Kemp claims victory in Georgia, prompting threat of legal action from Stacey Abrams

WASHINGTON — Republican Brian Kemp claimed victory Wednesday afternoon in the Georgia governor’s race, but Democrat Stacey Abrams said not all votes have been counted and announced a legal team that will fight to prolong the contest.

Abrams’s campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, called the process “a severe injustice” and said they were forming a legal team to prevent Kemp from moving forward.

Central to Abrams’s complaint is the fact that not only is Kemp a candidate for governor, as Georgia’s secretary of state he’s also the government official in charge of overseeing the reporting of election results.

Kemp claimed Wednesday that he had won the race, but the Abrams campaign said it was ludicrous to allow him to do so without releasing any evidence that all votes have been counted.

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FILE PHOTO: Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp speaks with visitors to the state capitol about the "SEC primary" involving a group of southern states voting next month in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Letitia Stein/File Photo
Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp greet the crowd during a "Get Out The Vote" rally at the Dalton Convention Center on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018 in Dalton, Ga. Republican Brian Kemp is facing off against Democrat Stacey Abrams for governor in Georgia.(C.B. Schmelter/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp waves to the crowd during a "Get Out The Vote" rally at the Dalton Convention Center on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018 in Dalton, Ga. Republican Brian Kemp is facing off against Democrat Stacey Abrams for governor in Georgia.(C.B. Schmelter/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp waves to his supporters during a Get Out The Vote rally at Dalton Convention Center in Dalton on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. Kemp is trying to extend the Republican domination in Georgia, which hasn't elected a Democrat as governor since 1998. He's banking on running up wide margins outside metro Atlanta and holding most of the GOP votes closer to the city. (Hyosub Shin /Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Vice President Mike Pence and GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp wave to supporters at Dalton Convention Center in Dalton, Ga., on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. Kemp is trying to extend the Republican domination in Georgia, which hasn't elected a Democrat as governor since 1998. He's banking on running up wide margins outside metro Atlanta and holding most of the GOP votes closer to the city. (Hyosub Shin /Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
People hold up signs for Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp during a rally at the Dalton Convention Center on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, in Dalton, Ga. Kemp is facing off against Democrat Stacey Abrams for governor in Georgia. (C.B. Schmelter/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
Republican gubernatorial candidate for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, center, speaks as Democrat Stacey Abrams, left, and Libertarian Ted Metz look on during a debate Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, Pool)
Georgia Pubic Service Commission Chairman Lauren "Bubba'" McDonald, left, sings as he stands on stage with Donald Trump Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle and Republican nominee for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, right, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee for Georgia governor, answers questions Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, during an appearance at a conference of the Georgia Economic Developers Association in Savannah, Ga. Kemp faces Democrat Stacey Abrams in the general election Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Russ Bynum)
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“This election is over. The votes have been counted,” Kemp adviser Austin Chamberssaid on a conference call. “And the results are clear: Brian Kemp is the governor-elect.”

The Abrams campaign soon held their own conference call with reporters.

“They are trying to force an outcome … without offering proof,” Groh-Wargo said.

Groh-Wargo said they have their own estimate of how many votes remain outstanding but weren’t ready to release it. Kemp’s secretary of state officepegged the total of outstanding provisional ballots at 22,000, and the number of uncounted absentee ballots at 3,000. Groh-Wargo said the Abrams campaign also believes there are “potentially large numbers of absentee ballots” that have yet to be counted.

The secretary of state’swebsite said Wednesday evening that all ballots had been counted, and that Kemp led Abrams with 1,973,098 votes to her 1,910,388. That gave Kemp 50.33 percent of the vote, just barely enough to avoid falling below the 50 percent threshold that would trigger an automatic runoff.

Part of the challenge in verifying the result in Georgia is that Kemp hasresisted calls to switch the state to voting machines that have a paper trail. Georgia is one of only five states in the country that uses electronic machines that do not provide an auditable paper trail. “Georgia’s voting systems are 16 years old, and the state can’t double check if its election results are accurate because it uses voting machines that don’t have a paper trail,” Axiosreported in August.

Kemp was the only state official to decline assistance from the Department of Homeland Security to secure its voting system, Politicoreported in July.

That leaves the integrity of the result in the hands of Kemp to an unusual degree. He has resisted calls to resign his position to avoid the very kind of conflict of interest that now leaves him in the position of candidate and referee over a tight election.

“If this is not a breach of public trust and abuse of power … I don’t know what is,” Groh-Wargo said.

Kemp has faced criticism for using the power of his office toinvestigate minority voter groups when they have electoral success, to removemore than 2 million voters from the rolls for inactivity, and for putting thousands of votersin limbo for minor discrepancies between their voter registrations and state or federal records.

The Associated Pressfound in October that Kemp’s office had put more than 53,000 voter registrations in “pending” status because of their “exact match policy,” and that most of the registrations affected by this policy were for African-Americans.

Kemp says he has purged the voter rolls to prevent voter fraud, despite the fact thatnumerous studies have concluded that organized and widespread voter fraud is not a problem.

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