On a day when Georgia’s Republican election officials are almost certain to certify the victory of her opponent in the state’s tense but exciting gubernatorial contest, Democrat Stacey Abrams is reportedly mulling an unprecedented legal maneuver that would seek to overturn the results based on a general pattern of voter suppression by allies of Brian Kemp, who was himself the election supervisor during the entire campaign. The Associated Press explains:
Allegra Lawrence-Hardy, Abrams’ campaign chairwoman, is overseeing a team of almost three-dozen lawyers who in the coming days will draft the petition, along with a ream of affidavits from voters and would-be voters who say they were disenfranchised. Abrams would then decide whether to go to court under a provision of Georgia election law that allows losing candidates to challenge results based on “misconduct, fraud or irregularities … sufficient to change or place in doubt the results.”
In results that are likely to be certified by the secretary of state’s office this afternoon, Kemp leads Abrams by about 55,000 votes (out of over 3.9 million votes cast), but more importantly, has a majority of about 18,000. Georgia law requires a December 4 runoff if no candidate wins over 50 percent.
So Abrams would have to establish that over 18,000 eligible voters either tried to vote and were prevented from doing so, or voted and had their ballots illegally discarded. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes, that will be a very difficult standard to meet in court, particularly since the petition would have to be filed within five days of the election’s certification:
Abrams’ campaign has long tried to make the case that Kemp used his role as secretary of state to suppress the vote. But to have a chance in court, Abrams would have to definitively prove there were enough Georgians blocked from voting to close the gap.
Her campaign has said it has heard from 25,000 voters who had problems casting their ballots, but several of those voters it has made public were still able to vote. It has not produced a list of Georgians who were unable to vote.
While the proposed lawsuit is a very long shot, it could help Abrams and Georgia Democrats document and dramatize the many complaints of voter suppression by Kemp’s hirelings, and by the county election officials following the state’s guidance. It’s also possible Abrams’s lawyers could pursue action in federal court relying on allegations of constitutional violations.
Kemp and both national and state Republicans, naturally, are excoriating Abrams for not simply throwing in the towel, as HuffPost reported well before the latest discussions of legal action:
Kemp has resigned his post as secretary of state and declared victory. President Donald Trump tweeted that it’s “time to move on.” Conservative actor James Woods tweeted to his nearly 2 million followers that Abrams is “not very classy” for holding on. And the publisher/editor of the Monroe County Reporter, the newspaper for a rural district outside of Macon, Georgia, that voted for Kemp, told Abrams’ campaign in an email: “Just let us know when she concedes. It’s getting embarrassing.”
And there’s quieter talk among Democrats as to the advisability of steps by Abrams that probably won’t succeed in changing the results, but that might negatively affect her currently very bright political future.
Still, the whole rationale for Abrams’s candidacy was to give voice to people who had been disenfranchised or unrepresented in state government for many years. And much of her campaign revolved around claims that Kemp had turned the secretary of state’s office into a machine for suppressing the votes of such people. However long she pursues possible legal remedies, they will reinforce the historic nature of her candidacy, and its frustration by the powers that be in Georgia.