One day after Brian Kemp proclaimed himself the winner of Georgia’s gubernatorial race, and shortly after he and Gov. Nathan Deal stood together to announce the formation of a transition team to help Kemp prepare to take up office, a group of litigators stood together at Stacy Abrams’ Atlanta headquarters with a message: Not so fast.
Pointing to Kemp’s own admission that thousands of votes remain uncounted amid reports of uncounted absentee ballots and county elections officials “overwhelmed” with provisional ballots that must be reviewed, attorney Allegra Lawrence-Hardy said the Abrams campaign will not rest until “every vote is counted.”
As part of that effort, the campaign is preparing to file suit in Dougherty County today over an “incredible backlog” of absentee ballots in what may be the first of many challenges to the handling and counting of ballots across the state.
Lawrence-Hardy noted that even the numbers offered by the secretary of state’s office—which Kemp led until noon Thursday—continued to shift.
“That’s why we are so concerned and why we are still in this fight,” said the Lawrence & Bundy partner, herself a veteran of the hotly contested 2000 Bush v. Gore election fight in Florida.
Alongside Lawrence-Hardy were veteran litigators John Chandler and his wife, Beth Tanis, both former Sutherland Asbill & Brennan and King & Spalding partners; Summerville Firm lawyer Kurt Kastorf; and Maia Cogen of Lawrence & Bundy.
As late as Thursday morning, said Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo, Cobb County reported that hundreds more votes for the Democratic candidate had been counted, along with a few dozen more for Kemp.
On Wednesday, the secretary of state’s office posted a release saying there were less than 22,000 provisional ballots cast statewide remaining to be counted and that less than 3,000 nonprovisional ballots remained uncounted.
“But they have not provided the media or us with the breakdown of those 22,000 ballots,” said Groh-Wargo.
Kemp and his campaign must release “all the data and all the numbers,” she said.
“They probably can’t, because they don’t know where they are,” she added.
Groh-Wargo said that, with the current known numbers, Abrams would need to pick up 23,372 additional votes to be within the 1 percent margin needed to demand a recount.
During Kemp’s press conference announcing his resignation as secretary, he said there are not enough uncounted votes to put Abrams over the top.
According to an Associated Press account, Kemp said, “Even if she got 100 percent of those votes, we still win.”
On Thursday afternoon, Kemp’s campaign issued a press release stating, “Abrams’ team has decided to file frivolous, politically motivated lawsuits that will force elections officials to break the law and add votes that didn’t exist on Election Day. Simply put: Abrams’ campaign is trying to create new votes, because they know it’s their only remaining hope.”
Kemp’s lawyers, David Dove and Vincent Russo of Robbins Ross Alloy Belinfante & Littlefield, did not respond to requests for comment Thursday afternoon.
Abrams’ lawyers said they hoped the interim secretary of state Deal named to take Kemp’s place, attorney and Department of Human Services commissioner Robyn Crittenden, will act quickly to release county-by-county tabulations of counted and uncounted ballots.
In an election riddled with complaints of long lines, broken voting machines and voters turned away from polling places, Allegra-Hardy said Kemp—who steadfastly refused to step aside as the state’s chief campaign official as he ran for office—was largely to blame for the chaos.
“Brian Kemp owns this,” she said.