Judge Orders Review of Georgia’s Provisional Ballots, but Abrams Comeback Still Unlikely

Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams / Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Monday that Georgia election officials must review provisional ballots that haven't been counted in the state's hotly contested governor's race.

The order from U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg prevented the secretary of state from certifying the race between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams until Friday. Kemp has already declared victory in the race and resigned his secretary of state position to prepare for the transition.

In a 56-page ruling, Totenberg also called for the office to provide a hotline or website for provisional ballot voters to find out why or if they were rejected. The judge ordered all 159 of the state's counties to publicize the availability of the hotlines on their websites.

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

The court decision comes as votes are still being counted in the race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. Abrams trails Kemp and would need to gain more than 20,000 additional votes to force a runoff election.

Totenberg said she’s providing "limited, modest" relief to help protect voters. The order preserves Tuesday’s deadline for county election offices to certify results and the Nov. 20 deadline for Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden to certify the election. The ruling enjoins Crittenden from certifying the election before Friday at 5 p.m.

Her ruling applies to provisional ballots, which were issued to as many as 27,000 Georgia voters because their registration or identification couldn’t be verified. Provisional ballots are usually only counted if voters prove their eligibility within three days of the election, a deadline that passed Friday.

Common Cause Georgia filed the lawsuit and celebrated the ruling, calling it a victory for voting rights. The order did not change the Tuesday deadline for counties to certify results, NBC News reported.

The Abrams campaign has filed a separate lawsuit calling for the certification deadline to be pushed back to Wednesday, as well as calling for the counting of rejected provisional ballots that were turned down for minor mistakes, such as an incorrect date or mismatched signature.

Kemp has repeatedly called on Abrams to concede, but she has refused. Kemp's campaign has also called Abrams desperate, saying the math is not there for her to make up the ground necessary to force a runoff.

There is a dispute between the camps on the number of provisional ballots. Over the weekend, the Georgia secretary of state office said there were 21,190, while Abrams' campaign aides estimated there were more than 26,000 votes yet to be counted.

As more Georgia counties certify their voting results, Abrams still trails by nearly 60,000 votes and needs to net more than 20,000 votes of whatever remains uncounted to get Kemp below the 50-percent threshold.

While Abrams looks unlikely to get to a runoff, over in Georgia's 7th Congressional Cistrict, Rep. Rob Woodall (R., Ga.) is trying to fend off Democratic challenger Carolyn Bourdeaux. He leads her by less than 1,000 votes in the race to represent the northern Atlanta suburban district, which includes portions of Gwinnett and Forsyth Counties.

She has filed a lawsuit trying to stop Gwinnett from certifying its results before counting about 3,200 absentee and provisional ballots that she says were rejected for trivial reasons. The AJC reports the U.S. District Court where Bourdeaux filed her motion was closed Monday for the Veterans Day holiday and will have to respond soon to her request, since the Gwinnett elections board plans to meet Tuesday to certify the results.

Democrats have already flipped the neighboring—and longtime Republican—6th Congressional District, ousting Rep. Karen Handel (R., Ga.) after a narrow win by Democrat Lucy McBath.