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.