He’s very tough on gangs. I’m very tough on gangs,” said Paine.

“This is an important race. I think that the DA has a lot of control over your public safety and a lot of times people don’t realize that. I mean, obviously, we’re not police officers but we do have a role in the law enforcement,” explained Paine.

Gov. Kemp is spending today touring North Georgia, according to AccessWDUN.

The governor begin the day in Hall County with remarks at a groundbreaking ceremony for Kubota Manufacturing. That event is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the property on Whitehall Road north of Gainesville. During the lunch hour, Kemp will be at the Dawsonville Pool Room on Bill Elliott Street in downtown Dawsonville for the reopening of the iconic gathering spot. AccessWDUN will have a reporter at both of those locations.

Others stops on the governor’s schedule include:

•  Tour of CAIRE, Inc., a medical supply company in Ball Ground
•  Tour of Geraldine’s Bodacious Food Company in Jasper
•  Tour of the CORE Center in Ellijay
•  Tour of Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge

I’m sorry I missed the Governor, as I was in Blue Ridge yesterday, a day early.

Georgia’s U.S. Senators are united in moving teh nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett forward, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

“With her background as a former clerk to the late Justice [Antonin] Scalia and an originalist, Judge Barrett will protect individual liberties including the right to life, the Second Amendment and religious liberties by ensuring the Constitution and our laws are applied as written,” said Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who boasted of being the first senator to call for a vote on the nomination before the election.

“Georgians want a Supreme Court that applies the law, not makes the law,” Sen. David Perdue added. “Throughout her impressive legal career, Judge Barrett has been an ardent defender of the Constitution and steadfast supporter of the rule of law.”

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, Loeffler’s chief Republican opponent in a Nov. 3 special election to replace retired Sen. Johnny Isakson, said putting Barrett on the Supreme Court means a long-awaited opportunity to reverse the 1973 decision that legalized abortion on demand.

“The Supreme Court has a chance to forever change the outlook of our country,” Collins said. “With Judge Barrett, we finally have a chance to overturn Roe v. Wade and give millions of unborn babies a chance to live.”

Former Governor Nathan Deal is now on the record in support of Congressman Doug Collins for United States Senate, according to the AJC.

The former governor endorsed Collins on Monday at a private fundraiser in Gainesville, the same north Georgia city where both Republicans launched their political careers. It further highlights a split in the state party between Collins and Loeffler, the top GOP contenders in a messy 21-candidate November special election.

“I know that the governor had to make a tough choice, but I’ve made my choice, too, and that’s Doug Collins,” Deal said. “A Senate seat representing the state of Georgia cannot be bought.”

Collins’ supporters hope Deal gives his campaign a boost in north Georgia, the most reliable vote-rich Republican stronghold in the state. Deal represented much of Collins’ northeast Georgia district in Congress for nearly two decades, and left office as governor in 2019 with high approval ratings.

Former Governor and President Jimmy Carter endorsed the U.S. Senate campaign of Raphael Warnock, according to the AJC.

United States District Court Judge Amy Totenberg should run for Secretary of State if she wants to micro-manage the state’s elections. Now, the judge has ordered paper voter records at all precincts on Election Day. From the AJC:

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg ordered election officials to prepare paper copies of records showing who is registered to vote and whether they’ve already voted before Nov. 3, either by absentee ballot or during in-person early voting.

The ruling could help prevent long lines if poll workers struggle with the state’s new voter check-in tablets, called Poll Pads, as they did during the state’s June 9 primary, Totenberg wrote. Some voters waited for hours because of a combination of high turnout, poll closures, social distancing, absentee ballot problems and difficulties operating voting equipment.

State election officials opposed more paper backups, saying printouts of thousands of pages of documents would strain county poll workers trying to run the biggest election in state history during the coronavirus health crisis. Turnout is expected to reach 5 million voters.

From the Associated Press:

The ruling requires Raffensperger to generate and provide to election superintendents in each county a list of electors updated at the close of the in-person early voting period to contain all the information in the electronic pollbook. The secretary of state is to instruct the election superintendents to provide at least one paper backup at each polling place on Election Day.

The paper backups are to be used to determine voter eligibility and precinct assignment in the case of equipment malfunction or other emergency, Totenberg wrote. She also ordered that efforts be made to ensure that county election officials and poll workers are trained on using paper pollbook backups and emergency ballots and that a sufficient stock of emergency paper ballots be maintained.

“It is not too late for (election officials) to take these reasonable concrete measures to mitigate the real potential harms that would otherwise likely transpire at precinct polling locations grappling with the boiling brew created by the combination of new voting equipment issues and old voter data system deficiencies,” the judge wrote.

In my opinion, this will make things worse, as the state will now have an additional and important printing and distribution project at the last minute before elections. For large counties like Gwinnett and Fulton, this could be reams and reams of paper. Because you won’t be able to tell whether someone absentee voted for three days after the election, as the absentee ballot deadline has been extended by another federal judge, the printing will have to be started at the last minute, and some voter information will be incorrect by the time the paper comes out of the printer.

Democrat Brooke Griffiths suspended her campaign for Senate District 27 against Republican incumbent Sen. Greg Dolezal, according to the Forsyth County News.

“Unfortunately, 2020 has been a year unlike any other in the past century,” she said. “The emergence of COVID-19 has meant unforeseen and acute changes in many of our lives – including my own. Thus, I will be suspending my campaign while my family moves to another state. We cherish our 10 years in Georgia. We have wonderful memories of raising our children here, of making incredible friends, and of becoming active in this great community. We will miss you all so much.”

Melissa Clink, chairwoman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party, confirmed on Monday that Griffiths had suspended her campaign but she would still be on the Nov. 3 ballot and said voters were encouraged “to still vote for the person on the ballot who most closely represents their values.”

The City of Pooler turned down a request from the Chatham County elections office to place an absentee ballot drop box in the city, according to the Savannah Morning News.

The locations for the other four boxes haven’t been announced yet, but at the Thursday meeting, BOR Chairman Colin McRae fielded a question about a drop-box location in Pooler, the second largest city in Chatham County.

McRae said the request to put an absentee ballot drop box outside the gym at Pooler Recreation Center — where early voting will begin Oct. 12 — was “very politely declined.”

Pooler CIty Manager Robbie Byrd ultimately made the call. He said he consulted with Mayor Rebecca Benton and City Attorney Steven Scheer, and the three determined they were not willing to allow Pooler to take on the liability of the box nor the ballots inside the box, should either be damaged or tampered with while placed on city property.

“I don’t want to be responsible, ultimately, for the absentee ballot box,” Byrd said. “I feel certain there’s going to be some issues countywide with them, and I don’t want to be a part of it.”

Byrd said he suggested the county make use of Pooler Library on U.S. 80, a county-owned property.

McRae said Pooler Library was willing to house the drop box, but the library didn’t have the 24-hour security camera system required by state law.

Columbia County will have a single absentee ballot drop box, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The county’s Board of Elections voted Monday morning to obtain and install a drop box – either one provided by the Georgia secretary of state’s office or purchased through a private vendor.

The box’s location has been decided – in front of the board″s office, on Faircloth Drive in Evans. That prompted questions from meeting attendees who asked why more boxes aren’t planned for other county locations.

The board’s answer: high cost, short space and limited time.

The board had discussed the drop box idea previously but tabled it over a lack of funding. The office that oversees county elections and voter registration already has spent about $866,000 during this election cycle, which is about $153,000 over its budget.

Board of Elections Executive Director Nancy Gay said a drop box would cost about $2.300, plus $500 for a concrete slab to secure it.

Wiggins [said] the highest cost would be for security. The locked box would have at least one surveillance camera trained on it 24 hours a day to capture any attempts at theft or tampering. All video records would have to be retained until 30 days after all votes are certified. That date is unknown because potential contested elections and recounts could prolong the certification process.

The cost of a single, fully equipped box would be “in excess of $12,000,” Wiggins said.

 The Newnan Times-Herald looks at Constitutional Amendments on the November ballot.

The two constitutional amendments are based on resolutions that passed the Georgia Senate and Georgia House of Representatives. The resolution for Amendment 1 passed the Georgia House 164-4 and the Senate 53-0. The resolution for Amendment 2 passed the House 164-0 and the Senate 50-0.

Amendment One: Changes the constitution to allow fees and fines charged for certain purposes to be dedicated to those purposes.

Amendment Two: Waives sovereign immunity and would allow for Georgians to sue the state or local governments for actions that are unconstitutional.

Statewide Referendum: This question applies to Habitat for Humanity and other tax-exempt charities that own property for the purpose of building or repairing homes.

It’s an excellent article worth reading in its entirety.

The Gainesville Times will host online forums for the candidates in State House District 29, held by Republican Matt Dubnik, and District 30, held by Republican Emory Dunahoo, according to the Gainseville Times.

Savannah-Chatham public schools may see a teacher shortage when in-person attendance resumes Monday, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Savannah-Chatham County school officials are eyeballing the possibility that they might not have enough teachers in its schools Monday. Based upon initial estimates, the number of students who want to return to in-person learning could outpace the number of teachers.

Teachers have until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. to make their choice. Teachers who choose to not return to the school buildings at that point are free to do so, according to the district.

The district has said all along that families may keep their children in a virtual-only model, if they desired.

“The game changer was in the [Sept. 16] board meeting when board members said they wouldn’t support a return-to-school resolution unless teachers were free to choose whether to go face-to-face,” Levett explained. “We were requiring that all staff come to work. [But] the board overruled that. We wanted to require that because of how it would have allowed us to schedule students.”

Hall County public schools will add a teacher work day and student “catch-up” day, according to the Gainesville Times.

The Hall County Board of Education during its Sept. 28 meeting unanimously approved a teacher work day and “student catch-up day” for Monday, Oct. 26.

Assistant Superintendent Kevin Bales recommended the district adopt the extra day off of classes so both students and teachers could catch up on work. Bales said some teachers and school administrators had expressed concerns to him that school staff were being overworked due to extra responsibilities they have been asked to pick up to continue offering in-person schooling.

Bales said many teachers have been involved in teaching both in-person and remote students, and “have not had the opportunity or time to collaborate in professional learning or time to create additional lesson plans for those models.”

Bales said students could take the day to remain home and work on assignments they may have fallen behind on, while school employees could come into school buildings and take care of things such as meetings they have not had time to hold since students returned to classrooms.

The Savannah Morning News looks at the race for Chatham County Commission Chair.

Following the June 9 primary, the two candidates vying to be the most powerful county-elected official — Republican Jason Buelterman and Democrat Chester Ellis — both look forward to the challenge, while acknowledging that Chatham County is in for trying times ahead.

The two hopefuls are also somewhat unconventional figures in their parties: Republican Buelterman is an avid surfer who intends to increase renewable-energy sources countywide, while Democrat Ellis is a Bible-quoting pastor usually seen in three-piece suits with a bow tie.

In separate interviews with the Savannah Morning News, these two local leaders discussed their plans to steer the county through dire straits to achieve its potential prosperity while encouraging greater unity between Chatham’s diverse demographics.

Lowndes County won a ruling in the Georgia Supreme Court over Service Delivery Strategy, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

In an opinion released Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court overturned lower court rulings that barred the county from suing the board members and a former commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs.

Under state law, cities and counties must negotiate a new service delivery agreement every 10 years, spelling out which services the governments will provide and how they will be funded.

The SDS agreements are aimed at reducing duplication of services. Without such an agreement, the county, the City of Valdosta and the other cities in the county become ineligible for various state monies.

In January 2017, Lowndes County sued the various cities within the county, as well as the Department of Community Affairs and its then-commissioner, Camila Knowles, arguing without an updated service delivery agreement, a previous deal drafted in 2008 remained in effect. The DCA’s board members were later added as defendants.

Knowles and the DCA board claimed sovereign immunity — the principle that state bodies and officers cannot be sued without the consent of the state — shielded them from the lawsuit.

Judges for local and appellate courts had previously ruled against the county in this matter but Lowndes County appealed to the highest court in the state.

Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled the lower courts had erred, drawing a line between state officials being sued in their official capacity vs. their individual capacity.

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