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Counts, audits, recounts all done in Georgia as 'safe harbor' deadline hits today

Now we see what happens in the courts.

ATLANTA — Below is an archive of our Dec. 8 blog

With Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger re-certifying Georgia's results on Monday, any ongoing matter of the state's election outcome now belongs to the courts.

Those results followed the state's recount last week, which, for a third time, showed Joe Biden is the winner in Georgia - this time by a little fewer than 12,000 votes.

For a deep dive into those results, and how they have changed slightly with each new count (and why), you can read more here: Georgia election recount results: Breaking down final numbers

From an official election process point of view, all that's left now is for Georgia's 16 electors - selected by the Democrats as the winning party in the presidential race here - will meet to cast their Electoral College votes on Dec. 14.

Any development that somehow impedes that will have to come via court ruling. And the deadline, theoretically, for anything on that front is today.

Today is the "safe harbor" deadline imposed by the federal government for election challenges to be resolved. 

“What federal law requires is that if a state has completed its post-election certification by Dec. 8, Congress is required to accept those results,” said Rebecca Green, an election law professor at the William & Mary law school, told the Associated Press. 

As far any challenges being resolved, two cases against Georgia's results were dismissed in separate rulings, in separate court systems, yesterday.

In perhaps the most high-profile case against Georgia's election outcome, Sidney Powell's so-called "Kraken" lawsuit, which alleges a conspiracy to rig the election against President Trump, was unceremoniously dismissed by Judge Timothy Batten in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

She seems all but certain to appeal that ruling to the 1th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

The second case, brought in state court by a Coweta County man who sought to nullify the election, was also dismissed by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick.

Meanwhile, another significant challenge - this one directly representing the president as a plaintiff, along with Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer - appears to have finally been filed. 

All this, against a backdrop of a Senate race gaining steam in the national spotlight following a primetime debate on Sunday.

Throughout the day, we’ll update this blog with new information from the counties as they continue the tally along with other election updates. 

(Note: All times are Eastern)

6:40 p.m. | A new Republican super political action committee, Peachtree PAC, is starting a $43 million TV ad campaign in Georgia on Wednesday, focused on improving the party’s chances in two Senate runoff races in the state. But the funding behind the group will likely remain a mystery until well after ballots are cast in the Jan. 5 election. Unlike other similar outside groups operating in the state, Peachtree PAC has taken steps to mask who its donors are until Jan. 31.  It offers up just the latest example of how secretive groups can spend millions trying to influence an election with little disclosure before ballots are cast. -- Associated Press

6:35 p.m. | Republicans in Georgia’s state Senate are calling for an end to absentee voting without cause and want to ban ballot drop boxes. The effort comes after an increase in mail voting helped propel Democrat Joe Biden to a narrow victory over President Donald Trump in the state. Trump has for months made unsubstantiated claims about the integrity of mail-in votes. Republican election officials in Georgia have vehemently and repeatedly disputed claims that there was fraud in November's election. Democrats and voting rights groups say the efforts will disenfranchise lawful voters. Republicans are also calling for a photo ID requirement for absentee voters who have a specific reason to vote by mail. -- Associated Press

6:30 p.m. | Georgia’s secretary of state has received death threats over his handling of last month’s election, but he's found a fan in Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

The actor and former California governor congratulated Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on a Zoom call Tuesday. The call was organized by the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. 

Schwarzenegger explained to Raffensperger that the institute plans to bestow Democracy Action Hero awards next week over Zoom. Schwarzenegger asked Raffensperger if he would accept an award, and the secretary of state said he would. -- Associated Press

6:05 p.m. | The GBI met with officials from the Secretary of State's office on Tuesday after receiving a request to assist them with investigations related to the general election, according to GBI public affairs director Nelly Miles. 

The GBI's role is to assist in investigations related to specific cases identified by the secretary's office, Miles said. GBI agents will conduct interviews and investigations regarding allegations of fraud that have been reported to the secretary's office. 

Anyone who has noted questionable activity can report it to the Secretary of State's office directly, by clicking here.

2:10 p.m. | As of about 1 p.m. this afternoon, Sidney Powell has filed her "Kraken" appeal with the 11th Circuit. The sprawling lawsuit, which has made headlines for the expansive conspiracy claim at its core, was quickly dismissed yesterday by a U.S. District Court judge in Atlanta.

1:50 p.m. | Gov. Kemp was asked a question during his COVID-19 briefing about his decision not to call a special session of the state legislature, specifically to overturn Georgia's results and have new election laws written so that Electoral College voters can be selected to cast the state's votes for President Trump.

He called it plain "unlawful and unconstitutional." The governor expressed confidence in ongoing investigatory measures by the Secretary of State's Office and GBI into fraud allegations.

You can watch his full response:

11:15 a.m. | The Georgia House Governmental Affairs Committee will be holding a hearing on Thursday at 9 a.m. on the election. The hearing will be virtual.

10:55 a.m. | Texas says it has sued Georgia, along with Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, at the Supreme Court.

You can read the filing here.

The brunt of it appears to be that Texas is arguing that the elections in these four states "suffered from significant and unconstitutional irregularities," and that, "these flaws affect an outcome-determinative numbers of popular votes in a group of States that cast outcome-determinative numbers of electoral votes."

A release by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said these four states "exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to justify ignoring federal and state election laws and unlawfully enacting last-minute changes, thus skewing the results of the 2020 General Election."

Georgia officials have repeatedly rejected the notion that any kind of irregularities or fraud would be near significant enough to flip the state's result, in which Joe Biden has won by a little fewer than 12,000 votes. A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia rejected the argument that the so-called "consent decree" between Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger and Democratic organizations back in March, over how to apply signature matching rules, constituted an unconstitutional altering of Georgia election law.

At least one state attorney general, Michigan's, has already called the suit a "publicity stunt" and "not a serious legal pleading."

9:40 a.m. | Fulton County Superior Court records now reflect that the lawsuit by President Trump and Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer has been filed. It does not appear a hearing has yet been scheduled.

8:00 a.m. | The split within the Georgia Republican Party doesn't look like it's getting any closer to being healed, with Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger issuing this response to GOP Chairman David Shafer, who last night tweeted about the lawsuit being filed on his behalf and the president's in state court:

First, there has been no evidence presented of any issues with the signature matching process. Second, our office repeatedly told the Georgia Republican Party, including David Shafer himself, that the signature verification process was—and always has been—public and that they could observe it. We told him to let us know if counties gave him any issues with access. He never did. It wasn’t because we didn’t issue a bulletin, it was because he didn’t have the organization in place that he needed.

David Shafer continues to look backwards and focus on blaming others for his failures instead of focusing on the runoffs that decide control of the U.S. Senate and the only protection that we have from an unchecked liberal, socialist agenda that will federalize elections, pack the Supreme Court, and raise taxes. David- from one Republican to another, please start focusing on what matters. If you put as much effort into the January runoffs as you have put on blaming others for your failures, we can’t lose. 

6:15 a.m. | Good morning, after weeks of daily developments, for the first time the election is, from an official standpoint, finally settled.

The biggest thing to be looking out for in terms of the legal processes now will be when Sidney Powell appeals her "Kraken" suit to the 11th Circuit, and how the court responds to that, and when the Trump/Shafer suit gets a hearing in Fulton County Superior Court.

It's not clear if anything in those cases will be scheduled today. It's also not clear if, even if they prove to be successful on some level at some point, if it will have a material effect on Georgia's 16 electoral votes being given to Joe Biden, due to the safe harbor provisions.