Georgia election officials ordered to review thousands of provisional ballots

Georgia election officials ordered to review thousands of provisional ballots
Georgia gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp

A federal judge has blocked the Georgia secretary of state from certifying election results before Friday, as the state’s governor’s race remains unsettled.

Late Monday night, Judge Amy Totenberg ruled that state and local officials must conduct a “good faith review” of all provisional ballots that had been rejected because a voter’s name was not found on the voter registration list.

This includes using “all available registration documentation” from voters to verify their identity, instead of solely relying on the voter registration list. The Secretary of State’s office has reported that more than 21,000 provisional ballots were cast.

Totenberg has ordered the state to establish a hotline for voters to determine whether their provisional ballots were counted — and if not, the reason why.

Totenberg’s ruling does not require the extension of any certification deadlines. Counties in Georgia had a 5 p.m. deadline on Tuesday to certify their results. The ruling, however, does bar the secretary of state from certifying election results before Friday, giving the state more time to address various issues stemming from the election.

The state must certify the results by 5 p.m. on November 20.

As the deadline for Georgia counties to certify their election results passed, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ campaign asked a federal judge to order all counties to count absentee ballots even if voters failed to include their date of birth and provisional ballots cast by eligible voters outside of their county.

A previously filed court order mandated only Gwinnett County count all absentee ballots with missing birth dates.

US District Judge Steve Jones said he would deliver a ruling by noon Wednesday and declined to delay today’s deadline for counties to verify their results.

“Whether or not it results in a run-off is to some extent just one point of this,” said Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo outside the federal courthouse.

She said the campaign “remains steadfast on our mission to use the courts, to use all aspects of our campaign on this mission, which is so simple, to count every vote. And we will not be deterred however long it takes.”

“While Democrats attempt to undermine Brian Kemp’s convincing victory seven days ago, we remain confident in the local elections officials who are certifying the results,” said Kemp campaign spokesman Cody Hall.

Monday night’s ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed the day before the election by the group Common Cause Georgia.

The legal battles come as Georgia’s governor’s race between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams race remains undecided. Currently, CNN has not projected a winner, but Kemp is leading Abrams with 50.3% of the vote, while Abrams has 48.8%, and less than 60,000 votes differentiating the two. Abrams has refused to concede, with her campaign believing there is enough votes still remaining to force the contest into a December 4 runoff.