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Opinion

    We cannot allow this dangerous disease to make a comeback in New York City,' said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaking to the city's emergency powers in matters of public health during a press conference on April 9, 2019. There are limits to my belief in modern medicine. Currently only taking one prescription drug for elevated blood pressure, lots of supplements and CBD oil to deal with a chronic inflammatory illness. I'm a big believer in wellness, prevention, chiropractic, exercise and a near daily yoga practice to help maintain good health.  But the evidence is indisputable, that vaccines have prevented serious illness among hundreds of millions, saved lives and shrunk the world of many killer diseases into a deep freeze in petri dishes secured within vaults at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Undoubtedly, preventative vaccines have spared both my children most of the once more severe illnesses of childhood.  Yet I did note a significant increase in both the type and number of required vaccinations from the birth of daughter #1 in 1992 to daughter # 2 in 2007, both children have been spared the pleasure of the measles and its German cousin, chicken pox, mumps and many other maladies too numerous to mention.  And yet, in many parts of the first world, parents are increasingly vacillating or in many cases simply saying NO to childhood vaccinations. Some believe vaccinations harbor small amounts of heavy metals like mercury and other toxins as preservatives. Thiomersal, and it's trade name, Merthiolate (patented by Eli Lily in 1928), are a preservative, derived from Mercury, used in the manufacture of many medical vaccinations.  A not small number in the scientific community, thousands of parents and families, and several well-regarded studies have indicated that Thiomersal may contribute to or cause autism and other illnesses, including cancer, SIDS and other neurodevelopmental disorders.  While parents have the right to make these decisions for their families and children, we are at the same time, more and more congregating in cities, where population density and commonly used surfaces and gathering places are also more and more the societal norm, in the United States and elsewhere. A current resurgence of the measles in New York City, originating reportedly within Orthodox Jewish communities who do not vaccinate as a matter of faith, has moved into the broader public school system population.  New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio is leading a public awareness effort, 'Don't Wait...Vaccinate,' to slow the measles outbreak, already resulting in hundreds of hospitalizations, from developing into a pandemic. The Mayor and City Council have mandated the measles vaccine for school-age children within several Zip codes in Brooklyn where out-breaks first occurred. Prior to the public health emergency declaration, Orthodox Jewish families in the impacted neighborhoods and communities were simply urged to keep sick children at home.  Vaccinations, on a global scale, have all but eradicated the threats of small pox and polio...and yet without continued vaccinations among our new population, these crippling and fatal diseases may likely make a return just as measles, chicken pox and other ailments considered less threatening are occurring, even to the extent that some parents hold 'measles/pox parties' to intentionally expose their offspring, in hopes of naturally strengthening their immune systems.  The annual flu vaccine, as an example, is often administered without any preservatives, while still sparing millions of Americans from the serious and in some cases fatal malady of the flu. And yet, with that vaccine both inexpensive and almost universally available, thousands of adults continue to choose to avoid it, and Georgia was among the most flu-infested states in the nation yet again this year.  The pharmaceutical industry, coming off another year of near record profits, would do well to make the common sense decision to research and deliver other preservative options. Protective mothers, like bears and lionesses are not likely to simply accept assurances and admonitions of 'trust us.' Trust, once lost or broken must be earned. Let's not gamble again with global public health. Drugs are tweaked and re-patented every day at the molecular level by big pharma when seeking the protections of a new patent. It's time to step up, so that you help remove the doubts of thousands of families refusing to roll up their sleeves and point their child's foot, upper arm, thigh or other body part at the business end of a needle. How about a little bit of self-directed financial pain for a significant confidence and consumer trust gain? Don't vacillate, make the smart and easy choice.
  • America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves,' President Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865). As has been documented in numerous public opinion surveys, Millennials, who as of this year became the largest demographic age group and population block in our nation, have a clouded understanding of the meaning of socialism. When asked, in multiple formats, if our nation would be better off if all incomes were collected by the government, and then redistributed in equal amounts to all citizens...an overwhelming nearly 80 percent of those surveyed emphatically said, Yes. I frankly find this more disturbing than the ongoing Opioid Crisis, which took the lives of nearly 48,000 Americans during 2018. Since elementary school, I have been a student of history, our republic and the conflicts which helped build our nation into the world's strongest economy, and the only place I know where personal freedom reigns supreme. And with that said, I want my children, your children and our grandchildren to better understand that even freedom is not 'free.' The parade of U.S. presidential candidates for 2020 already sounds like a sweepstakes race, with each trying to top the other with their Get Out, No Jail Everything is FREE card. Free college, free Medicare for all, free Daycare, free Basic Income... and the list goes on. I purchase healthcare coverage via the federal Market Place Exchange, and though I can't say I have been pleased with many aspects of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, I had no coverage at all for a few years prior to that, due to a pre-existing medical condition. That said, me having health care coverage remains and should be my responsibility not my employer's, the federal government nor my neighbor. I support subsidized and on-site employer sponsored day care, as an employee amenity, and deductible expense for the employer, but NOT mandated, federally organized and funded child care. If you think otherwise, pay a visit to your nearest local Head Start program. Georgia's lottery provides pre-K funding, but that program funds local schools and even private daycare facilities, leaving placement choices and related staffing concerns in the hands of parents, as it should be. Much example is made of socialist programs in many Scandinavian countries, particularly Norway and Finland. Neither is a true socialist state, but both offer much higher income tax rates, greater redistribution of income and a larger safety net than the U.S. Having traveled to Iceland and other neighboring nations, the populations there are smaller, much more Euro-centric and generally less diverse. Tourism is easy and encouraged, immigration, non-native born citizenship, or the ownership of property is not particularly encouraged and in some cases practically impossible. The immediate prior President of France raised the income tax rate for wage earners there to 75 percent. Almost overnight the top 300 wealthiest citizens of France became citizens of Belgium and other neighboring low and no-tax neighbors within the European Union.  More recently stateside, Trump administration tax cuts removed a long-treasured tax haven of the full deductibility of state income and property taxes. Not surprisingly, with the cap on deductible residential property taxes now $10,000, hundreds of thousands of residents in high tax states have sold their property and homesteads, relocating to lower and no property tax states. Not having served in uniform in our nation's military is perhaps my largest single life regret. Although time spent in the Georgia Defense Force (the Reserve's reserve) was worthwhile, it's not the same, and particularly not the same as serving during a time of military conflict. Those who have lost life, limb or a family member in combat, paying the ultimate price, know more than any others that the price of our continuing freedom is truly not free. A warm visit just over a year ago to the land of fire and ice (Iceland) was followed by my more recent discovery that the world's tiniest nation strictly controls the birth rates of any fetus determined to test positive for a genetic marker for Down syndrome. Nearly 100 percent of those pregnancies are then terminated. Having a child with Down syndrome of our own, we can unequivocally state that this is a choice and price which the people of Iceland are collectively paying, and which they may not fully appreciate for decades, but it also makes the price of any return trip to that lovely island nation a bit too high for me.  
  • One of Georgia's oldest counties, Gwinnett County, became 200 years old on December 15, 2018. Looking ahead, as the man whom the county is named for frequently did, it may be time for bold decisions and potentially new directions. Button Gwinnett, a longtime resident of Chatham County, briefly became Georgia's provisional President in 1777. An early speaker of the Georgia state legislature and later signer of the Declaration of Independence, like most Georgians of his time felt that an independent United States might be unthinkable. Great Britain was then the world's mightiest empire, and the colonies of the Americas were but a fledgling cluster of port cities and plantation towns up and down the eastern seaboard of North America with no organized militia.  But while first serving in a Georgia provincial assembly in Savannah in January of 1776, Gwinnett was selected as a delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, where he was first seated that May. Gwinnett became convinced that American independence was worth the risk and price that would likely be paid, and on July 2, 1776 and again on July 4th, Gwinnett voted in support of the Declaration of Independence. Georgia was considered a remote colony, but all three of its delegates to the Continental Congress became enthusiastic supporters of the declaration and the American Revolution which followed.  During the century that followed, Gwinnett County remained a predominantly rural county, and still later a somewhat remote bedroom community for fast growing Atlanta to its south. By the 1940 census, prior to World War II, the county population remained just under 30,000. Rapid growth defined the post-war decades and approaching the 2020 census, Gwinnett has become Georgia's second most populous county, now with nearly 1,000,000 residents. Gwinnett is home to Georgia's largest public school system and one of its highest performing. A strong cluster of municipalities offer differing tastes of Gwinnett life and county pride and its percentage of lifelong residents remains high. A strong technology corridor exists along the county center, and the I-85 corridor is ripe for re-development.  But, Gwinnett County is also changing. During the last census, Gwinnett's population became majority-minority. For decades thousands of Gwinnett workers streamed each morning along interstates, state highways and major thoroughfares into metro Atlanta's core. But that traffic is now much more two-way, with workers heading in and out, both of the high and low-skill variety. Interstate connectivity along I-85, 985, 316 and U.S. Highway 78 remain almost unmatched in the region, while east/west connectors apart from the Ronald Reagan Parkway are few and far between. And while Gwinnett Transit System and GRTA Xpress buses offer service across Gwinnett to other parts of the metro Atlanta region, route frequency is largely limited to rush hour commutes.  Gwinnett county sites were left on the sidelines recently during competition for the nation's largest economic development prospect, the Amazon HQ2 search, solely because of lack of direct access to region-wide transit. The Gwinnett County Commission has developed an ambitious transportation plan for the future, but they are leaving the decision on whether or not the county significantly expands and enhances its local transit options to area residents and businesses.  Gwinnett voters previously approved Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendums to improve local schools, parks, libraries and other infrastructure. Now they have the opportunity to even more significantly invest in their future through a March 2019 Transportation SPLOST special referendum.  Gwinnett County has reached many milestones with an even brighter future potentially ahead, but to maximize those successes and share the wealth with all levels of the local citizenry, a deeper and more tangible series of connections to the rest of the metro region are needed. A dedicated lane on Ronald Reagan Parkway or the Highway 120 corridor for high occupancy vehicles or bus rapid transit could easily improve and expedite county traffic east and west. Direct rail or light rail access from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport would provide an explosive boost in convention and tourism business at the Gwinnett Convention Center, Infinite Energy Arena and the upcoming Revel development.  In his day, Button Gwinnett, British born and raised, first a modest merchant and later a plantation owner, heard the voices of those afraid of the future, but he also knew that America and its people could not prosper as a subordinate, under the yolk and thumb of a large and sometimes oppressive government. If Button Gwinnett was still around today, I'm pretty sure he would be leading the way to get on board this train. Go Gwinnett.
  • “Georgia and our people have been very kind to Sandra and me. I'm glad that together we were able to accomplish some things that hopefully make life a bit better here for all Georgians,' said Georgia's outgoing Governor Nathan Deal.
  • Americans are benevolently ignorant about Canada, while Canadians are malevolently well informed about the United States,' J. Bartlet Brebner, well known Canadian historian and author. As I crossed the mid-century mark a few anniversaries around the sun ago, I decided that I needed to make a higher priority of actually taking the trips and adventures on my bucket list, before the good lord decided to take me…and while the goin’ was still good.  So last Christmas, our small family made an incredible holiday trek to The Greenbrier, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The resort is too incredible to describe in a few sentences, and the time spent with my daughters and son-in-law, on Amtrak en-route and later at the hotel gave us a host of precious family holiday memories. I was greatly touched this year when my father started a new family tradition of sharing favorite Christmas memories, and that Christmas journey has already landed atop those lists.  But this year, both girls would be elsewhere with their mothers, so I wanted to plan something memorable, and singular…in that I was not likely to take this trip again later. I selected The Canadian, the flagship of Canada’s rail system, Train #1 traverses from Toronto to Vancouver, east to west, and Train #2 (my choice) the reverse from Vancouver to Toronto.  I actually prefer train travel in many ways, so I flew from Atlanta to Seattle, taking Amtrak from the under renovation King Street Station in downtown Seattle to Vancouver. On this leg of the trip I met an incredible woman, Ms. Loretta Young Phillips, 85 years young, on her way to spend the holidays with children and grand-children north of the border.  In Vancouver, I spent a lovely Christmas Eve getting to know the city, having only been previously to Vancouver Island and Victoria nearby. An enchanting Christmas market had at its center a three-story Christmas manger, much like a heirloom family holiday centerpiece back home, only this one contained a live three-piece music combo on its main level, which also made me feel more at home as I approached they were swinging to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” originally recorded by Lithonia, Georgia’s own, little Miss Brenda Lee.  After the market and walk along the waterfront, back to the Marriott Pinnacle Vancouver for what turned out to be an incredible Christmas Eve dinner, and the best bowl of summer squash bisque I’ve ever tasted.  Christmas morning brought a return to Vancouver’s grand Pacific Central Rail Station, and off across the Rockies and British Columbia…the views were indescribable and majestic. The Via Rail staff were all incredibly professional, hospitable and accommodating, and I sensed even more so than usual during the holiday season. My accommodations were a comfortable, and compact, sleeper cabin for two, with a half-bath, and a communal shower just steps away. A glass-domed lounge car offered even more incredible 360 degree views as the beautiful vistas continually unfolded.  Our first stop to de-board was in the ski burg of Jasper, population 4,501, easily trebling during ski season. Nearing half our cabin departed here for the slopes on Boxing Day.  This was not my first trip visiting our northern neighbors, prior business ventures had well introduced me to Toronto, Montreal and Windsor . And I noted as always on this trip that Canada welcomes diversity, and Asians of many nations are among their largest and most visible minority population. Passengers on-board this train trek represented most every continent. I counted at least 10 languages which I overheard but could not speak. Yet smiles, nods, and holiday greetings were the universal language easily spoken by all.  Friends in Toronto have already given me good reason to return soon. This was perhaps the whitest Christmas and most snowfall I have also ever experienced, other than some Christmas ski trips to Park City and Steamboat Springs, yet unlike those, I was seldom out IN the snow and cold. And as I type these words, in the warm comfort of my cabin as I watch the beautiful scenery roll by, I’m accompanied by a hot mug of cider, as well as knowing that the warmth of the VIA Rail team and fellow passengers outside are all just a few steps away. It’s the only way to roll, Happy New Year, now back to being out and about.
  • Most of us have a 'home away from home,' or a second place we consider home in our hearts and minds. Mine is Athens, Georgia. Like Athens, Greece, its namesake. The Classic City has a storied history, as well as many prominent leaders, academics and athletes living there today. But what makes most any town really unique and special are its people, and this column is about a small handful of Athens' finest. Mayor Nancy Denson has been serving the community and county for nearing four decades. With several of those as Tax Commissioner, Mayor Denson can honorably state that she never forced a single individual or family out of their home due to a forced tax sale. Mayor Denson is term limited from running again, much to the chagrin of many in the city, but her legacy will long live on. Both northeast Georgia/Athens area food banks were begun from her garage. And her family continues in public service, with one daughter the longtime City Manager of Tybee Island and another a well-regarded State Legislator as well as candidate for Mayor of the City of Atlanta. In or out of politics, the Denson community service dynasty will continue. Another prominent face, on seemingly every billboard in Athens is that of entrepreneur and Dawgs super fan, Reign Streiter. His broad grin and clean-shaven pate call to mind a more congenial Mr. Clean, with that white t-shirt replaced by Bulldog colors and a strong following of friends and customers. If you don't see Reign sign at most every major Athens intersection, touting Team Reign, and spirited, feel good sayings of the day, just look for him Between the Hedges prior to most every UGA home game.  Reign graduated from UGA, first becoming an educator, and from every account, he loved teaching and his students loved him. But with a growing family, he decided he also needed to increase his income, and he then began a side enterprise of selling cars. His approach was very unique, as he might ask you about your dream car, that you never owned, or the one that got away, as part of sizing up your needs. Within a few years, he moved on to more lucrative enterprises, and after securing his realtor's license, he began selling homes. In no time and for six consecutive years, the Reign Man became the TOP selling realtor in Athens/Clarke County, and though he was happy making money for himself as well as his lead brokers, he wanted to do more, and give back some of the success he was finding to the community. And out of that desire, just over a year ago, he birthed Give Back Realty. Reign and his team of Athens' top realtors donate 10% of their real estate commissions to a growing list of nearly 20 Athens area charities and non-profits from every sale closing. It is not unusual for sale and purchase customers to now also match that gift.  During Team Reign's first year in business, this Give Back Realty 10% community reinvestment has resulted in well over $105,000 in direct donations to the coffers of local Athens charities and non-profits. And if you do the math on how well the overall enterprise is doing, multiply those gifts by ten, and that's gross commissions, which at best are seven percent of the sale price of the homes and commercial buildings being offered. That big smile of Reign's rolls over onto a LOT of other faces. Give Back customers run the gamut, first time home-buyers, former UGA football coaches to college sports broadcast giant, IMG (a tenant in Give Back Realty and Team Reign's office building). It's easy to see given the community's return on investment by moving real estate thru Give Back, that the firm and the Reign Man will likely soon be expanding into other Georgia cities looking to slightly recast the real estate business.  And Athens leaders aren't limited to living IN the Classic City, the CEO of my own home and DeKalb County government is another Athenian, Michael Thurmond, the former legislator, State Labor Commissioner and DeKalb Schools Superintendent also has a decades long history of servant leadership and public service. And I'm happy to note that Georgia's Governor-elect, Brian Kemp, is also still an Athenian, as well as a developer, entrepreneur, former State Senator and Secretary of State. Georgia should be in good hands. As the New Year approaches, I hope that Athens will keep producing more servant leaders who walk their talk and set great examples for the rest of us, like Mayor Nancy Denson, the Reign Man and others. And with the Sugar Bowl in the Big Easy just coming into view...Go Athens and Go Dawgs too!!  
  • It has probably taken me longer than it should have to realize that the greatest gifts of my life are often the more intangible ones, as well as the longest lasting. Barclay, my first child, followed her mother into teaching, the two are both on the faculty of the same Gwinnett County elementary school, and as with her sister, Barclay shares many of her mother's mannerisms and characteristics, as well as the obvious physical resemblance.  Many of the lessons I learned through my first child, good and bad, have hopefully better prepared me for raising my second, Olivia. Though born with the genetic disability of Down syndrome, Olivia teaches me life lessons almost weekly. Her joy is contagious and her ability to make new friends is constant and instantaneous. Despite a decade and a half between my girls, the two half-sisters are quite close. Barclay's guidance and advice as an educator has also been invaluable as we step delicately through the minefield which special education in a public school setting can be.  Between them, the girls currently have 12 living grandparents, I won't bore you with the math, but it can make making everyone happy during the holidays a challenge. As I watch them both live and grow, I marvel and find great joy in noting expressions, gestures, and mannerisms shared with their ancestors, many of whom they've never met and know only through related stories and old photographs.  My paternal grandmother, Mary L. Crane, was a businesswoman and civic leader. She had few great joys in life and spent most of her time shepherding, some might say micro-managing, different aspects of the family newspaper enterprise. She wasn't one to smile often, or give herself time to relax, but when she did either it was real and genuine. My youngest has her smile, and the sometimes matching shoulder-shrug which together signaled true contentment. We lost Mary the week prior to Barclay's birth in 1992, and yet I still can feel her presence in Olivia's smile.  Barclay favors both of her grandmother's, Lynn Crane and Mary Lowery. Her maternal grandmother’s love for laughter, as well self-deprecating humor, are both frequently in evidence. And Barclay also shares these traits with her own mother, as well as a gesture ending with hands on each hip, coupled with a head tilt. It is hard to explain how much I enjoy re-discovering these mirrored micro-traits, movements and physical gestures mimicked between generations, especially when the younger never actually saw or experienced the trait being demonstrated by the elder. How exactly can genes do this?  Olivia and her mother, Tiffany often sit near or next to each other, and in a matter of moments both will have the same leg cross, with the same foot bobbing slightly. Whether it's nervous energy or more gene mimicry I’m still not quite sure, but when each is buried in a book or laptop or movie on television, and the two are half a room apart, with the same leg bob going...I'm convinced again it is more magic gene pool footwork at play.  These little memory 'gifts' of random DNA help the beloved no longer with us live on. I don't need a 21 & Me kit to frequently note who is related/connected to whom. And as we age and grow to become our parents, I note with each visit how often my sisters mirror our own mother, Lynn Crane, or how much my vocal timber and head tilt have become so identical to my own father, Jerry Crane.  So much of the holiday season is filled with time or memories of family, but now the 'greatest gift' for me is just watching my girls grow, loving life and others...while carrying along inside of each of them a little piece of the rest of us. Just as a smile itself can be shared, while also bringing back some wonderful of memories of that same smile from another face decades before.  Keep your family close and tell your children how much you love and cherish them, if not everyday, at least during this season of thanks and gracious plenty and celebration. You will be glad you did, and when they smile back at you, try and remember whose smile they are now also wearing. Merry Christmas, best wishes of the season and New Year to you and yours.
  • Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!' Benjamin Franklin, (1706-1790), American founding father, author, inventor and philosopher. Ben Franklin was not a fan of pure Democracy. U.S. citizens of that day had no vote or direct voice in the Declaration of Independence, nor later the U.S. Constitution which is the basis on which our constitutional republic is formed. Few amendments to our Constitution were ratified by the states, versus adopted by Congress.  In close election contests, hard feelings often emerge and sometimes linger. It is however quite important at these times to remember that one of our greatest strengths as a nation is the time-proven, peaceful transition of power. That of course also means coming to terms with and accepting outcomes not of our preference or choosing, once the voters have spoken.  And it is also important to note that we are far from alone in this world experiencing these divides. Across the pond in Britain, a Prime Minister is battling her own party to deliver a Brexit deal which other EU countries will swallow, all while her own party plans a divorce from their PM. In Germany, Angela Merkel's ruling majority shrinks with each election, in part fueled by another splinter party and fears that Muslim immigrants are fomenting unrest and economic injury to the Rhineland.  And here, a President who shines brightest (in his mind) during the swings of battle, finds building the divide among his primary comfort zones. But he is still our President.  It has been four Presidential elections since someone I voted for has occupied 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but I also choose to still wish every President success and that they find the will and their best ways to serve and improve the lives of the American people. Some of course do that job better than others.  But these times too shall pass. And just as the Presidential Election of 2000 ended with 532 votes in Florida, with hanging chads and a U.S. Supreme Court intervention, our republic and people are strong enough to weather differences of preference, candidate and opinion. And now is time for healing.  There will be voices who will continue to foment the division. Given the First Amendment, those voices cannot be silenced, but they can and should be countered and responded to. Our nation can suffer fools, divides and strong differences of opinion, as long as the American people do not begin to heedlessly attack one and other. We are not above or beyond mob rule, rioting or even the occasional need for curfews and Marshall Law, but on the whole, we are a more mindful, tolerant and respecting people than that.  This President has flaws, but he did not create this divide, nor is he the anti-Christ. We the voters just selected and voted in a split Congress. As typically happens during a mid-term election, the 'in' party lost more than they won, but it was not the Blue Tsunami which many forecast. The GOP retained the U.S. Senate, a strong majority of Governor's office and state legislatures and will likely further their re-shaping of the federal judiciary.  Democrats in the U.S. House will first fight an early battle among themselves, over their own leadership team, then over the progressive bent of their agenda and then over just how hard to attempt to make life miserable for this President. It will not be pretty, and neither is democracy. Making laws while also building support and public opinion, while finding consensus are each messy, but necessary. As adults, we have examples to set, for our children, as well as our neighbors, co-workers and peers. We can disagree without being disagreeable.  We voters may have tossed or lost the elected moderates in both parties, but just like the well-armed lamb in Franklin's quote, we can still have the will to fight for common sense, compromise and solutions which land in the middle. Yes, democracy is messy, and making the right choices to lead us in a republic are also never guaranteed. But our experiment in self-governance has now survived nearing 250 years, and though I won't be here when we hit 500, I do expect we will get there.  'Democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.' Winston Churchill, from a speech by the former British Prime Minister, November 11, 1947.
  • It was a frigid January morning in Washington, D.C., January 2001, I am attending and covering the Inauguration of President-elect George W. Bush, following the longest and most contested Presidential election in U.S. history. Vice-President Al Gore withdrew his early concession after projections and vote totals began to foreshadow a potentially different outcome in Florida. Dozens of lawyers and protests later, and statewide recounts including the 'interpretation of voter intent' and hanging chads, and the U.S. Supreme Court halts the Florida recounts, effectively giving Bush the win and Florida's Electoral College votes, by a margin of 532 ballots. At the White House that Inauguration morn, the Clinton, Gore and Bush families shared a cordial but restrained brunch, and later the stage and front rows of the Inauguration ceremony fronting the steps of our nation's Capitol. While a blizzard paralyzed the federal district, frigid temps did not stop the crowds from attending, nor warm the frosty air between the Bush and Clinton/Gore VIPs on-stage. And yet again, without the nicety of a concession, America completed yet another peaceful transition of power.  Here and now in Georgia, following several acts of litigation and a statewide re-tabulation of absentee ballots not including the required date of birth or matching signatures, the victory margin also narrowed slightly in our hotly contested Governor's race. Both candidates gained votes, and State Representative Stacey Abrams increased her total by 120 votes.  Ms. Abrams made clear, in her press briefing acknowledging that the state and this process would result in the certification of former Secretary of State Brian Kemp as Georgia's next Governor, that she would also not offer a concession, nor her congratulations, due to her belief that the contest was flawed, and the results perhaps gamed, or at best impacted by a wide variety of acts of voter suppression.  Admittedly, this election was not without mistakes and glitches at polling places, long lines and not all of several thousand poll workers being equally knowledgeable and well-trained. As with any day or event involving several million people, doing the same thing, during approximately the same time, played out across a large and geographically diverse canvass...there will be delays, human errors and some poor decision making along the way. Imagine the joy of return travel for your own family this Sunday after Thanksgiving.  That said, a statewide election has thousands of moving parts, more than 3,300 precincts, 159 voter Registrars and county boards of election as well as one Secretary of State. The office of the latter trains registrars (county and municipal), updates those officials on changes in election law, reviews and investigates any irregularities or accusations of ballot tampering/voter fraud and distributes the sample ballot templates. Local registrars and their boards of election manage precinct map lines, distribution of voting machines, staff and ballot tabulations and maintain voter registration rolls. Most of these registrars are career local government employees, some don't even vote, and though I have met hundreds of them over three decades, very few are decided partisans, even when they work in jurisdictions where the local politics are well known and leaning.  The most vulnerable part of our voting system are admittedly absentee ballots. The only requirements of identification are on the application form which includes your date of birth and signature. There is no space on the form to indicate race.  If part of Governor-elect Kemp's campaign strategy and tactics were to in fact suppress the votes of minorities and Democrats during an election which featured record voter registration (more than 1,000,000 new voters and more than 250,000 new registrants since April), record mid-term election turn-out, record votes for the Democratic gubernatorial nominee (more than ANY other Democrat ever running for Governor in Georgia), and minority voter participation surpassing the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections of Barack Obama,...then he certainly did a really crappy job on that front.  By 2020, Georgia most likely will have new voting machines and technology in place, providing a paper trail and poll workers freshly re-trained. Georgia was first with statewide electronic voting in 2004, under a Republican Governor and Democratic Secretary of State.  Georgia has another statewide election in just a few weeks, on Tuesday, December 4th, featuring run-off races for Secretary of State, as well as a seat on the Georgia Public Service Commission. Please demonstrate that interest and turn-out in this last election wasn't a fluke. Do your research, choose and support your candidates, state and local run-offs will be taking place, and go vote.
  • It is November 3, 1992, following a long night of tabulating, and all four major news networks calling the election for incumbent U.S. Senator Wyche Fowler (D-Georgia), when it becomes apparent that none of three candidates have received the required majority of 50 percent, plus one vote Fowler has just over 49 percent, his opponent, former U.S. Peace Corps Director Paul Coverdell (R) is at 48 percent, and the Libertarian nominee, Jim Hudson is slightly above 3 percent. Public polls by the AJC had placed the race in a landslide re-election for Fowler, by as much as 22 percent just weeks ahead of Election Day. But voters decided otherwise, and though most of the state's rural areas and secondary population centers went Blue and for Fowler as well as Democratic Presidential nominee Bill Clinton, the metro Atlanta suburbs were then decidedly Red and went heavily for Coverdell. Three weeks later, Coverdell wins Georgia's first U.S. Senate run-off, and the U.S. Senate Majority for the GOP by 16,344 votes, and a margin of 1.3%, which was even closer on Election Night. Senator Fowler chooses not to concede, nor congratulate, and Coverdell is later sworn in as Senator during the next Congress. Ballot tabulations are first completed at the precinct level, and those results are reported to the County Registrar. Georgia has 159 counties and well over 3,300 precincts, so even with computer tabulation and electronic tally submission this takes time. At the county elections office, advance votes are often tabulated first, as these do not come from precinct captains, as soon as the polls close, and paper absentee, overseas military absentee and provisional ballots are counted last. In the case of provisional ballots, also on paper, a voter did not have required identification present, was not on registration rolls, appeared to not have reached the age of majority, or could not demonstrate citizenship. There have been plenty of instances in the past of voter fraud, and voters casting ballots in more than one jurisdiction, this is part of ballot and election security, not voter suppression.  Absentee and provisional ballots contain no space to indicate race. A tabulating poll worker would have to access county or precinct registration files manually to even cross reference that data point. Not easy to do on Election Night while tabulating or days later in an election offices while certifying or recounting without plenty of poll watchers and witnesses present. In the most recent statewide elections of November 6, 2018, Georgia had record registration, turnout and ballots cast for a mid-term election. Minority voter registration and participation also set records, and Democratic Party nominee, State Representative Stacey Abrams, received only 500,000 less than the ENTIRE voter turnout during the 2014 race for Governor. However with tabulations still underway, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp's margin of victory remains slightly in excess of 59-thousand ballots, and roughly 1.3 percent.  No one questions the importance of each ballot and eventual tabulation of every vote, even when those ballots won't change the outcome of a particular race. But as an example with overseas military ballots, there is no way to predict how many will be received, or by which county, and though absentee ballots did set records this cycle, there are not 25,000 or more still outstanding. State law requires the Secretary of State to certify final results by Tuesday, November 20th. There will be a statewide run-off on December 4th for the office of Secretary of State, and other down-ballot contests, but chances are negligible and shrinking at this point that there will be a run-off for Governor.  During the 2000 Presidential election, perhaps the most suspenseful/long term, recount in our nation's history, deciding the Electoral College and ultimately the Presidency really came down to a split among the 9 votes on the U.S. Supreme Court, ending the ongoing Florida recount (with Bush leading Gore by 536 votes), resulting in then Texas Governor George W. Bush winning Florida's electoral votes, and the Electoral College by a one vote margin. Many said our deeply divided nation would never unify again, until the horrific tragedy of 9/11 came to our shores a short 11 months later. Whatever the outcome of these individual contests, as Georgians, Floridians and Americans, we will survive this. Let's not wait on another act of war, weather or God be required to bring us together. One of America's historic and greatest strengths has been the peaceful transition of power. That strength comes from our people, and not just from the top.