GA GOV: Obama-Appointed Judge Says Absentee Ballots With Missing Birth Dates Must Be Counted, But GOP Isn't Worried

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Posted: Nov 15, 2018 4:25 PM
GA GOV: Obama-Appointed Judge Says Absentee Ballots With Missing Birth Dates Must Be Counted, But GOP Isn't Worried

If there’s another race that’s just as contentious as Florida’s recounts, which are supposed to be wrapped up by today, it’s Georgia’s gubernatorial race. Republican Brian Kemp is still leading Democrat Stacey Abrams 50/48. Her goal is to either trigger a recount or a runoff. If the latter occurs, that contest would be held on December 4. Last weekend, the Abrams campaign declared that new ballots (surprise!) could torpedo Republicans in the state. Provisional and absentee ballots are also an issue (via NBC News):

Abram's campaign said their findings show a total of 26,846 provisional ballots are uncounted. Meanwhile, Kemp's campaign said 21,190 provisional ballots are still outstanding.

Kemp declared victory shortly after the election and abruptly resigned his position as secretary of state on Thursday. He began his transition to become the state's next governor.

The Georgia secretary of state's website lists 21,190 provisional ballots as being accounted for.

If Abrams is able to gain slightly more than 23,700 votes on Kemp, the race is pushed into a mandatory recount. If she can gain about 25,600, it is forced into a runoff. The Democrat is hoping that once all the votes are accounted for, her opponent's vote share drops below the critical 50 percent threshold, which would trigger a runoff election on Dec. 4.

And now, the Abrams campaign filed a lawsuit over absentee ballots (via WaPo):

Democrat Stacey Abrams is continuing her fight to force a runoff in the Georgia governor’s race and filed a new lawsuit Sunday to block counties from tossing out some absentee and provisional ballots.

Abrams has not conceded to Republican Brian Kemp, who has declared victory and said that there are not enough outstanding votes to change the outcome. Kemp’s lead has narrowed since Tuesday, but is still above the 50 percent required for an outright win. As of Sunday afternoon, the secretary of state’s website showed Kemp with 50.3 percent to Abrams’s 48.8 percent. The Republican is leading by less than 59,000 votes out of more than 3.9 million cast.

Over the weekend, 5,000 votes were added to the tally, most of them favoring Abrams, which the campaign has cited in urging that county and state officials not rush the process but work to make sure all ballots are collected and counted.

The campaign said Abrams would need more than 21,700 additional votes to force a runoff or more than 19,300 to force a recount. The secretary of state’s office reports 21,190 provisional ballots. Abrams’s campaign aides estimate there are at least 26,000 provisional ballots, based on information they gathered from county officials. It is unclear how many of those ballots have been counted or remain outstanding.

“The bottom line is this race is not over. It is still too close to call, and we do not have confidence in the secretary of state’s office,” Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams’s campaign manager, said during a conference call with reporters…

You know that every absentee ballot isn’t perfect. It’s missing critical information, like birth dates, and now an Obama-appointed judge said all ballots, even those with missing information, must be counted, and that the race cannot be certified until that happens. But there is nothing to fear; Republicans say this will only impact less than 1,000 votes, far, far short of what Abrams needs to catch up. They’re still confident Kemp will come out on top (via WSB-TV):

A federal judge has ruled that Georgia counties must count absentee ballots even if a voter’s date of birth is incorrect or missing, and he is preventing the state from finalizing election results until that happens.

Although U.S. District Judge Steve Jones agreed with the Georgia Democratic Party and Stacey Abrams’ campaign on this issue, he ruled against them on two others. He will not require counties to accept absentee ballots with incorrect residence addresses or to accept provisional ballots cast by people who attempted to vote in a different county than where they are registered to vote.

“Plaintiffs have shown that they are entitled to preliminary injunctive relief as to the absentee ballot (date of birth) issue,” Jones wrote in an order finalized late Wednesday. “Plaintiffs have not shown that they are entitled to preliminary injunctive relief as to the absentee ballot (residence) issue and provisional ballot issues.”

It is unclear how much of an effect Jones’ ruling will have on election results. Gwinnett County is already under a separate court order to count ballots missing proper birth-date documentation, and the Secretary of State’s office provided guidance to counties Monday that said they could accept absentee ballots missing a voter’s date of birth, although it wasn’t required.

Fulton, Cobb, Henry and DeKalb counties are among those that reported their vote counts already include absentee ballots with birth-date discrepancies.

Jones’ order late Wednesday makes it mandatory for all 159 counties. Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden is required to adjust vote totals if there are any counties that need to go back and re-evaluate absentee ballots.

Austin Chambers, an advisor to Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, said the ruling would affect less than 800 ballots statewide, including Gwinnett.

"Again, still nowhere near enough to change the race," Chambers said on Twitter. "This is over."