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GA Absentee Ballots in Spotlight       11/16 06:41

   ATLANTA (AP) --- As the candidates in the disputed Georgia governor's race 
retreat further into their corners, counties statewide have begun a 
court-ordered process of reviewing absentee ballots and counting those 
previously rejected for missing or incorrect dates of birth.

   Georgia Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden issued guidance Thursday to 
counties to review the absentee ballots, count those rejected for missing or 
incorrect dates of birth and recertify results if the counts change. She set a 
deadline of 5 p.m. Friday.

   The campaign of Democrat Stacey Abrams has ratcheted up its attacks on 
Republican Brian Kemp, while Kemp claims that results certified by county 
election officials confirm he has an "insurmountable lead."

   Georgia Democrats have cast doubt on the legitimacy of any election count 
that ends with former secretary of state Kemp being certified as the winner of 
a fiercely fought election against Abrams. She is seeking to become the first 
black woman elected governor in the U.S.

   "We believe that Brian Kemp mismanaged this election to sway it in his 
favor," said Abrams' campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo, at a midweek news 
conference.

   Kemp's campaign, which has repeatedly called on Abrams to concede, has said 
Abrams and her supporters used "fake vote totals," ''desperate press 
conferences" and "dangerous lawsuits" to try to steal the election.

   "After all of the theatrics, the math remains the same," Kemp campaign 
spokesman Cody Hall said in a recent email. "Abrams lost and Brian Kemp won. 
This election is over."

   Since he declared himself the certain winner last week and resigned as 
secretary of state, Kemp's lead has narrowed as counties have tabulated more 
ballots. And the numbers could change again as federal courts issue new 
guidance on counting certain provisional and absentee ballots.

   Groh-Wargo said Tuesday that the Abrams campaign believes she needs a net 
gain of 17,759 votes to pull Kemp below a majority threshold and force a Dec. 4 
runoff. Kemp's campaign said even if every vote that Abrams' campaign is 
arguing for is granted by the courts and counted for her, she cannot overcome 
his lead or force a runoff.

   The Associated Press said Thursday that it would not declare a winner in the 
race until state officials certified the results.

   On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ruled that the secretary of 
state must not certify the state election results without confirming that each 
county's vote tally includes absentee ballots on which the voter's date of 
birth is missing or incorrect.

   The order stems from a request in a lawsuit filed Sunday by the Abrams 
campaign. But Jones also rejected the campaign's other requests.

   He declined to extend the period during which evidence could be submitted to 
prove the eligibility of voters who cast provisional ballots. He also declined 
to order that provisional ballots cast by voters who went to a precinct in the 
wrong county be counted.

   The lawsuit was one of several election-related complaints filed before 
multiple federal judges.

   U.S. District Judge Leigh May ordered Gwinnett County election officials 
Tuesday not to reject absentee ballots just because the voter's birth year is 
missing or wrong. She also ordered the county to delay certification of its 
election results until those ballots have been counted.

   Jones' ruling effectively extended May's order to the other 158 counties in 
Georgia.

   U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg late Monday ordered state officials not to 
do their final certification of election results before 5 p.m. Friday.

   State law sets a Nov. 20 deadline, but secretary of state's office elections 
director Chris Harvey testified last week that the state had planned to certify 
the election results Wednesday, a day after the deadline for counties to 
certify their results. He said that would allow preparations to begin for any 
runoff contests, including those already projected in the races for secretary 
of state and a Public Service Commission seat.

   Totenberg's order left untouched the county certification deadline. Candice 
Broce, a spokeswoman for secretary of state's office, said Wednesday that all 
counties but Gwinnett have certified their totals.


(KA)

 
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