Wednesday was the day when Georgia Republican Brian Kemp was hoping to get himself certified as his state’s next governor, despite the steady shrinkage of his narrow majority as provisional ballots are counted. But two federal judges have stepped in to cast doubt on the results, and given Democrats a bit of hope.
First, U.S. District Court judge Amy Totenberg stepped in and stopped the state’s certification, at least until week’s end, while instructing Georgia’s election administration office (supervised by Kemp until he finally resigned after claiming victory on November 7) to cooperate in helping provisional voters fix problems with their ballots, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains:
U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg’s order calls for a hotline for voters to check if their provisional ballots were counted, a review of voter registrations, and updated reports from the state government about why many voters were required to use provisional ballots….
Totenberg said she’s providing “limited, modest” relief to help protect voters. The order preserves Tuesday’s deadline for county election offices to certify results and the Nov. 20 deadline for Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden to certify the election. The ruling enjoins Crittenden from certifying the election before Friday at 5 p.m.
It’s not clear what happens if provisional ballots are “cured” after counties have certified their votes, but presumably Totenberg would intervene again if significant votes are left out of the totals.
The numbers here are crucial: There are an estimated 27,000 provisional ballots that haven’t been counted yet. Abrams would need to pick up an estimated 21,000 votes to deny Kemp a majority and send the race to a December 4 runoff, and a slightly lower number (19,000) to force a recount. It’s a long shot for Abrams, to be sure, but Totenberg’s order keeps her hopes alive at least for a few more days.
But a separate judicial development just this morning could push back certification of the gubernatorial race even more, while also affecting an unresolved congressional race in the north Atlanta suburbs, as the Hill reports:
A federal judge on Tuesday found that Gwinnett County violated the Civil Rights Act in its handling of absentee ballots during last week’s midterm elections, a ruling that will likely delay the overall vote tally in the state’s tight gubernatorial race.
U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May wrote in a 17-page order that the county was found to be acting in violation of the Civil Rights Act with its rejection of absentee ballots solely on the basis of an omitted or incorrect birth year.
The bulk of votes in the Seventh Congressional District are from Gwinnett, where at the moment incumbent Republican Rob Woodall holds a 901 vote lead over Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux in one of the midterm election’s final unresolved races. Bordeaux’s campaign brought the legal action that produced May’s ruling.
A week after Election Day, these two races in Georgia are officially still too close to call. Kemp, whose consistently questionable actions as secretary of State and election supervisor were a major issue in the gubernatorial race, may discover he let go of the reins a bit too soon. If so, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.