Recounts in Georgia and Florida are underway as evidence piles up of massive voter suppression in both those states by Republicans in order to steal both gubernatorial races and the Florida senate race. Georgia's Brian Kemp should go to prison for this.
Republican Brian Kemp’s campaign declared victory in the race for Georgia governor on Wednesday, even as election officials continued counting thousands of absentee and provisional ballots, narrowing his lead and prompting Democrat Stacey Abrams to insist she could have the votes to force a runoff election.
As the vote-counting continued, voting rights advocates accused Kemp — who as secretary of state is Georgia’s top election officer — and local officials of disenfranchising thousands of voters on Election Day. Hundreds of complaints flooded in about hours-long lines brought on by broken equipment, a shortage of voting machines and insufficient quantities of printed provisional ballots.
On Wednesday evening, Kemp was ahead with 50.3 percent of the vote to Abrams’s 48.7 percent. Abrams and the Libertarian candidate would need to gain at least 25,000 votes more than Kemp to bring his share of the vote below 50 percent and trigger a runoff.
Today the state is counting absentee, and provisional ballots and Abrams is suing to make sure those ballots are counted. Kemp has stepped aside as Secretary of State, something he has to do under state law. There are a lot of ballots -- maybe hundreds of thousands -- that still need to be counted. But it gets worse:
Another problem was the limited number of voting machines in some locations. More than 1,800 machines sat idle in storage in three of the state’s largest and most heavily Democratic counties. In Fulton County, according to figures provided by elections director Rick Barron, the ratio of machines to registered voters was lower than it had been in 2014, despite predictions that turnout was likely to break records for a midterm election.
While some voters waited in hours-long lines in Fulton County, 700 of those machines sat in stacks in a warehouse in downtown Atlanta, Barron said. The machines were sidelined because they are evidence in a lawsuit alleging the equipment had been exposed to the threat of hacking in 2016.
The federal judge in the case had ordered state and local election officials — including Kemp — and the plaintiffs to weigh the demands of upcoming elections in deciding how many machines to set aside.
Kemp dragged his feet to make sure those machines couldn't be used. It's purposeful voter suppression of black Democratic votes, period. The legal struggle continues in Georgia, but the odds of a recount in Florida for not one but three races seems guaranteed now by state law.
Two of the highest profile races in the country -- both in Florida -- are likely headed to a recount soon.
Sen. Bill Nelson's re-election bid is likely headed to a hand recount given that the incumbent Democrat now trails Florida Gov. Rick Scott by 17,000 votes, within the .25% margin required for a hand recount. Nelson's campaign aides believe he will emerge victorious once all the ballots are counted.
And on the governor's side, Democrat Andrew Gillum -- after conceding the race on Tuesday evening -- has grown more supportive of a recount of late, in part because his deficit to Republican Ron DeSantis is down to 38,000 votes, within the .5% needed for a machine recount. Campaign aides, though, remain clear eyed about the the long odds that Gillum can make up that deficit.
Recounts, which have not officially been authorized in either race, put the outcome of two of the most closely watched races of 2018 on hold, with Democrats hoping for a miracle that could get both Gillum, a candidate who garnered considerable attention in his campaign against DeSantis, and Nelson, an incumbent who Democrats had thought would win his seat going into Tuesday night, over the finish line with a win.
"On Tuesday night, the Gillum for Governor campaign operated with the best information available about the number of outstanding ballots left to count. Since that time, it has become clear there are many more uncounted ballots than was originally reported," Gillum's communications director Johanna Cervone said in a statement. "Mayor Gillum started his campaign for the people, and we are committed to ensuring every single vote in Florida is counted."
At no point in the statement, though, did Gillum's campaign withdraw the concession and sources close to the mayor highlight that his outlook hasn't changed since his Tuesday night speech. It it is important to Gillum, these sources said, that his supporters know they are fighting for every vote.
"We want every vote counted, we believe that there are still votes out there for Mayor Gillum and we want to make sure his supporters know we are fighting for every vote," one source said.
The third race is where Democrat Nikki Fried is a few hundred votes ahead of Republican Matt Caldwell for the state's Agriculture Commissioner, a powerful office in the state of Florida because it handles the state's gun licenses and enforces firearms legislation.
We'll know more in the days ahead, but Democrats could win all four of these races and need to fight for every single vote to be counted.