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
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
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.