Wednesday 18 September 2019

Democrats cry foul as Republican claims victory in Georgia count

Campaign: Democrat candidate Stacey Abrams. Photo: AP
Campaign: Democrat candidate Stacey Abrams. Photo: AP

Kate Brumback

As Democrats ratcheted up their attacks on Georgia Republican Brian Kemp, he claimed that results certified by county election officials confirm he has an "insurmountable lead" in the governor's race.

At a news conference, Georgia Democrats cast doubt on the legitimacy of any election count that ends with the former secretary of state being certified as the winner of a fiercely fought election against Stacey Abrams, who's seeking to become the first black woman elected governor in the US.

"We believe that Brian Kemp mismanaged this election to sway it in his favour," said Ms Abrams's campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo, surrounded by Democratic lawmakers at the Georgia Capitol.

Democrats beyond Georgia have started to echo the notion that a Kemp victory would be illegitimate. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown said on Wednesday that if Ms Abrams loses it's because Republicans stole the election.

"If Stacey Abrams doesn't win in Georgia, they stole it. I say that publicly, it's clear," said Mr Brown, speaking at a briefing for the National Action Network.

Mr Kemp's campaign, which has repeatedly called on Ms Abrams to concede, repeated that call, saying Ms Abrams and her supporters have 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 an email. "Abrams lost and Brian Kemp won. This election is over."

Since he declared himself governor last week and resigned as secretary of state, Mr 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.

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

Meanwhile, US District Judge Steve Jones on Wednesday 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 on Sunday by the Abrams campaign. But Mr 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.

US District Judge Leigh May ordered Gwinnett County election officials on 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.

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

US District Judge Amy Totenberg late on Monday ordered state officials not to do their final certification of election results before 5pm today.

State law sets a November 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 on Wednesday, a day after the deadline for counties to certify their results.

He said that would allow preparations to begin for any run-off contests, including those already projected in the races for secretary of state and a Public Service Commission seat.

Ms Totenberg's order left untouched the county certification deadline.

Irish Independent

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