June 9, 2020 Atlanta: Voters had a long wait (some 2-3 hours) at the Park Tavern polling place located at 500 10th St NE, on Tuesday, June 9, 2020 in Atlanta. Many voters said they requested absentee ballots but never received them. Two lines, 300-yards long each formed parallel to Piedmont park in the parking lot as people patiently waited to vote. Over 1.2 million people had already voted before the polls opened on Tuesday, three-quarters of them with absentee-by-mail ballots, allowing them to avoid human contact at the polls. Voters will decide on many candidates, from president to county sheriff. The ballot also includes races for U.S. Senate, U.S. House and the Georgia General Assembly. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

The Jolt: Stacey Abrams, David Perdue spar over who’s to blame for primary debacle

What a contrast. In the span of an hour, one of your Insiders (thin, with hair, always wears a suit) spoke with two of Georgia’s leading politicians on opposite sides of one of the most pressing debates in the state.

First up was Stacey Abrams, who spoke of Tuesday’s problem-plagued primary in unsparing terms. She called on Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “accept his responsibilities” and provide oversight and training for poll workers:

“If he uses the playbook (that) he’ll investigate and not solve, that’s a wrongheaded approach. He should instead take responsibility and hold himself accountable to ensure that elections run more smoothly. Instead, he’s saying, ‘It’s not my fault, let’s look at those guys over there.’”

And then: 

“Tuesday exposed very clearly beyond any capacity for doubt that suppression is real. That broken systems exist. In this broader moment that we’re in, it’s a clarion call for action. And if that action happens, it’s a moment of vindication.”

A few minutes later, we spoke with U.S. Sen. David Perdue about his challenger, Jon Ossoff, but first about Tuesday’s vote:

“It was a meltdown alright. It was a debacle. But more than 150 counties didn’t have any problem. In a few we did. And these are perennial problems. They keep coming back every couple of years.”

Echoing Raffensperger, Perdue pointed out that the counties with the most persistent problems - DeKalb and Fulton - are run by Democratic-led governments. 

“This idea of voter suppression is a lie right out of the pit of Hell. And the best example of that is the absentee ballots process. We know of many Republicans that never got their absentee ballots in Fulton County ...

“The problem was not a lack of poll workers. Fulton County tried to hire 250 poll workers right before the election. It was that there was no planning. It’s the same problem every time. We see what’s happening. We know the state Legislature has moved to make sure everyone who has the right to vote.”

***

Our AJC colleague Amanda C. Coyne crunched absentee ballot numbers in metro Atlanta’s four biggest counties. According to the secretary of state’s office, 539,030 absentee ballots were mailed to voters in Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb and DeKalb. We’ve broken it down into chart form.

Cobb County:

-- Absentee ballots issued: 142,570 (26% of registered voters)

-- Democratic ballots: 72,917 (51% of all absentees)

-- Republican ballots: 62,014 (43%)

-- Nonpartisan: 7,639 (5%)

Fulton County:

-- Absentee ballots issued: 140,621 (17% of registered voters)

-- Democratic ballots: 101,033 (72% of all absentees)

-- Republican ballots: 32,702 (23%)

-- Nonpartisan: 6,886 (5%)

DeKalb County:

-- Absentee ballots issued: 132,189 (24% of registered voters)

-- Democratic ballots: 109,406 (83% of absentee ballots)

-- Republican ballots: 17,492 (13%)

-- Nonpartisan: 5,291 (4%)

Gwinnett County:

-- Absentee ballots issued: 123,650 (21% of registered voters)

-- Democratic ballots: 64,920 (52% of absentee ballots)

-- Republican ballots: 51,798 (42%)

-- Nonpartisan: 6,932 (5%)

Notice that Fulton County had the second-highest number of absentee ballots issued, but the lowest percentage when compared to total registered voters. Which could help explain some of the long lines we saw on Tuesday.

Also: Some days ago, we asked an aide to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger if mass mailings of absentee ballot applications were likely to be sent out for the Aug. 11 runoffs or the Nov. 3 general election -- 6.9 million were sent out in April for the June 9 primary.

Probably not, we were told. Cost was one factor. Another was the fact that voters 65 and older could check a box on the form they received in the spring, which triggers a mailed ballot application in every contest.

What this tells us is that rallying absentee voters is likely to become a major facet of state party operations – at least on the Democratic side. The above numbers are likely to encourage Democratic investment.

Voting by mail is a neutral campaign tool. The question for Georgia Republicans is whether they are able to make the same effort – while on a national level GOP leadership is doing everything it can to discourage the practice.

***

Brant Frost V, a vice-chair of the Georgia GOP, is catching heat from Democrats for a Facebook comment chastising those who are kneeling to protest racial injustice. 

In the post, Frost praises a monologue from Fox News personality Tucker Carlson and adds: 

“America - the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave is becoming the Land of the Weak and the Home of the Slave.”

It’s not the first time he’s faced criticism for insensitive remarks. He predicted that Republicans would dominate politics because Democratic women “forgot to reproduce.”

***

Former Senate candidate Teresa Tomlinson has deleted her ill-timed tweet calling Jon Ossoff a “failed” candidate and trumpeting a place in a runoff. Hours later, Ossoff was declared the outright victor of the primary. 

***

CEO Jeffrey Parker says persuading MARTA passengers to wear masks "is going to be critical to our future," according to the AJC’s David Wickert.

***

Interesting: South Carolina Democratic Senate nominee Jamie Harrison and Georgia Senate contender Raphael Warnock have created a joint fundraising committee to raise cash for their campaigns. See the details here

***

A group of small business owners wrote Gov. Brian Kemp a letter Thursday warning against efforts to regulate U.S. tech companies like Google and Facebook, saying they could create more instability for commerce. 

“Now, more than ever, businesses and the Georgians they serve benefit from the stability, scale, and security of these tools,” the letter read. See it here.

***

Twenty-five Democratic state legislators endorsed Raphael Warnock in the race against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the latest sign the party is consolidating around his campaign. 

The lawmakers form the core of metro Atlanta’s Capitol delegation, and they include Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, House Minority Whip William Boddie and House Minority Caucus Secretary Pat Gardner.

Other supporters include state Reps. Roger Bruce, Park Cannon, David Dreyer, Pedro Marin, Bee Nguyen and Sam Park, along with state Sens. Jen Jordan, Nan Orrock, Horacena Tate and Elena Parent. 

Warnock is trying to establish himself as the Democratic frontrunner in the 21-candidate special election for U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s seat in November, a crowded contest that seems certain to end in a January runoff.

***

President Donald Trump tweeted reminders of his endorsements of U.S. Sen. David Perdue and Sixth District GOP nominee Karen Handel in separate posts on Twitter Thursday night. Using his customary hyperbole, the president also name-checks Democrat Jon Ossoff in both posts. Of Perdue, Trump wrote:

“We need our Great David Perdue (@PerdueSenate) in the Senate to Drain the Swamp & Make America Great Again! His Radical Liberal opponent, Jon Ossoff (who we beat in 2017), supports LAWLESS Sanctuary Cities, wants to raise your taxes, & weaken our Great Military. He is a puppet of Schumer and Pelosi. David is Strong on Crime, our Military, Vets, Low Taxes and will protect your #2A at all times. He is a GREAT Senator and has my Complete and Total Endorsement.”

And here is what he said about Handel:

“Congratulations to @KarenHandel on running a great race and terrific primary victory - 75%, despite tough competition. Previously beat Jon Ossoff who, after his 2017 Congressional failure, is now running against a GREAT Senator, David @PerdueSenate. We need Karen in Washington badly! She loves Georgia and the USA. Has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

It was his third recent tweet about Handel, and his latest shout-out to Perdue, one of his most reliable allies.

***

With counting still underway, we still can’t say for certain whether U.S. Rep. David Scott won his primary outright or will face a runoff against former state Rep. Keisha Sean Waites.

Waites has now teamed up with a candidate in a State Senate race, Linda Pritchett, to file a lawsuit prohibiting Fulton County from certifying the election and finalizing results. According to state law, that is scheduled to happen no later than June 19.

“Our goal is simply to ensure the integrity of the election by guaranteeing every voter's ballot is counted,” the two plaintiffs said about their suit.

Their statement notes that Fulton and Cobb counties, which their districts are based, are still counting absentee ballots. The two express concern that the state’s most populous county won’t have completed this task by the certification date.

Although Pritchett joined Waites’ lawsuit to delay election results, the Secretary of State’s office shows that there has been much more progress reporting results from Senate District 39, where she is challenging incumbent Nikema Williams. Right now, Williams is beating Pritchett by a 3-to-1 ratio.

***

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s campaign is pushing back on an accusation of “tone deafness” in its latest fundraising pitch. In it, Loeffler’s team uses investment jargon to name its various donor levels. From the Daily Beast:

The Georgia Republican is offering donors and fundraisers benefit packages to support her re-election bid. Those packages come in three tiers: investor, shareholder, and board member.

The categories, of course, harken to Loeffler’s Wall Street experience -- and the controversy over her stock trades this winter.

Loeffler spokesman Stephen Lawson knocked the report on Twitter: “NEW! Kelly Loeffler-*gasps*-raises money for her campaign! The outrage!”

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