Although ballots remain uncounted in Georgia's closely watched gubernatorial race, Republican candidate Brian Kemp has declared victory and resigned as secretary of state while Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams has refused to concede and assembled a legal team to investigate reports of voting issues throughout the state.
Abrams and her supporters had called for Kemp to step down in the lead-up to Election Day, accusing him of spearheading efforts to suppress voter turnout by suspending more than 53,000 voting registrations and purging 107,000 additional voters from the rolls. However, his resignation comes not as a response to that pressure, but rather as part of his transition to governor after prematurely declaring victory late Wednesday.
BREAKING: Brian Kemp has resigned as Georgia Sec. of State.
— CREDO Mobile (@CREDOMobile) November 8, 2018
Responding to reports of Kemp's decision to kick off his transition before all the votes are tallied and amid a last-minute legal challenge that aimed to prevent him from being involved in the vote-counting process, journalist John Nichols remarked on Twitter, "Kemp flees the scene of the crime."
Brian Kemp’s tactics to suppress the votes of the people of Georgia has been a national disgrace. He should have resigned as Secretary of State months ago.
This race is not over.https://t.co/SCmO54u6r0
— Our Revolution (@OurRevolution) November 8, 2018
While Kemp's press secretary argued on Wednesday that "it is mathematically impossible for Stacey Abrams to win or force a runoff election," Abrams' campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo noted at a noon press conference on Thursday that the secretary of state's office—now overseen by Robyn Crittenden, a long-time ally of outgoing GOP Gov. Nathan Deal—has not released any evidence to support that claim.
"The latest vote tally had Kemp nearly 63,000 votes ahead of Abrams—and about 13,000 votes over the 50 percent threshold," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Thursday. "Glen Bolger, Kemp's pollster, said there were about 3,000 absentee ballots still pending and an estimated 22,000 provisional ballots."
Groh-Wargo, during the press conference, suggested that number could be much higher, pointing to Cobb County, where more advanced votes were accounted for early Thursday, and the fact that ballots from voters currently located overseas, including members of the military, don't have to arrive until Friday.
"The votes of all the voters of Georgia deserve to be counted before the now former secretary of state announces his victory," she said, asserting that that Kemp's marginal lead could still fall to a point that triggers a runoff or a recount. "We are going to fight until every vote is counted."
— Team Abrams -CALL VOTER PROTECTION 1 888 730 5816 (@teamabrams) November 8, 2018
In terms of voting issues that plagued the state on Tuesday, from malfunctioning and unavailable machines to hourslong lines, "we have specific concerns in specific places, and we are moving forward in filing litigation today," Allegra Lawrence-Hardy of Abrams' legal team announced at the press conference. One of those cases will argue that voters of Dougherty County were denied the opportunity to cast mail-in ballots.
In addition to outlining the first stages of the "very significant legal challenge" that the campaign is mounting, Lawrence-Hardy implored those who cast absentee ballots to confirm that their ballots have been received, and to contact the legal team if they find that is not the case. The Abrams campaign also has encouraged those who voted via provisional ballots to confirm that their votes have been recorded.
In a race this close, one vote could be the difference between a loss, a runoff, or a victory. If you voted on a provisional (paper) ballot, you need to make sure your vote was counted. Call Voter Protection immediately: 1-888-730-5816. #gapol pic.twitter.com/Kcb2lQycoE
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) November 7, 2018