Plagued by calls from President Trump and other Republicans to interfere with the results of Georgia’s presidential election, Gov. Brian Kemp again defended his opposition to holding a special session of the Georgia General Assembly to appoint new presidential electors while speaking Monday in Athens.
Addressing returning and newly elected state legislators during this year’s UGA Biennial Institute held at The Classic Center, Kemp urged lawmakers to follow in his footsteps and act in accordance with the law.
“As new and returning legislators, you all will be taking an oath to uphold the laws and the Constitution of our state, just as I did on Jan. 14, 2019, as your 83rd governor,” Kemp said. “I’m confident that each of you will live up to the words, as well as the greater calling, of that oath, regardless of the political consequences. I can assure you that’s what I have been doing.”
Four Republican state senators—William Ligon, Greg Dolezal, Brandon Beach and Burt Jones—drafted a petition calling for the legislature to hold the special session this Tuesday, justifying it with unfounded claims of “systemic” failures in the election.
Meanwhile, Trump has been lobbying Kemp and other officials in Republican-controlled states won by President-elect Joe Biden to throw out the popular-vote results and appoint GOP electors who would hand the Electoral College and a second term to Trump. The president mocked Kemp and even urged congressman Doug Collins to run against him in the 2022 primary during a rally in Valdosta on Saturday.
Since the 1960s, Georgia voters indirectly choose electors when they cast their ballots for president, and the electors belong to whichever candidate’s party wins the state’s popular vote. Kemp rebuked the petition for the legislature to appoint new electors, as it would violate state law.
“Simply put, this is not an option under state or federal law,” he said. “The statute is clear: The legislature can only direct an alternative method for choosing presidential electors if the election was not able to be held on the date set by federal law.”
If the legislature were to appoint new electors, Kemp said the move “would be immediately enjoined by the courts, resulting in a long legal dispute and no short-term resolution.” The results could only be overturned through the court system, he said, and so far judges—including some appointed by Republicans—have thrown every lawsuit alleging widespread fraud in Georgia. Any disputes to the election are supposed to be resolved by the “safe harbor” deadline on Dec. 8. The Electoral College will formally vote on Dec. 14.
Also Monday, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Kemp recertified the election results after a second recount. Biden won by 11,779 votes, a change of 766 out of 5 million votes cast.
In addition to commenting on the election process, Kemp applauded the work he and the Georgia General Assembly accomplished in the past year, albeit with a shortened session.
“By all measures, we were gearing up for another productive session under the Gold Dome until the COVID-19 pandemic reached our state’s borders,” Kemp said. “None of us could have anticipated that we would face a once-in-a-century global pandemic that literally uprooted our economy, sent our kids home from school for virtual learning for the balance of the year, and turned so many norms that we were used to on their heads in literally just a matter of a few short weeks.”
Kemp praised the state’s response to the pandemic, saying it plans to spend a total of $250 million to “shore up the needs in our hospitals” before the end of 2020. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the nation and throughout the state, Kemp said the legislature will continue to focus on public health in the next session. He urged the audience to continue to wear masks, social distance, wash their hands and follow the guidelines outlined in state executive orders. Additionally, he said people should receive a flu shot to avoid a “twindemic” from further testing the limits of state hospitals.
Kemp also pointed to the foster care reform, pay raises for teachers and legislation passed to clamp down on human trafficking and “gang violence” as achievements for the past year.
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