Battleground: Ballot Box

 

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7:05 p.m., Nov. 23:
President Trump Authorizes Transition To Begin For Joe Biden

President Donald Trump on Monday evening authorized the transition of power to begin for President-elect Joe Biden, a decision made as the president faced increasing pressure from fellow Republicans to cooperate nearly three weeks after the election.

Trump tweeted that he recommended Emily Murphy, the administrator of the General Services Administration, to begin the transition “in the best interest of our Country,” adding that she and “her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

In a letter to Biden, Murphy said she was authorizing the transition to move forward and that “I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts.”

“I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official — including those who work at the White House or GSA — with regard to the substance or timing of my decision,” Murphy said.

She added that she received threats “online, by phone, and by mail” due to the transition delay in recent weeks. “Even in the face of thousands of threats, I always remained committed to upholding the law,” Murphy said. 

Even in directing the transition to begin, Trump said he would “keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail.”

Trump and his legal team have lost almost all legal challenges in court in which they have made allegations of widespread voter fraud without providing evidence.

From GPB’s Wayne Drash

 

4:20 p.m., Nov. 23:
No Mass Fraud In 2020 Election, Ohio Republican Says

An Ohio Republican said the weeks following the contested presidential election have shown “there is no evidence as of now of any widespread fraud or irregularities that would change the result in any state.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman wrote an opinion piece Monday in the Cincinnati Inquirer urging President Donald Trump to “expeditiously” end his challenges and lean into transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden.

Though Portman did not vote for Trump in 2016, especially after the leaked 2005 Hollywood Access tape in which the GOP nominee made crass comments about women came to light, the senator later supported the 45th president.

Now, though, he says it’s time to move on.

“I voted for President Trump, was a co-chair of his campaign in Ohio, and I believe his policies would be better for Ohio and the country,” Portman said. “But I also believe that there is no more sacred constitutional process in our great democracy than the orderly transfer of power after a presidential election. It is now time to expeditiously resolve any outstanding questions and move forward.”

Portman citied the Dec. 8 deadline that by law establishes “a ‘safe harbor’ for states to certify” electors ahead of the Dec. 14 Electoral College vote as a key timeline for wrapping up election challenges.

— From GPB’s Khari Sampson

 

2 p.m., Nov. 23:
Raffensperger Pens WSJ Op-Ed: Georgia’s Election Is ‘Sound’

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has written a Wall Street Journal op-ed defending the integrity of Georgia’s presidential election results and the job his office has done.

Georgia’s voting system has never been more secure or trustworthy. A newly implemented statewide voting system gave Georgia voters paper ballots for the first time in nearly 20 years. This month, voters could review those paper records and verify that their choices were correct before casting their ballots. Partnerships with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Georgia Cyber Center at Augusta University, experts from Georgia Tech and election security specialists from around the country help ensure that Georgia’s election system remains secure from whatever threats loom on the horizon

The editorial comes as Raffensperger continues to face criticism from prominent Republicans from across the state on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. In spite of that criticism, Gov. Brian Kemp certified the results on Friday night. Following the certification, President Donald Trump’s campaign requested a recount of the vote on Saturday.

— From GPB’s Sarah Rose

 

10:50 a.m., Nov. 23: 
Sam Nunn Blasts Trump’s ‘Breathtaking’ Irresponsibility On Transition

Sam Nunn, the Democratic stalwart from Georgia who served in the U.S. Senate from 1972 to 1997, blasted President Donald Trump on Monday for not cooperating with the transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden, saying, “American lives are at stake.”

Nunn called on Republicans to step up and put pressure on the administration to cooperate with the Biden team.

“The degree of irresponsibility in terms of no transition is breathtaking,” Nunn told GPB’s Political Rewind. “You don’t have to concede to have a transition. President Trump can keep on fighting. He can keep going on to court. That’s fine. But for goodness’ sakes, he needs to step up and put the country first.”

Nunn said it was vital for national security that coordination on intelligence, defense and foreign matters be done as soon as possible. “The new team needs to know what the old team is doing and thinking,” he said. “Those people have to work together.”

“Republicans at every level have to stand up and demand there be a transition that is cooperative — American lives are at stake,” he added.

Nunn also sharply criticized Trump and his legal team for “destructive noise” that undermines confidence in American democracy by constantly alleging widespread voter fraud without providing any evidence.

“President Trump basically has every right to contest and make sure the votes are counted right,” said Nunn, a Biden supporter. “He has every right to go to court. But he does not have a right, nor do his lawyers, to stand up and make public comments alleging fraud and then when they get in the courtroom, where they’re under oath, they back off.”

Asked if he had any doubt that Biden was the president-elect, Nunn said, “I have no doubt, no doubt at all.”

Listen to Political Rewind here. 

From GPB’s Wayne Drash

 

8:45 a.m.: New Election Rule Should Speed Up Absentee Ballot Processing

The Georgia State Election Board extended two emergency rules governing absentee-by-mail voting, continuing the use of secure drop boxes and now requiring counties to process absentee ballots starting the week before Election Day.

In the Monday meeting, the five-member board, chaired by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, voted to extend the use of 24/7-monitored secure drop boxes through the Jan. 5 runoff. The rule was most recently approved this summer, but was set to expire late December.

Read the full story from GPB's Stephen Fowler here

 

4:10 p.m., Nov. 22: State Election Board To Consider Emergency Rules

The Georgia State Election Board will meet Monday morning to consider three emergency rules ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff.

One proposal would continue the use of secure 24/7  monitored drop boxes that Georgians can use to return their absentee ballots while avoiding the mail or in-person interactions with their county elections office.

Another would require counties to begin processing absentee ballots beginning one week and a day before Election Day. A previous emergency rule allowed counties to begin two weeks before Election Day, and in the general election it took several days after Nov. 3 for every absentee ballot to be processed.
 

A final rule proposal would instruct counties on what to do if they believe a new voter registration application is submitted by someone who is believed to be ineligible.

"If the registrar cannot determine to his or her satisfaction that the applicant properly resides in Georgia, the registrar shall process the application, mark the applicant as 'Challenged' in the voter registration system, and initiate a hearing as set forth in O.C.G.A. § 21-2-228," the proposal reads.

With the tightly contested dual Senate runoffs on the ballot that could decide control of the upper chamber, some Republicans have latched on to rumors and memes that Democrats may try to move to the state en masse and register to vote in the runoff before moving back to their home states.

— From GPB's Stephen Fowler

2 p.m., Nov. 22: 
Loeffler Tests Negative For COVID-19, Will Continue To Self-Isolate

Sen. Kelly Loeffler has tested negative for coronavirus but will continue to self-isolate “out of an abundance of caution," her campaign said Sunday.

Pence Loeffler
Caption
Vice President Mike Pence and Kelly Loeffler wave to the crowd during a Defend the Majority Rally, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 in Canton, Ga. U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler waves behind Pence. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)
Credit: AP Photo | Ben Gray

The new test was conducted after Loeffler tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday and another test came back inconclusive.

“Sen. Loeffler’s previously inconclusive PCR results were retested overnight and the results thankfully came back negative,” campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson said in a written statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, she will continue to self-isolate and be retested again to hopefully receive consecutive negative test results.”

Loeffler appeared with Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. David Perdue at two campaign events on Friday. The three did not wear masks on stage together at the “Defend the Majority” outdoor rallies in Canton and Gainesville.

Loeffler faces Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock in the Jan. 5 runoff that will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. Perdue squares off against Democrat Jon Ossoff in the runoff. 

— From GPB's Wayne Drash

10:18 a.m., Nov. 22: 
Trump Requests Recount Of Georgia's 5 Million Votes

Georgia's nearly 5 million votes in the presidential race will be counted for a third time, as President Donald Trump's campaign has formally asked for a recount because his loss is within the legal margin for that request.

Of the 4,998,482 ballots cast in the race between Trump and President-elect Joe Biden, the president lost by 12,670 votes, or about 0.26%. State law allows a loser within 0.5% to ask for a recount within two business days of certification.

Read the full story here

— From GPB's Stephen Fowler 

11:50 p.m., Nov. 21: 
Loeffler Self-Isolating After Positive COVID Test, Followed By Inconclusive Result

The campaign of Sen. Kelly Loeffler late Saturday announced she is self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus — only for another test to come back "inconclusive."

The announcement came a day after Loeffler appeared with Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. David Perdue at two campaign events. The three did not wear masks at the “Defend the Majority” outdoor rallies in north Georgia.

The campaign said Loeffler took two COVID tests Friday morning before the rallies.

“Her rapid test results were negative, and she was cleared to attend Friday’s events,” campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson said in a statement. “She was informed later in the evening after public events on Friday that her PCR test came back positive, but she was retested Saturday morning after conferring with medical officials and those results came back inconclusive on Saturday evening.

“Sen. Loeffler followed CDC guidelines by notifying those with whom she had sustained while she awaits further test results.”

The statement went on to say Loeffler does not have any symptoms, but will continue to isolate “until retesting is conclusive.”

It was not immediately clear if Pence and Perdue would isolate as a result of possible exposure to the virus. The three were side-by-side and not socially distancing, as these photographs taken by Alyssa Pointer with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution show. 

Raphael Warnock, Loeffler's Democratic opponent in the Jan. 5 runoff for one of Georgia’s two seats in the U.S. Senate, said Loeffler was “in my thoughts.”

— From GPB's Wayne Drash 

6:00 p.m., Nov. 20: 
Kemp Tiptoes Around Trump As He Certifies Election

In the 505 words Gov. Brian Kemp uttered in a four-minute speech Friday, only 11 of them are what matter: “State law now requires the governor’s office to formalize the certification.”

Kemp, a two-term secretary of state with plenty of experience running elections, said that as governor he had a “solemn responsibility” to follow the law and approve the results that show President-elect Joe Biden won the state by just under 13,000 votes — and he did.

But he also called on current Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to consider a random examination of absentee ballot envelope signatures, playing into a conspiracy pushed by President Donald Trump and other top Republicans that widespread absentee ballot fraud plagued Georgia and other states in which Trump lost.

“It is quite honestly hard to believe that during the audit, thousands of uncounted ballots were found weeks after a razor-thin outcome in a presidential election,” Kemp said. “This is simply unacceptable. I’ve heard directly from countless Georgians; they expect better and they deserve better.”

The secretary of state’s office has repeatedly knocked down claims and questions about the absentee verification process, including a reminder that after ballots are processed and accepted, they are separated from the envelopes to maintain secrecy.

“As a former Secretary of State, he is the first to know and confirm that a signature is matched twice prior to an absentee ballot being counted,” Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in a statement. “Are there counties like Fulton that consistently fail their voters? Absolutely. That is why Brad Raffensperger is the first to suggest reforming absentee ballot laws since 2005.”

Kemp also said he supports stricter requirements for absentee ballots — namely, incorporating some sort of photo ID, and said he looks forward to working with lawmakers to address that issue in the 2021 legislative session.

— From GPB’s Stephen Fowler

 

4:15 p.m., Nov. 20: 
Georgia Election Officially Certified With Biden As Winner

After a premature press release touting its completion, Georgia has now certified its election results, cementing President-elect Joe Biden's victory over President Trump by 12,670 votes.

According to the official results, 5,026,684 total ballots were cast in the Nov. 3 contest, or 69% of the state's 7.2 million active voters. At 5 p.m. Gov. Kemp is set to give a speech on the next steps in the electoral process.
  
Earlier Friday morning, before signing off on 159 counties' worth of documents, a weary Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger delivered a short but emphatic speech reminding Georgia that "numbers don't lie" when it comes to who won.

— From GPB’s Stephen Fowler

 

4:00 p.m., Nov. 20: 
Kemp To Hold Election Briefing At 5 p.m.

Gov. Brian Kemp will hold a video-streamed briefing at 5 p.m. today, the state’s certification deadline for the Nov. 3 general election results.

Watch the stream live here

Kemp has stayed largely silent as fellow Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger faced incredible pressure and attacks from top GOP officials questioning the results despite lack of evidence of electoral malfeasance.

The secretary of state’s office mistakenly sent a press release confirming the certification was complete, and later corrected it. 

— From GPB’s Stephen Fowler

 

3:50 p.m., Nov. 20: 
Pence in Georgia: Warnock and Ossoff 'Wrong For America'

Vice President Mike Pence
Credit: CSPAN

Vice President Mike Pence campaigned today for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Canton.

In a 35-minute speech that touched on a variety of conservative talking points, Pence touted and defended the Trump administration’s record, including the appointment of three Supreme Court justices, opposition to abortion rights, support of police, and funding of the military. He called Perdue and Loeffler “allies” in supporting those agendas in Congress.

He also took aim at Perdue and Loeffler’s respective opponents, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. 

“Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are wrong for Georgia and wrong for America,” Pence said. “We need the people of Georgia to stay in the fight for integrity in the election.”

He said that if elected, Ossoff and Warnock would join congressional Democrats in fighting for a “big government agenda.”

— From GPB’s Sarah Rose

 

2:00 p.m., Nov. 20: 
Secretary of State’s Office Correction: Election Certification Not Complete

The secretary of state’s office issued a correction Friday afternoon, saying the election results from Georgia have not been certified and that the results were not complete. 

The press release did not offer an explanation. 

The correction was sent to members of the news media about 30 minutes after a previous news release said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had certified the election, with Joe Biden winning the state. 

— From GPB’s Wayne Drash

 

1:00 p.m., Nov. 20: 
Georgia Election Officially Certified With Biden As Winner

Georgia officially certified its election results on Friday with President-elect Joe Biden becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state in nearly three decades. 

“I live by the motto that numbers don’t lie," Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told reporters earlier Friday. 

In an appearance on GPB’s Political Rewind, he added, “President Trump just didn’t have the votes.” 

Biden carried the state by just over 12,000 votes, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Full story here

— From GPB’s Stephen Fowler and Wayne Drash

 

11:40 a.m., Nov. 20:
Pence To Stump For Perdue, Loeffler In Georgia 

Vice President Mike Pence heads to Georgia today for “Defend the Majority” rallies — part of Republican efforts to secure the U.S. Senate for conservatives.

Pence will begin the tour in Canton, about 40 miles north of Atlanta, at a rally for Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. He will then head to Gainesville later in the afternoon for another rally with the two senators.

The Canton rally is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at the Cherokee Conference Center. The Gainesville rally begins at 3:15 p.m. at the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center. 

Pence’s visit comes at an odd political time. He will be on the ground the same day the state certifies its election results for President-elect Joe Biden, the first time Georgia has voted for a Democrat for president since 1992.

Perdue faces Democrat Jon Ossoff in the runoff for his seat, while Loeffler faces Democrat Raphael Warnock. The Jan. 5 runoffs will determine the balance in the U.S. Senate.

From GPB’s Wayne Drash

 

11:40 a.m., Nov. 20:
Fla. Sen. Rick Scott Positive For COVID-19 After Campaigning In Georgia

Florida U.S. Sen. Rick Scott has confirmed he was diagnosed with COVID-19 after coming in contact with someone positive for the virus. 

On Friday, Nov. 13, Scott was campaigning for fellow Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Forsyth, Georgia, including at an indoor rally where he spoke to the crowd and media, maskless.

In a press release, Scott said that he was “feeling good and experiencing mild symptoms.” 

— From GPB’s Sarah Rose

 

10:50 a.m., Nov. 20:
Georgia’s top election official: ‘Trump just didn’t have the votes’ 

In an appearance on GPB’s Political Rewind, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Friday said his fellow Republicans didn’t take advantage of easier voting rules brought on by the pandemic, costing them thousands of votes that were “plum for the pickings.”  

“President Trump just didn’t have the votes,” Raffensperger said.

He noted 24,000 Republicans “voted in the primary mid-year [but] did not come out and vote in any form of voting” for the November election.

“They did not vote absentee. They did not vote in-person early or in-person on day of election,” Raffensperger said. “Those voters were left out there in the field — and those were plum for the pickings in the November election and we just didn’t bring them home.”

 "I'm disappointed my team didn't win. I know the other side is happy because their side did, but we cannot question the results because we had a paper ballot." he said.

He also defended himself from an onslaught of attacks from his fellow Republicans, saying, "When you have personal integrity, you're following, 'What does the law say? What is the process?' And that should give people great hope and great confidence."

Raffensperger made the comments in a wide-ranging interview as the state plans to officially certify the election results around noon with President-elect Joe Biden carrying the state. It is the first time Georgia has voted for a Democrat as president since 1992.

Listen to the full interview on Political Rewind’s page.

From GPB’s Wayne Drash 

 

 

9:00 a.m., Nov. 20:
Perdue Privately Pushed For Tax Break For Rich Sports Team Owners

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., privately pushed Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to give wealthy sports owners a lucrative tax break last year, according to a previously unreported letter obtained by ProPublica.

After the 2017 tax bill championed by President Donald Trump passed, Mnuchin and the Treasury had to write rules on how the legislation would work in practice.

Of the hundreds of pages of new regulations the agency developed, Perdue wrote about his concern with one extremely narrow rule: The owners of professional sports teams were being excluded from a valuable tax break being granted to many other businesses that are structured so that the companies don’t pay taxes but the owners do.

Perdue has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the owners of professional sports clubs, including now-fellow Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who co-owns Atlanta’s WNBA team, the Dream.

Perdue declined to comment for the story. Y0u can read the full report here

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power.

 

8:25 p.m., Nov. 19:
Biden Wins GA, Per AP, After Audit Results 

Joe Biden has won Georgia, according to a race call from the Associated Press, making it the final state to be decided in the presidential election. The AP held off on calling the race for more than two weeks after Election Day because of the tight margin and as the state undertook a herculean effort to recount millions of votes. 

NPR has more on the decision

AP's call came shortly after Georgia's first-ever statewide risk-limiting audit confirmed that President-elect Joe Biden is the winner of the state's 16 electoral votes, setting the stage for the Trump campaign to potentially ask for 5 million ballots to be tallied a third time through a recount.

According to the secretary of state's office, the audit was required by law and affirms the outcome originally reported by a new $107 million voting system. The variation from the original count to the risk-limiting audit count was about a tenth of a percent, and includes work done by 159 counties examining 41,881 batches of ballots in less than six days.

GPB's Stephen Fowler has the full report. 

From GPB's Stephen Fowler and NPR

 

6:00 p.m., Nov. 19:
Report: Floyd County Fires Elections Chief

Floyd County on Thursday fired elections chief Robert Brady after the county came under heavy criticism after failing to initially tally about 2,600 votes in the hotly contested presidential election, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

“Because this is Mr. Brady’s second written reprimand within a six-month period, the Floyd County Board of Elections voted to terminate Mr. Brady pursuant to county policy,” Melanie Conrad, a member of the county elections board, told the newspaper via email.

The full story can be read at the AJC here.

From GPB’s Wayne Drash

 

4:50 p.m., Nov. 18
President-Elect Biden Nears Historic 80 Million Votes

President-elect Joe Biden is nearing 80 million total votes as ballots continued to be counted. He has already set a record for the most votes ever received for a candidate in any election in American history.

The news of the record vote total came on the same day President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani made more baseless claims about election fraud. Even the usually conservative-friendly cable news network Fox News called Giuliani’s press conference factually inaccurate.

Biden is projected to win the electoral college with 306 electoral votes, including Georgia’s 16 votes. He is the first Democratic candidate to win the state since Bill Clinton in 1992.

—From GPB’s Sarah Rose

 

3:13 p.m., Nov. 18
Congresswoman-elect Nikema Williams Elected President Of Freshman House Democrats

U.S. Representative-elect Nikema Williams was elected president of the House Democratic Caucus Freshman Class of the 117th Congress in a virtual voting session.

“The House Freshman Class of the 117​ Congress has the opportunity to be a powerful collective as a united voice in Congress,” Williams said in a press release. “We will do this by uniting our class as we amplify our shared values. Our efforts will not only ensure we are well positioned to win reelection but to also expand the House majority in 2022 while serving those we were sent to Washington to represent.”

According to the release, the president is the “official convenor of the freshman class, organizes class activities, serves as the principal liaison with the Republican freshman class, coordinates with the Speaker’s floor staff in organizing the class to preside over the House, and facilitates special order hours.”

Williams was one of the first from the Georgia congressional delegation to congratulate Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on being elected the first female vice president.

— From GPB’s Sarah Rose

 

12:00 p.m., Nov. 18
Arkansas Senator To Stump With Perdue, Loeffler On Thursday

Sen. Tom Cotton
Credit: Drew Angerer/Pool via AP, File

GOP Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas heads to Georgia on Thursday for a “Save Our Majority” rally as all eyes remain on the Jan. 5 runoffs that will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. 

Cotton will join Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loefller at the joint event at the Georgia National Fairgrounds at 3 p.m. in Perry. The rally is being billed as an opportunity to “stand with them as they stand up against the radical left.”

“Bring your friends, your family, and join us in showing support for our last line of defense, our U.S. Senators from the great state of Georgia,” an email from the Perdue campaign says. 

Perdue is in a political fight for his life against Democrat Jon Ossoff. Loeffler also faces a tough challenge in Democrat Raphael Warnock.

An Army veteran, Cotton has served on the Senate Armed Services, Intelligence, and Banking committees. Politico last week had Cotton on a short list of Republicans hoping to fill the void of Donald Trump as an aspiring 2024 presidential candidate.

From GPB’s Wayne Drash

 

10:10 a.m., Nov. 18
Georgia’s Senate Runoff Races Are Expensive

With two U.S. Senate runoff races ahead in Georgia, political money is flowing into Georgia in hopes of affecting the outcomes of the races.

According to Axios, efforts behind the four campaigns could cost $200 million overall. 

Incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler has reserved over $40 million dollars on television ads so far, most of them dedicated towards attacking her Democratic opponent, Raphael Warnock. Warnock has reserved more than $20 million.

"With control of the Senate at stake, total ad expenditures for both Georgia runoffs will top $120 million as of today since the general election," AdImpact vice president John Link told Fox News on Wednesday.

Super PACs are also lining up to spend millions in the state, including the Republican-allied Senate Leadership Fund and American Crossroads and the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority Fund, according to Fox Business. Axios reports the conservative Heritage Action for America has pledged over $1 million for the next two months.

The two Senate runoff races in Georgia will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate, adding increased pressure and national attention for both Democrats and Republicans.

— From GPB’s Sarah Rose

 

9:00 a.m., Nov. 18
Georgia's U.S. Senate Runoff Could Determine Fate Of Mine Near Okefenokee

The results of Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff could help determine the future of a controversial plan to mine for titanium near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, representatives of environmental groups said Tuesday.

They spoke at a virtual news conference announcing the Georgia Water Coalition’s annual Dirty Dozen list, which again named the proposed mine among leading threats to Georgia waterways.

A Trump administration rule change has paved the way for the Twin Pines Minerals plan to mine for titanium and other heavy minerals near the wildlife refuge. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently determined that the project would not need federal permits under the Trump rule.

“Georgia is a poster child for the impact that the Trump administration's clean water rule rollback is having through Twin Pines,” Kevin Jeselnik of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper said. “But all focus is on Georgia because the Senate races are so critical to how much authority the Biden administration will have to enact changes.”

President-elect Joe Biden is likely to reverse the Trump rule. 

Read the full story from GPB's Emily Jones here.

 

3:30 p.m., Nov. 18
Georgia GOP Chairman Shafer Flagged For Twitter Misinformation

David Schafer
Caption
Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer
Credit: David Shafer

Twitter has flagged a tweet from Georgia Republican Party Chair David Shafer for being a disputed claim about election fraud.

Shafer said a GOP monitor caught an error in DeKalb County’s risk-limiting audit that inflated the number of ballots in a batch by nearly 10,000, almost all for Biden.

“Had this counting error not been discovered, Biden would have gained enough votes from this one batch alone to cancel out Trump’s gains from Fayette, Floyd and Walton,” Shafer said, suggesting that other errors were likely.

But an affidavit the party sent to the secretary of state’s office showed the incident happened Sunday, was reported to election workers and was corrected. Additionally, if the mistake was somehow not caught, it would have no effect on the outcome of the election, because the state is using vote totals from the original certified results and not from the RLA.

Gabriel Sterling from the secretary of state’s office said it was a “non-issue.”

“This is what happens in an audit, this is why you don’t release interim audit results, because human beings are going to make mistakes,” he said. “The error was discovered, it was corrected. It would have been discovered and corrected even without the monitor there because we have quality control measures.”

— From GPB’s Stephen Fowler

 

1:30 p.m., Nov. 18
In Final Hours Of Herculean Audit, Georgia's Election Issues Are Few

Four Georgia counties have now reported thousands of votes that were not uploaded to the state's election results, adding fuel to some Republicans' evidence-free attacks on the integrity of the election and frustrating state officials.

Douglas County failed to include a memory card from an Election Day precinct that included 156 votes for President-elect Joe Biden, 128 votes for President Donald Trump, seven votes for Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgenson and two ballots where no presidential selection was made. This brings the margin that Biden leads Trump to 12,781, after Walton County discovered a memory card with 284 votes, Fayette tabulated 2,755 missing votes and Floyd had about 2,600 ballots that were never scanned.

President Trump and other top Republicans have suggested that Georgia's vote counting and risk-limiting audit is fraudulent, something Gabriel Sterling with the secretary of state's office said is a ridiculous notion.

"The irony of his saying 'fraudulent votes have been found' — he has gained in the finding of these votes." Sterling said. "So the system is working the way it is intended. And the frustrating situation overall ... if this was 14,000 votes the other way, I believe Biden supporters would be screaming that this was all inappropriate and not done correctly."

Read the full story from GPB's Stephen Fowler here.

 

12:30 p.m., Nov. 18
Video Update: GPB’s Bill Nigut: ‘Probably A Good Decision By The Perdue People Not To Debate Again’

GPB News' Sarah Rose talks with Political Rewind host Bill Nigut on the state of Georgia's two Senate runoff races.

 

Noon, Nov. 18
Raffensperger to Lindsey Graham: ‘Well, Great; Now He Understands Our Law’ 

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has reacted to Sen. Lindsey Graham who has disputed Georgia’s top election official’s account of a phone call they had. Raffensperger accused the GOP senator of South Carolina of pressuring him to invalidate legally cast ballots.  

“Well, great; now he understands our law,” Raffensperger told NPR’s Ari Shapiro. “We’re going to follow the law.”

That was how Raffensperger, a Republican who has come under a barrage of attacks from the right, responded when informed that Graham told reporters he just wanted to understand Georgia’s signature matching requirements and was not suggesting that legitimate votes be tossed.

In a separate story published by ProPublica on Wednesday, two members of Raffensperger’s staff who were on the call said the secretary of state’s account was accurate and that they were appalled by Graham’s request.

Raffensperger told NPR this about the phone call: “I went ahead, and I explained our laws. And it’s pretty clear that both Sen. Graham, President Trump, they don’t understand laws here in Georgia.”

You can listen to the interview here.

— From GPB’s Wayne Drash

 

10:20 a.m., Nov. 18
Trump Campaign Started Pressuring Georgia's Secretary Of State Long Before The Election

Long before Republican senators began publicly denouncing how Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger handled the voting there, he withstood pressure from the campaign of Donald Trump to endorse the president for reelection.
Credit: Stephen Fowler / GPB News

Long before Republican senators began publicly denouncing how Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger handled the voting there, he withstood pressure from the campaign of Donald Trump to endorse the president for reelection.

Raffensperger, a Republican, declined an offer in January to serve as an honorary co-chair of the Trump campaign in Georgia, according to emails reviewed by ProPublica. He later rejected GOP requests to support Trump publicly, he and his staff said in interviews. Raffensperger said he believed that, because he was overseeing the election, it would be a conflict of interest for him to take sides. Around the country, most secretaries of state remain officially neutral in elections.

The attacks on his job performance are “clear retaliation,” Raffensperger said. “They thought Georgia was a layup shot Republican win. It is not the job of the secretary of state’s office to deliver a win — it is the sole responsibility of the Georgia Republican Party to get out the vote and get its voters to the polls. That is not the job of the secretary of state’s office.”

Read the full story here.

 

7:20 a.m., Nov. 18
Second Georgia County Failed To Upload All Of Its Votes

Fayette County elections staff failed to fully upload a memory card from early in-person voting, leaving out 2,755 votes from their reported totals, Georgia's secretary of state's office said Tuesday. The newly tabulated ballots in the Republican-leaning suburb slightly trim Joe Biden's lead in the Peach State to 12,929.

Gabriel Sterling with the secretary of state's office said the discrepancy was discovered because the total number of ballots counted in the risk-limiting audit was higher than the results reported online.

"There were several spots where human beings that were running it didn't follow the procedure, and that's why this happens," he said. "But this is why you have the audit to discover these things now."

Sterling said that 57 counties completed their audit and counted the exact same number of votes for each presidential candidate as they did from the original totals, 21 were within one vote and 32 counties are within single digits. The state gave a deadline of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday for counties to hand count nearly 5 million ballots, track their process on data sheets and upload all of that information into the state's RLA software.

Read the full story from GPB's Stephen Fowler here.
 

5:30 p.m., Nov. 17
Pence In Georgia On Friday For Perdue, Loeffler Rallies

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Georgia on Friday for a bus tour as part of Republicans’ “Defend the Majority” efforts to secure the U.S. Senate for conservatives, according to the state Republican Party.
Credit: Eventbrite

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Georgia on Friday for a bus tour as part of Republicans’ “Defend the Majority” efforts to secure the U.S. Senate for conservatives, according to the state Republican Party.

Pence will begin the tour in Canton, about 40 miles north of Atlanta, at a rally for Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. He will then head to Gainesville later in the afternoon for another rally with the two senators.

The Canton rally is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at the Cherokee Conference Center. People who want to attend can get tickets here.

The Gainesville rally begins at 3:15 p.m. at the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center. You can get tickets here.

The Jan. 5 runoffs will determine the balance in the U.S. Senate.

Perdue faces Democrat Jon Ossoff in the runoff for his seat, while Loeffler faces Democrat Raphael Warnock.

From GPB’s Wayne Drash 

 

3:40 p.m., Nov. 17
Raffensperger Launches Scorched-Earth Media Blitz Against Misinformation

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is fighting back against criticism and misinformation about Georgia’s voting system in a torrent of interviews this week.

In the first two years of his term, Raffensperger focused on the statewide rollout of new voting equipment and adapting procedures to accommodate voting amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

But now that the election is over and President Donald Trump lost the White House (and Georgia, narrowly), the engineer by trade has been faced with a never-ending stream of fellow Republicans attacking him and the electoral process.

In a social media post and subsequent interviews, Raffensperger blasted U.S. Rep. Doug Collins as a “failed candidate” and a “liar” for his part in questioning Georgia’s vote-counting process. Collins and Georgia Republican Party chairman David Shafer, a potential primary challenger for the state’s top election official in 2022, have sent multiple letters riddled with factual inaccuracies claiming, without evidence, that the state’s risk-limiting audit was insufficient.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Raffensperger said South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham asked about ways to potentially disqualify legally cast absentee ballots based on signature discrepancies, and Tuesday on WSB-TV Raffensperger said President Trump “suppressed, depressed” his own voters by attacking mail-in absentee votes.
 

NPR’s All Things Considered is set to interview Raffensperger on Tuesday afternoon, and GPB will have an interview with the secretary of state Thursday.

— From GPB’s Stephen Fowler

 

 

2 p.m., Nov. 17
Loeffler-Warnock Debate Set For Dec. 6

GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her Democratic rival Raphael Warnock will square off in a debate on Dec. 6

The debate, slated to air live from 7 to 8 p.m., will feature a high-stakes showdown between Loeffler and Warnock in the battle for one of Georgia’s two Senate seats that will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

A businesswoman tapped by Gov. Brian Kemp to fill former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat, Loeffler is trying to shore up the state’s conservatives in her fight against Warnock, the senior pastor of historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. 

The debate will be hosted by the Atlanta Press Club. 

The press club has said Sen. David Perdue declined an invitation to debate Democrat Jon Ossoff on the same night and will instead be “represented by an empty podium.” 

The runoffs are set for Jan. 5.

— From GPB’s Wayne Drash

 

12:50 p.m., Nov. 17:
Georgia’s Audit Will Not Change Vote Totals

The risk-limiting audit hand counting Georgia’s presidential race may result in slight changes of vote totals, but the original margins will stand.

The secretary of state’s office said Tuesday that the RLA is designed to determine the correct winner of the race, not verify the breakdown of votes — and state law requires more detail than what the Arlo software tool recording audit results can provide.

“Our law requires that we report by precinct, which you cannot do in the Arlo tool,” Gabriel Sterling said. “The whole point of an audit is to prove the outcome is correct.”

As of last week, Joe Biden was up by more than 14,000 votes over President Trump. But during the audit Floyd County discovered officials failed to upload more than 2,500 votes from an early voting scanner that ultimately cut the margin by about 800 votes.

Once counties finish their risk-limiting audit, the state will upload all of the files and documents from the process for the public to see.

— From GPB’s Stephen Fowler

 

12:00 p.m., Nov 17:
Ossoff: Perdue Should ‘Come Out Of Hiding’

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff on a virtual conference call this morning.
Caption
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff on a virtual conference call Tuesday morning.
Credit: Zoom

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff doubled down on his criticism of incumbent Sen. David Perdue’s announcement that he would not participate in further debates prior to the runoff election on a virtual conference call this morning. Early voting starts Dec. 14.

“If Perdue doesn’t want to debate his opponent, that’s fine, but he shouldn’t run for United States Senate,” Ossoff said. “He should come out of hiding, debate his opponent, and let the people of Georgia hear directly from their Senator.”

Ossoff also touched on Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s comments last night that alleged South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham pressured him to alter the vote in favor of outgoing President Donald Trump.

“I am deeply concerned by Secretary Raffensperger’s statement that Sen. Graham was pressuring him to illegally discard valid votes,” he said. “Sen. Perdue needs to come out in public and explain whether he asked Graham to take that action, which may be a federal crime.”

He was also critical of Sens. Loeffler and Perdue for their calls on Raffensperger to resign.

“Sen. Perdue is so focused on running president’s errands in public, he has no plan for COVID-19 or economic recovery,” he said.

— From GPB’s Sarah Rose

 

9:30 a.m., Nov. 17:
2,500 More Votes Discovered In Floyd County During Audit

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is calling for the elections director of Floyd County to step down after an audit of the presidential race discovered a large batch of early votes that were not tabulated.

“There’s no issues with any of the equipment; I think they just didn’t scan these ballots,” Gabriel Sterling with the secretary of state’s office said. “ So the secretary, since this is such an amazing blunder and they had issues in August, would like to see that elections director step down from his position — because this was too important of an issue to allow to happen this way.”

According to the Rome News-Tribune, 1,643 votes were for President Donald Trump and 865 were for Democrat Joe Biden in the heavily Republican northwest Georgia county. That trims the margin that Biden is currently leading by about 800 votes, but nowhere near enough to affect the outcome.

“That county is the only county we've seen an issue like this so far,” Sterling said. “And again, it's unfortunate, but it's not an equipment issue. It's a person not executing their job properly.”

Many counties have completed their risk-limiting audit that has resulted in a hand tally of nearly 5 million votes cast in the presidential race, with more than 4.3 million ballots already reviewed as of Monday night.

The secretary of state’s office has been under fire from top Republicans in Georgia and in Washington for overseeing an election that narrowly saw Democrats win the state’s electoral votes for the first time in nearly three decades. President Trump, every GOP member of Georgia’s congressional delegation and the chair of the Georgia Republican Party have all attacked Raffensperger — who is also a Republican — and the validity of the electoral process without evidence.

Most recently, The Washington Post reported that South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Raffensperger about ways to potentially disqualify legally cast absentee ballots based on signature discrepancies, as part of a larger push from Republicans to cast doubt about how Georgia’s mail-in voting process works.

Contrary to claims made by Trump and others, signatures for absentee votes are checked  before a ballot is accepted, matching the signature on the ballot envelope with a signature on file with the registration. Then, the ballots and envelopes are separated, making it impossible to connect the two again in order to protect voter secrecy.

The secretary of state’s office also said it would publish all of the data from the risk-limiting audit, including the batch-level tally sheets that show how nearly 5 million ballots were counted over the last few days.

— From GPB’s Stephen Fowler

 

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