In This Episode
After years of organizing in preparation for this moment, we arrive at Election Day 2020. Georgia makes history, flipping blue, as all eyes focus on the state’s crucial Senate races.
Featured in this episode:
- Kylie Brown- Student at Mercer University, President of Young Democrats
- Stephen Fowler- Journalist, Georgia Public Broadcasting
- Marla Cureton- Grassroots organizer in Atlanta and North Fulton
- Maia Costello- Poll watcher in Decatur, GA
- Jon Favreau- Co-Host, Pod Save America
- Secretary Brad Raffensperer- Georgia Secretary of State
- Robin Kemp- Journalist & Founder, Clayton Crescent
- Representative Bee Nguyen- Georgia House of Representatives, 89th District
- Stacey Abrams- Founder, Fair Fight
Kylie Brown: Part of the reason that I’m so into politics is because I was pissed off that everybody kept telling me that I wasn’t going to vote.
Rembert Browne: This is Kylie Brown, a student at Mercer University in Macon, GA.
Kylie Brown: Our generation has always heard young people don’t vote. Historically, young people don’t vote. You guys have all these ideas, but we can’t count on you. And so what I told everyone I talked to on campus was we make up 21% of the electorate. That is more than any generation before us. So I am so happy that we did have record turnout in our generation. It was insane.
Rembert Browne: 21 percent of voter turnout in Georgia came from young voters between the ages of 18 and 29. According to NPR, it was the highest youth turnout of any state during the election. Honestly y’all, I could cry that makes me so happy.
Kylie Brown: I am so proud of my generation for actually being all crazy on Tik Tok, and then actually doing what they said they were going to do. And I want to keep it going. I want to get more people involved. Our vote matters. If we show up, we make it matter.
Rembert Browne: From Tenderfoot TV and Crooked Media, this is Gaining Ground: The New Georgia. In this episode we arrive at Election Day 2020. We examine the process, Georgia going from red to blue, and the immediate aftermath of the flip.
I’m your host, Rembert Browne with Jewel Wicker.
“And tomorrow’s election comes with a lot of uncertainty.” – News Anchor
“Across the Country cities are planning for Election Day”- News Anchor
“Can you imagine if I lose? My whole life, what am I going to do? Maybe I will have to leave the Country, I don’t know.” – President Trump
“We are going to win four more years. We can’t play games, get out and vote. Do those beautiful absentee ballots. Because the only way we are going to lose this election is if the election is rigged. Remember that.” – President Trump
“Many businesses concerned about destructive protests following the election.” – News Anchor
“They’re pulling out all the stops in Georgia, and these are the voters that can swing it.” – News Anchor
Rembert Browne: As the country braced itself for this most consequential election, people in Georgia were ready. For groups who have dealt with feeling both invisible and underappreciated in the political process — from Black women to college kids, Latinos and Asian-Americans — people who had been working for years in preparation for this day — it was go time. November 3rd had finally arrived.
“It’s Election Day in America and not only is the presidency at stake but also control of the U.S. Senate.” – News Anchor
“The state of Georgia now becomes our focus on this Election Day. One of those states closely watched.” – News Anchor
“Why Georgia?” “Why Georgia? That’s a great question. It is weird saying that Georgia is a battleground state but it really is this year.” – News Anchor
“Political experts say that blue hue could return to Georgia.” – News Anchor
Rembert Browne: To get a better understanding of what took place here on November 3rd, we have to understand how elections work in Georgia.
Stephen Fowler: My name is Stephen Fowler. I am the political reporter at Georgia Public Broadcasting, the statewide NPR station for Georgia and the host of Battleground Ballot Box, a podcast that explores Georgia’s history, present and future with politics and elections. Georgia has 159 counties, which is second only to Texas in the sheer number. And even though there is a Secretary of State who is Georgia’s top election official, much of the day-to-day activities are run at the County level.
Rembert Browne: These Georgia counties would be responsible not only for running the November general election, but the Spring Presidential Primary — which became a Summer Presidential Primary — as well. And they’d be doing it with new voting machines.
Stephen Fowler: To understand Georgia’s June primary, you have to go back really to late 2019. Georgia had just selected a new voting machine vendor to switch from direct recording electronic devices — basically touchscreen computers that stored your vote on a memory card — to a ballot marking device, which is a bigger touchscreen that prints out a piece of paper that then goes and is scanned. Now the paper component makes it much more secure and easy to do things like audit the votes and do a hand recount of the votes. With this new voting machine, you had to get 30,000 machines and printers and scanners and battery backups distributed to 159 different counties.
Rembert Browne: The move to new voting machines came after organizers sued the state in 2017, alleging older voter machines were vulnerable to hacking and didn’t allow for auditing.
Stephen Fowler: The state met that deadline by aggressively getting it out over the holidays. Then the pandemic hit. The County elections officials I talked to from all across the state were worried about several things. They worried they weren’t going to have enough poll workers because the average age of a poll worker in Georgia is in the same age range as people that are most susceptible to the coronavirus. There were going to be pulling place shortages, um, especially in some of the bigger Metro counties, because places like churches or community centers and other third-party groups were closing their doors to the outside because they didn’t want to have the virus spread. And then you had this unprecedented push to vote by mail. Typically, you know, a couple percent of Georgia voters use absentee ballots, mainly people over 65, disabled or military and overseas voters. Because of the pandemic and because the Secretary of State gave everyone 6.9 million applications for absentee ballots, there was just an avalanche of paper that these counties had to process. It was just really an overwhelming endeavor.
Rembert Browne: According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia has allowed no-excuse absentee voting by mail since 2005. This means voters didn’t need a reason such as illness or military deployment to vote by mail. Although Republicans were more likely to take advantage of voting by mail in previous years, this shifted amid the coronavirus pandemic. More than 1.3 million people voted absentee in Georgia’s general election. Still, as Stephen Fowler explains, the national attention on Georgia politics started before the General Election and subsequent Senate runoffs.
Stephen Fowler: So the primary was pushed from March to May. The May primary was pushed to June, which bought counties more time, but you still had the fact that plenty of people in the state, both voters and poll workers had never used this equipment before. And so Georgia was thrust into the national spotlight, painted as this big inept election administration because of the problems that we saw on the primary day.
“It really has become kind of a perfect storm.”
“One problem on top of another, on top of another.”
“Our crew saw long lines at some polling places.”
“In Georgia widespread voting problems, long wait times, problems with new voting machines, precincts that did not open on time.”
“Nineteen of its polling stations will stay open until eight pm tonight because of problems earlier in the day.”
“We’re just being told, its a situation with the machinery.”
“Georgia just unveiled new voting machines today. So these new systems are coming out right in the middle of a pandemic.”
Stephen Fowler: So I waited in line three hours to vote. I showed up 10 minutes before polls open, and it was number 110 in line. And, you know, there were no problems at my polling place. But, you know, when there are 110 people in line before the polls even open, that’s going to create a bit of a line. There are so many things that were just beyond people’s control. And I think it’s easy to rag on Georgia as this like, ass backwards Southern state. There’s a lot that happened this year beyond the control of those people working, you know, 20 hour days to try to make the elections happen.
Rembert Browne: One of those people working long hours was Maia Costello, a resident of Decatur Georgia, and first time poll watcher.
Maia Costello: For this election, I feel like the stakes were really, really high. The stakes were high for me personally. The stakes were high for my community. The stakes were high for the country and the world. I feel like we’ve never experienced before, certainly not in my lifetime, and when I’ve spoken to people who are in older generations, they have expressed with me that they’ve never experienced anything quite like this before. So it just felt extremely important for me to get more involved in this election. I did poll watching for the first time and actually something, I didn’t really know what it was before I signed up to do. Like I signed up for it and I was like, I guess I’ll find out what this is. I signed up through Georgia Democrats. You can also sign up. There are Republican poll watchers as well.
Rembert Browne: Poll watchers are set up in tabulating centers and voting precincts and are challenged with reporting any issues to the Election Superintendent. Maia says she was tasked with watching out for voter intimidation, long lines, issues with voting equipment and more.
Maia Costello: It was super empowering to be a part of this system. It’s all in our hands to sustain and to protect and to, and to nourish our democracy. I think politics and elections, they feel very, very overwhelming. And I think they don’t have to. I think one of the, one of the things that takes the overwhelm out of something is when you take some sort of action and I don’t think it has to be a big action, you can do something simple as commit to sending postcards to people. I don’t think you have to bend over backwards, but I, it truly makes me, made me feel better. Like I was making a difference, even if I’m just one little cog in the machine.
Representative Bee Nguyen: I’m Representative Bee Nguyen. I am the State Representative for House District 89. So I get all my street cred from the fact that that is a seat that Stacey Abrams used to hold before she decided to run for Governor. In my real life job, or should I say my paying job, I am the National Policy Advisor for an organization called New American Leaders. We recruit first and second generation immigrants to run for office.
Rembert Browne: Before we started making this podcast, I texted my friend Ruby-Beth. She’s a lifelong activist, as well as an organizer and a lawyer. I wanted a list of people she’d want to hear from, on a show like this, and she brought up her State Rep, who happens to be Bee.
Part of her text: “If you’re including elected officials she’s basically as good as it gets.” One fact about Representative Nguyen, she’s the first Vietnamese American to be elected to the Georgia House of Representatives.
Representative Bee Nguyen: I’m the daughter of refugees. My parents were resettled by a Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, and a Republican Governor from Iowa, Robert Ray. So I have this history that’s very personal, but also when I worked with students in public schools, I worked with a lot of undocumented kids as well. It’s really important that we have people representing us who understand the issue because we know there are so many barriers around participating in democracy.
Rembert Browne: The Asian American Pacific Islander community, AAPI, is Georgia’s fastest growing voter block. According to Targetsmart data, more than 70,000 of the voters in this group did not vote in 2016. Ahead of the runoffs, organizers have focused on mobilizing these voters once again.
Representative Bee Nguyen: The AAPI community has traditionally had a very low voter turnout, the lowest out of any group. And we sometimes exist in this political cycle where candidates and campaigns and parties only talk to people who are likely to turn out to vote. And it creates that cycle. I think that Stacey Abrams was the first person to recognize in terms of the statewide candidate, the importance of building this broad based coalition, which we’re calling the new South. AAPI voters, Latinx voters, Black voters, all of those voters are critical to being able to win a state like Georgia. We’re an incredibly diverse state with a lot of folks who can help us get to the finish line.
Rembert Browne: From 2016 to 2020, Black voter turnout increased by 20 percent, Latino voter turnout by 72 percent, and AAPI voter turnout by 91 percent.
Representative Bee Nguyen: You know, I give her all the credit ‘cause she’s the first candidate who we did not have to ask to be seen. We did not have to ask to be heard. She recognized on her own that AAPI voters should be included at the table. And she demonstrated that she would invest in us and use in-language canvassing and in-language phone banking and in-language lit. When I was knocking doors in 2016 and talking to Vietnamese voters, one of those powerful experiences I had was talking to a man who had lived in Gwinnett County for almost 40 years. Nobody had ever asked him to vote. He was scared to vote because of language barriers, but my sister and I worked with him to get him a translator because we can speak conversational Vietnamese, like third grade level. The translator agreed to help him at the polls and the translator is legally blind. So my sister had to pick up the translator drive over to the man’s house, babysit his children to ensure that this one voter could go cast his vote.
Rembert Browne: When election results started coming in and Georgia wasn’t one of those immediate states called for Trump, I played it cool — you know the saying — “act like you’ve been here before.” But, as I’ve said before, I’m used to Georgia being called by dinnertime.
“The big show starts at four o’clock our time. It feels early, but that’s when polls close in six states in our country, including Georgia, some of Florida and Virginia . If Joe Biden clips Georgia, it could be a very good sign for the Democrats at the start of the night.”
“This is a state that for the first time in about thirty years, people are watching closely. It has been reliably red since about 1992 when it went blue for Bill Clinton, and Democrats think they have a chance to flip it again.”
“Georgia, too early to call.”
Rembert Browne: One more time with Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Political Reporter, Stephen Fowler.
Stephen Fowler: The biggest surprise of this November election was how smooth things went in Georgia. There were some signs that things were going to be better. You had a record number of absentee ballots requested, and people returning them. You had people flooding early voting, and the counties were all preparing for up to 80% turnout or, you know, 6 million or so votes. And they had more staffing and they had more polling places and they had more machines and more training.
Georgia still has a Republican Secretary of State, but he is a night and day difference from how Brian Kemp ran that office. Brad Raffesperger is still a hard right Republican, but he is an engineer who is obsessed with the process, which is why you see him do things like send 6.9 million people absentee ballot applications. And he’s enacted a lot of policies that if you took away a party label would be relatively progressive. You could make the argument that the actions that the Republican Secretary of State took in this election cycle to make it easier for people to vote, ended up ensuring that Democrats won the White House, because traditionally groups of people that you saw wait in longer lines and have less of an access to the polls… You could make an argument that for the first time Georgia voted like its population is. That the results were truly reflective of the larger and more granular population of the state because of the actions taken by a Republican Secretary of State who immediately followed the now Governor that was accused of being the architect of voter suppression.
Secretary Brad Raffesperger: One, two, three, Brad Raffesperger, Secretary of State Georgia. Is that good? It sounds like we’re not living in reality when we said we had a great election that day, because at the end of the day, people were disappointed. People that voted for President Trump were disappointed.
Rembert Browne: Ahead of the upcoming runoffs, my co-host Jewel Wicker headed to the Georgia State Capital to speak with Secretary of State Brad Raffesperger about this year’s elections.
Secretary of State Brad Raffesperger: We actually defeated long lines on election day. And that afternoon I took a screenshot because we had all the line times throughout the entire state. And we had one precinct that was 40 minutes. Maybe another one was 40 minutes. The average statewide around two o’clock in the afternoon was two minutes. If you look at voters as customers, their number one complaint would be how long they stand in line. And so we feel like we’ve defeated that. And so that was really hopeful.
Jewel Wicker: Georgia’s primaries, and the failures that ensued as voters waited in line for hours and poll workers struggled to operate new voting machines, were closely dissected by national media. The New York Times referred to the primary elections as a “collective collapse,” placing blame with both the counties and the Secretary of State. As Raffesperger points out, this narrative had largely shifted by the General Election.
Secretary of State Brad Raffesperger: The only other thing that really happened that day is the turnout wasn’t really as strong as it could have been. And that really hurt President Trump because that’s when he was waiting for his voters to come out. I think really both as a business owner, as an engineer, it’s really, follow the process and make sure you have an established rule, the more the process that you have in place and with appropriate guardrails, then the better the outcomes that people have confidence in that. But if you have anything goes, then all of a sudden the other side’s going to just wonder, Hey, what’s going on here? So let’s have set guard rails. Here’s what the guardrails are. Now let’s go out and run the game.
Jewel Wicker: Guardrails, of course, don’t just come from state officials. It takes poll workers like Maia Costello and reporters fighting for transparency, too. Reporter Robin Kemp had been laid off from her job at the local paper due to the pandemic, but her journalistic instincts were still intact. For 21 hours, she watched as Clayton County’s absentee ballots were counted.
Robin Kemp: My name is Robin Kemp and I’m the founder of the Clayton Crescent, which is a website that covers Clayton County and the Southern Crescent of Atlanta at claytoncrescent.org.
Jewel Wicker: As Election Day drew to a close, two counties in Georgia — Dekalb and Clayton — were at the center of attention.
Robin Kemp: Clayton County is a very, very blue County. It’s about 75 to 80% Democratic. And it’s also a majority African-American County. We’re in two Congressional Districts. One is, uh, the House Fifth, which used to be John Lewis District. And, uh, the other is, uh, Georgia 13, which is Representative David Scott’s District.
Well, it turned out that Clayton County apparently was the last County in Georgia on November 3rd to report its results. I was just in there kind of live tweeting, whatever I saw. I thought it was going to be a boring routine kind of meat potatoes piece of civic journalism. I was kind of there to say for the record X many votes for this person, Y many votes for the other person seeing who won the Sheriff’s race, see who won these other local races and go home, hopefully before 10 o’clock. That’s all I thought it was going to be. I had no clue. And, uh, as it went along, people took an interest in it. And I didn’t realize, I thought they were like, you know, a couple of political reporters I know and some other people, maybe my mom, I don’t know, who were paying attention.
Jewel Wicker: As Trump’s lead continued to narrow in Georgia, all eyes turned to Clayton County where votes were still being counted. Robin Kemp quickly became an essential voice in understanding what was occurring.
Robin Kemp: In the middle of the night, I have my phone rings and it’s a guy from a radio show in England called Leading Britain’s conversation, wanting to know, could I go on the air? And I was like, uh, okay. Then things started happening. It was very strange. And I look and all of a sudden have all these people, like 10,000 people following me on my little Twitter account of like 47 followers. People were happy that I was there, that I was physically present in the space where the counting was happening and telling them about it as it went along.
I stood in the hall or else I stood in a little tiny room back and forth. First, just one or two Republican observers. And then way later in the evening was the only Democratic observer I ever saw that night. The observers kept coming up with things like, “Oh, Oh, I think I saw people coming with ballots” and I would ask them, because I would overhear what they were saying. They would allege this or that thing. And I would straight up ask them and say, well, what, what exactly did you see? Can you describe what you saw? And then they’d say, “Oh, well I can’t say anything”. And so at one point there were like, easily, a dozen observers in a space that I believe was really meant for two, making their presence known and doing a lot of very, I don’t want to say voter intimidation because there weren’t any voters in there, but it kind of had that vibe to it. They wanted to make their presence known. And I heard one of them say exactly that. He said, “It’s good there are so many of us. So they know they can’t get away with anything”. What was being gotten away with has yet to be stated.
I saw personally nothing untoward, not a thing. I got the feeling that people were trying to throw things at the wall and make them stick. It’s very difficult to state that because then people think you’re taking a side, but that was definitely the impression that I got. And I have yet to have any evidence to the contrary. And if I had, I would have been the first one to scream it from the Hills.
Jewel Wicker: By the end of election night, the outcome was still undetermined. Reporters like Robin Kemp hadn’t seen any signs of voter fraud, but President Trump had already begun to question the legitimacy of the election, focusing primarily on mail-in ballots and threatening to take legal action.
Clip – President Trump
“Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight, a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people and we won’t stand for it. We will not stand for it.”
“This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our Country. We were getting ready to win this election, frankly we did win this election. So our goal now is to ensure the integrity of the election, for the good of this nation, this is a very big moment. We don’t want them to find ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list, okay?”
Jewel Wicker: For anyone who had been paying attention to election news ahead of November, there wasn’t much surprise that Election Day had turned into Election week, especially with the varying state rules about when mail-in ballots could arrive and be counted. Marla Cureton is an organizer in North Fulton and co-founder of the grassroots volunteer organization No Safe Seats. Cureton started the org alongside Tamara Stevens, the Republican-turned-Democratic organizer that you may remember from Episode One. Cureton, a Black woman in the Metro Atlanta suburbs, had organized before forming No Safe Seats, and specifically wanted to create an organization where diversity would start at the top, not just with potential voters.
Marla Cureton: We formed in the aftermath of Trump. And so this was it, this was our time to give him the heave ho. That goes without saying. And then we had so many down-ballot races to focus on. One important thing that a lot of us have learned over the past few years is the idea that you can expect that people are going to come out to vote for the President. Oh, they’re just going to vote for all the other Democrats. Absolutely not true. As mind boggling as it is, it doesn’t happen that way.
There’s a large percentage of voters that will come out during a Presidential Election. They’ll vote for the President. And for reasons I totally don’t understand yet, but I hope to, some of them will cherry pick which races they vote in. We couldn’t just say, just vote all the way down the ballot. No, we needed to help people understand about all the other strong Democratic candidates that they had to consider, um, we’re talking about Lucy McBath, to get her reelected, which we did. We’re talking about the two Senate races, Raphael Warnock, and Jon Ossoff who are going to run off. So we did a pretty good job of making sure people understood.
Rembert Browne: Part of the 2020 general election was a so-called jungle primary for the Senate seat of Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by Governor Brian Kemp last December after Republican Senator Johnny Isakson resigned. 21 candidates competed in the primary with Reverend Raphael Warnock receiving the most votes and Loeffler coming in second. Atlanta reporter Sean Keenan described a “jungle primary” as an “election sans primary—something of a battle royale.”
Here’s Pod Save America’s Jon Favreau to explain where that phrase comes from and what it means.
Jon Favreau: So a jungle primary, which is also known as an open primary is when all of the candidates for that office run in the same primary regardless of party. And the top two finishers go on to the general election. So usually before a general election, you have a Republican primary that selects the Republican candidate, and you have a Democratic primary that selects the Democratic candidate. And an open primary or jungle primary, all of the candidates run in the same primary Democrat and Republican. Now, parties don’t like this very much because parties then cannot select their strongest candidate or what they believe is their strongest candidate. And it’s possible in such a primary that the top two candidates who go on to the General Election are from the same party.
Rembert Browne: Since neither Warnock or Loeffler received more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff was triggered.
Jon Favreau: There’s also, in Georgia specifically, a racial element to how the open primary began. In 1964, which is when Georgia created the open primary. The idea behind a runoff in Georgia at least was, what if a bunch of white candidates ran, split the vote, and then the black candidate who was running got all the black support and then won the race by having all the white candidates split their support? In most elections, that’s what would happen. If you win a plurality of the votes, not a majority, but if you’re the top vote getter, you win. In Georgia, they wanted to make sure this didn’t happen. And so the system they devised was we’re going to have an open primary, a jungle primary where the top two finishers advance. And that way, if it was one white candidate and one black candidate, then in the general election, all the white voters could come together and ensure that the black candidate did not win. That is the racist roots of this setup in Georgia, which, um, date back to about 1964.
Rembert Browne: By Saturday, November 7th, national media organizations were calling the election. While Georgia was still solidifying its count, Joe Biden had reached 270 electoral votes and would become the next President of the United States.
“After four long tense days, we’ve reached a historic moment in this election. We can now project the winner in the Presidential race.”
“We have breaking news results from the state of Pennsylvania. Those results are in right now and based on what we are seeing there, we can say that Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. is on track to win the state of Pennsylvania and become the 46th President of the United States.”
Rembert Browne: Georgia had been considered a key state ahead of the election, but the fact that the southern state had actually flipped, paired with the likelihood that its two Senate runoffs would determine control of the senate as a result of Democrats losing in other states, meant that all eyes would be on us for months to come. That, of course, also meant continued scrutiny on the integrity of Georgia elections.
“Trump lashes out at Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger and Governor Brian Kemp during a live interview on Fox News about the election results in Georgia.”
“Election officials making deals, like this character in Georgia. The governor has done nothing, he’s done absolutely nothing. I’m ashamed that I endorsed him”. – President Trump
Rembert Browne: Again, Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger.
State Brad Raffensberger: Well when people make allegations of voter fraud, it’s a serious issue. And so we treat serious issues seriously. And so we open up investigations and that’s why we have 250 ongoing investigations. The end of the day, we need to make sure we can restore the trust. But also there’s been some wild rumors. It’s almost like rumor whack-a-mole because as soon as you give people an answer on one issue, then up pops another rumor. As it relates to the death threats, my wife got them first. And she got those right after the two Senators asked me to resign and it’s just interesting that it popped up then.
Rembert Browne: Last month, Loeffler and Purdue issued a joint statement saying the Secretary of State “has failed the people of Georgia, and he should step down immediately.” The duo accused Raffensburger of “mismanagement and a lack of transparency,” but failed to make any specific allegations alluding to such behavior.
There is no evidence that the integrity of this election was compromised.
State Brad Raffensberger: And that was the most concerning thing and, you know, alarming for her. And then I started getting them and then she got sexualized text and then Gabe Sterling and, you know, you know, got them he’s our implementation manager. But then we had an election worker he’s probably 25 years old just trying to put food on the table that he had a different, last name, kind of like I do. And so they looked at that name and so it wasn’t just him. His parents started getting threats also. To his credit, he showed up at work the next day. But you’re seeing that and is that actually happened nationwide. It’s so unpatriotic because you know, people like him, particularly, he didn’t sign up for that, he’s just doing his job. I think that a lot of the condemnations that we heard from elected political people that are elected because it’s not leadership if you don’t lead. So we’ll just call it people in elected office have not strongly condemned that, and it should be strongly condemned if it happens on the left far left, it happens on the far, right. I think that should be a bi-partisan condemnation because it’s wrong.
Rembert Browne: Here’s Jon Favreau again, explaining the aftermath of Election Day in Georgia…
Jon Favreau: So an audit allows election officials to basically double check that all of the election equipment is working and that everything went well. They are fairly routine. You select a random sample of ballots and you then go through them by hand to make sure that everything was working well. In order to make it work statistically, the smaller the margin in the race, the larger, the sample of ballots. In Georgia, they had planned to do an audit even before the election. Once the election took place because the presidential race was decided by 0.3%, you needed a very large sample of ballots. And because they were already going to audit a very large sample of ballots, they said, it’s probably more cost-effective to just do the entire race. And so they did basically a hand audit of every single ballot that was cast in the presidential race in Georgia.
Rembert Browne: Since the margin was under 0.5 percent in Georgia, Trump was legally allowed to request a recount following the audit.
It’s worth noting that historically no presidential election has ever been overturned by a recount.
Jon Favreau: It is very confusing to keep track of what Trump is saying happened with the election. Because what Trump is saying is just a slew of conspiracy theories that have absolutely no basis in reality. And it varies from state to state. The claims range from Republican poll observers were not allowed to observe, which is not true. There was always Republican poll observers. Another one is there was ballot stuffing, no evidence for that. There was fraud, dead people voting, no evidence of that. There was a problem with the signature match process, where you are supposed to sign your envelope if you’re an absentee voter, and then they’re supposed to check that signature against your signature on your license, or when you register to vote. No evidence that there was any kind of problem there. Trump conspiracy after conspiracy has been proven false, not just by fact checkers at media organizations, but in court. Trump’s legal team has failed to provide any evidence whatsoever that has convinced any judge anywhere in the country, that there were any problems.
Rembert Browne: Trump’s last stand is pretty wild. But it’s worth explaining what he’s hoping goes down. I’m gonna try and break it down like my mother would, when presented with something that doesn’t quite make sense. “So let me get this right — this man needs a bunch judges from battleground states — states that went for Biden — to each say “you know what, we’ve been thinking and there was so much fraud in our states, with voters from all sides being disenfranchised, that we need to throw all votes out. If we’re talking about Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia, we’re talking 20-plus million votes, throw them out. And at that point, this man would need Republican-controlled legislatures in those battleground states to appoint new Trump electors to the Electoral College. And at this point, those states that fairly went to Biden would now go for Trump, because, yes, don’t forget State Legislatures can direct how electors are appointed to the Electoral College. And at THAT POINT, just like that, this man becomes President again?” So that’s how democracy works?
Jon Favreau: The problem for Trump is every single state legislature in the country has already directed exactly how state electors are appointed to the Electoral College. They have passed laws saying, this is exactly how they’re appointed. Secretary of State Raffesperger and Governor Kemp have certified the results in Georgia by Georgia law, Joe Biden wins George’s slate of electors.
Rembert Browne: Prior to certifying those results, Secretary of State Raffensperger received a call from Republican Senator Lindsay Graham of implying that the state should discard ballots. Graham has denied this, saying he only called Raffensberger to better understand the process of verifying the signatures of people who voted by mail.
“In Georgia’s Secretary of State says that fellow Republicans are pushing him to exclude votes and that he and his wife are getting death threats over it.”
“You say, Senator Graham wanted you to find ways to get rid of legally cast ballots?”
“Well just an implication that look hard and see how many ballots you can throw out and I think they are looking at that as part of a court case. One action was subsequently filed, wasn’t it?” – Secretary of State Raffensperger
Rembert Browne: For more on these court cases, and claims of voter fraud, again here is Representative Nguyen.
Representative Bee Nguyen: I spent a lot of time looking at these voter lists that one of the expert witnesses compiled in the federal lawsuit, this one expert who provided testimony, had multiple exhibits that listed the names of voters who have been accused of casting an invalid ballot. But I wanted to check it out myself and do the legwork myself. And so I’d spent a couple of days leading up to Committee doing that, legwork.
So for one of the voters I found, she actually lives in my District and she was accused of having voted in both Georgia and Virginia. She shares the exact same first, middle and last name and birthday as a voter in Virginia. But I just drove to her house because one, I do feel it’s personal when I see my own constituents on a list. And two, when I looked her up, I saw that I had knocked on her door before. Um, when I went over there, she and her husband were home. She still lives in that house. She’s lived in that house since 1985, born and raised in Georgia has never even been to the state of Virginia has only voted in Georgia and they were also older black voters. And so for me, you know, I’m thinking, what would it be like to be an older black voter in the South and have somebody come to your house and tell you that your name is on a public filing and you are alleged to have committed voter fraud.
And so those are the points that I brought up in that committee hearing.
Rembert Browne: Representative Nguyen has been busy this holiday season, preparing for the hearings Trump’s legal team has been holding across the nation and specifically in Georgia.
Representative Bee Nguyen: Across the country, Rudy Giuliani and his team have been holding these hearings in state legislatures and have pushed forward a lot of unqualified claims about massive voter fraud. And they did the same thing in Georgia. Following the Senate, hearing our two Senators, Senator, Elena Parent, and Senator Jorden, who both pushed back against these allegations received death threats. And so I knew what to expect ahead of time. I knew that I would be in a similar circumstance.
For the general election the Warnock campaign was using my house as a field location. So people were coming to my front porch and signing up to do lit drops and volunteering and knocking on doors. Um, and currently we are doing the same thing for Warnock, Ossoff, and Daniel Blackman. We shift locations from time to time. We actually had a shift locations the past two weeks because my address got doxxed by a right-wing gun site. And we wanted to ensure that our volunteers would be safe.
Rembert Browne: The stage was officially set. With two senate runoffs in Georgia, people and organizations from every corner of the state would have less than two months to prove that November’s voter turnout wasn’t a fluke. That this energy, this passion for progress — is who Georgia really is.
Stacey Yvonne Abrams, take us home.
Stacey Abrams: So first we have to reject the anachronistic notion that Democrats can’t win runoffs in Georgia. This is about coalitions being built in the South to save the Senate. And we know that can work. And we have two extraordinary candidates. We have candidates who each have their own lanes, but who are compatible, who have a shared vision and who were actually really good at this. And so Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are the essential candidates that we need for this moment. We saw voter increase. Yes, but we have more opportunity out there. And we’ve got to be intentional about cultivating that opportunity, not just during presidential elections, but we should start with city and County elections that are coming up next year. Those are all opportunities to continue to move the pendulum in our direction. Donald Trump is a symptom. He was not the disease. We need you to stay involved because what he was trying to do, they will do quietly through your school board. They will do quietly through your city council. When there is a disinvestment in your local schools, in the midst of COVID, that’s Donald Trump at the local level. So we have to stop focusing on his now fading example and focus on the real people who are making these choices. But the effect is just as devastating and just as permanent.
Rembert Browne: Next time on Gaining Ground: The New Georgia, the candidates hit the debate stage… well… most of them…
Clip : “Senator Purdue declined to participate in this debate and is represented by an empty podium”
Rembert Browne: And we take you to the front lines of the campaigns…
Clip: “I have one question for you. Are you ready to show America that Georgia is a red state?”
“What’s happening in Georgia right now is history in the making.”
Rembert Browne: I also sit down with one of those candidates trying to make history.
Clip: Rembert Browne and Jon Ossoff: “And this episode actually is going to go up the morning of Election Day.”
“Oh wow. Listen, everyone stop listening. Turn off the podcast, proceed immediately to your polling place. There are much more important things to do today than listen to Rem and I talk. Go vote right now.”
Jewel Wicker: Gaining Ground: The New Georgia is brought to you by Tenderfoot TV and Crooked Media, in association with Cadence 13
Donald Albright and Payne Lindsey are Executive Producers on behalf of Tenderfoot TV.
Jon Favreau and Tanya Somanader are Executive Producers on behalf of Crooked Media.
Executive Produced, written and hosted by Rembert Browne.
Written and co-hosted by me, Jewel Wicker.
Our lead producer is Christina Dana.
Gaining Ground: The New Georgia is produced by Jaime Albright, Mike Rooney, Matthew Pusti, Julia Beverly, Tracy Leeds Kaplan, Anne Rusten, Christina Toney-Schmitt, Cole Locascio and Stephanie Booker, with additional production support from Shaniqua McClendon and Justine Howe.
Edited by Christina Dana and Mike Rooney.
Mixed and mastered by Cooper Skinner, with additional mixing by Devin Johnson.
Original music is by Makeup and Vanity Set.
Special thanks to Chris Corcoran and the team at Cadence 13, Oren Rosenbaum and Grace Royer from UTA, Ryan Nord, Jesse Nord and Matthew Papa from The Nord Group, and the teams at Tenderfoot TV, and Crooked Media.
And an extra thanks to all our guests and contributors who helped make this show possible.
Don’t forget you can donate to the GoFundMe of Manuel’s Tavern by visiting gofundme.com/save-manuels-tavern.