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Gov. Kemp calls voting irregularities unacceptable, demands better in Senate runoffs

Kemp also suggested Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger address concerns over signature matching.

ATLANTA — This is an archive of our blog from Nov. 20.

Georgia has completed its unprecedented hand count of nearly 5 million votes in the 2020 presidential election and today, 17 days after Election Day, the state is set to certify Joe Biden as the winner.

The deadline is laid out clearly in state law - "Not later than 5:00 P.M. on the seventeenth day following the date on which such election was conducted, the Secretary of State shall certify the votes" -  and Georgia will, in the end, have used just about all the time the law allows.

A meticulous process for counting all the absentee ballots - and military and overseas ballots, and provisional ballots - stretched into the days after Nov. 3, and that then gave way to the hand-count audit that's been conducted across the Peach State for the last week. Don't get too excited thinking it's over. Once results are certified, losing candidates within .5% - including President Trump - are entitled to request an official machine recount.

This means sometime next week, a true recount will likely begin.

Oh, and then we still have two Senate races to settle, with campaigning expected for the next month-plus ahead of the Jan. 5 runoffs between Republican incumbent Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and their Democratic challengers, Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

Politics, this year, doesn't stop in the Peach State.

Thursday's blog: Georgia hand audit complete, Secretary of State's Office says

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

5:00 p.m. | Governor Brian Kemp called out counties where he said an audit found "significant errors" ahead of Friday's certification and demanded better in the Senate runoff elections that lie ahead. 

While he said the vast majority of election workers did their jobs, issues in Floyd, Fayette, Douglas, and Walton counties were problematic amid a 'razor-thin' outcome in the presidential election. 

Kemp also suggested Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger address concerns over signature matching by way of a signature audit and said that he endorses voter identification for mail-in balloting.

Read his full remarks below:

4:00 p.m. | The Secretary of State's Office has now confirmed the election results are indeed certified.

A release said: "In certifying the results, the Secretary of State affirmed that all 159 counties have provided to the state the total votes tabulated for each state and federal candidate. Further, the Secretary of State affirms that the statewide consolidated returns for state and federal offices are a true and correct tabulation of the certified returns received by this office from each county."

3:40 p.m. | The Cobb County Board of Elections and Registration just put out this statement to address what it characterized as misinformation surrounding the presence of a document-shredding company at a vote counting site:

There has been significant social media chatter about some document shredding at the Jim R. Miller Park Event Center in Marietta, Georgia where our Elections Department had previously conducted the state-ordered re-tally of votes in the November 3rd election.

The shredding company routinely responds to the Elections Department following an election to help remove non-relevant materials that cannot be easily disposed of. The company did work at the Jim R. Miller Event Center early on Friday, November 20th, and helped dispose of the following items:

  • Mailing labels (with voter info) that are incorrect or if we’ve printed too many
  • Copies of apps printed from OnBase if we are looking for something (the originals are filed in evidence)
  • Copies of outdated or changed procedures, policies, forms, notes, or form letters
  • Regular and third-party envelopes with voter info on them
  • Reports when we are finished doing ‘check off the list’ steps
  • Sticky notes and phone messages with voter phone #s or email addresses
  • White privacy envelopes after the election is certified.
  • Printouts of old emails when we have a more current response in the chain
  • Duplicates of faxed applications (when voters fax multiples copies of the same app all at the same time)
  • There were a tub or two of applications we had copied for the December election and labels that we put in the shredder when the elections were combined and moved to January 5th

“None of these items are relevant to the election or the re-tally,” said Elections Director Janine Eveler. “Everything of consequence, including the ballots, absentee ballot applications with signatures, and anything else used in the count or re-tally remains on file. After an out-of-context video was shared on social media we contacted state officials to reassure them this was a routine clean-up operation and they could inspect our stored materials if they wish.”

3:00 p.m. | The president is tweeting again about Georgia, and, again, he seems to fundamentally misunderstand how signature matching works in this state.

He wrote Gov. Kemp and Sec. of State Raffensperger "refuse to let us look at signatures which would expose hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots, and give the Republican Party and me, David Perdue, and perhaps Kelly Loeffler, a BIG VICTORY" which is, simply put, not possible.

Signature matching, as we've explained, was done twice - when an absentee ballot was first requested, and before it was actually sent to a voter.

When those ballots were sent back to counties, and they opened the envelope to count the ballot, and they separated the ballot from the envelope... that's it, they're forever apart. There's no way to put them back together. The only thing with a signature on it is the envelope, the ballot itself is anonymous, and once those are in two different piles, there is no code or signature or anything of the sort to re-connect them.

Even if you were to take a stack of envelopes - which are kept for record-keeping purposes - and check their signatures, and find that some number of them were in fact bad signatures... you'd still have no way to tie that person who sent the envelope to the vote they submitted. There is, again, simply no way to invalidate votes at this point based on signatures. It's just not possible.

As to the other part of the president's tweet - "why are they so fast to certify a meaningless tally?" - the answer to that is because state law requires the results be certified by 5 p.m. today.

2:11 p.m. | According to a brief release from the Governor's Office, Gov. Kemp will deliver remarks "regarding an update on the 2020 election in Georgia."

2:10 p.m. | Gov. Brian Kemp has called a press conference for 5 p.m., which is the deadline for Georgia to certify its election results.

1:50 p.m. | The vice president is at the first of two rallies he'll attend in metro Atlanta today, this one in Cherokee County.

1:35 p.m. | The Secretary of State's Office has issued a correction this afternoon - results are not yet certified. Their deadline is 5 p.m.

12:45 p.m. | We know, we know - recount, what do you mean recount? Didn't we just do that?

What just happened was an audit, required to be performed before election results are certified. An audit is only done on one particular race to confirm the results largely look as they should - in this case, the Secretary of State chose the presidential election, which was too close to do a simple audit of. So they performed a whole hand count of Georgia's 5 million ballots.

Now that the results are certified, President Trump is entitled to request an official recount by machines, because he is within 0.5% of Joe Biden.

12:35 p.m. | The Secretary of State has certified the results, making Joe Biden the winner in Georgia. President Trump, who is within 0.5% of Biden, will have two business days - so a deadline of Tuesday - to request an official machine recount. 

11:40 a.m. | The Carter Center, which extensively monitored the audit, has endorsed it as a success:

The conduct of the audit, which constituted the largest hand tally of an election race in U.S. history, was particularly impressive given that counties had less than 48 hours to prepare for the process, which was carried out in a highly politicized environment and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with rolling start times, decided at the county level, many of the counties finished counting and uploading their ballots ahead of the Wednesday deadline. All counties completed their work by the deadline of 11:59 p.m. Nov. 18.

The Carter Center, which has observed more than 110 elections in 39 countries, was the only nonpartisan organization monitoring the audit and was credentialed by the office of the secretary of state to provide an impartial assessment of the implementation of the audit process. It had the same access provided to the political party monitors who were present throughout the state. Over five days, The Carter Center deployed 68 monitors to 24 counties. The counties monitored by The Carter Center account for more than 60 percent of votes cast and audited. Completing forms specifically designed for the audit, Carter Center monitors systematically collected information on each step of the process, including the work of the two-person audit boards and the vote review panels, and the uploading of tally information into the open-source data collection system known as ARLO. With the exception of a few instances where counties initially were not aware of the Carter Center’s accreditation, the Center’s personnel were welcomed by election officials and were able to conduct their monitoring activities without hindrance.

10:46 a.m. | Also, no word yet on whether the results have officially been certified by the Secretary of State or not.

10:45 a.m. | An elections manager in DeKalb County was fired for a "blatant disregard" of protocols that resulted in 59 ballots being omitted from the county's total. Full statement below:

It has come to our attention that a DeKalb VRE manager, who is now a former employee, failed to follow our established protocols and blatantly disregarded the required processes we utilize to account for and record all legal and verified ballots. According to our internal review, this is the same person that made the human error in failing to follow protocols which caused our previous recertification. Since the employee’s departure, management’s corrective actions and reviews ultimately yielded 59 additional ballots that were omitted from our count. All of our internal reviews indicate that these two omissions were primarily caused by a single employee’s negligent failure to follow protocol and are in no way reflective of our collective efforts to maintain the highest standards for election safety, security and transparency. We immediately notified the Georgia Secretary of State upon discovery of this error and look forward to officially certifying the November 3rd General Election results. The voters of DeKalb did their part in casting their ballots this election cycle and we refuse to allow the reckless acts of one irresponsible former employee to discredit this entire election and the votes of more than 373,000 DeKalb County residents. To protect against this type of human error, we continue to closely monitor all activity in this election cycle, stressing strict compliance with protocols to ensure the integrity of this process and implementing all appropriate corrective action as necessary, including personnel matters.

9:05 a.m. | CNN's Jim Sciutto reports, citing Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs, that Georgia's election results will be certified at 10 a.m.:

8:30 a.m. | Here is the full Sec. of State press conference.

8:20 a.m. | Worth noting it's not clear all those changes will be met enthusiastically by the opposite side of the aisle. Democrats have frequently claimed over the last decade voter ID laws suppress the vote, a contention Raffensperger rejected with his comments in the press conference. They have also frequently resisted calls to pare down voter rolls, arguing voter purges inadvertently disenfranchise many lawful voters.

The secretary, though, argued the reforms would accomplish the goal of "upholding peoples' faith in democracy," following a contentious process that has played out in Georgia under a razor-thin margin in the presidential election.

8:15 a.m. | Here's a basic rundown of the reforms the Secretary of State believes would build trust in Georgia's election system:

  • Legislation to allow the Secretary of State's Office to intervene in counties that have "systemic ongoing problems" with election administration
  • Absentee balloting changes, including a voter ID requirement, which he said would remove signature matching altogether and make absentee balloting "move from a subjective system to an objective system."
  • More discretionary power to challenge voters suspected of not living where they vote.

8:12 a.m.| Secretary of State Raffensperger only spoke briefly, proposing a number of reforms that he said would enhance trust in Georgia's election system.

7:52 a.m. | In addition to Vice President Pence visiting Georgia today - following on the heels of high-profile visits by Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Tom Cotton - another big-name Republican will be in Georgia on Monday.

The GOP is fighting hard to retain the Senate, and will send Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst to a campaign event in Spalding County on Monday, the latest to help spur rallies for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in their reelection bids.

7:50 a.m. | We're expecting Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to deliver remarks in about 10 minutes.

6:45 a.m. | Up bright and early? Good! You'll be with us then when the Secretary of State's Office provides an update on what to expect today.

They've scheduled an 8 a.m. news conference, which we'll carry here and on our YouTube  channel.

We've also got Vice President Mike Pence stopping in town today to give a boost to the Republicans in the Senate races. It's gonna be a busy day.

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