Kemp tells lawmakers they can’t overturn results of Georgia’s election

ATHENS - Gov. Brian Kemp pointedly told state lawmakers Monday that any attempt to award Georgia’s 16 electoral votes to President Donald Trump after he lost the November election would be unconstitutional, once again shooting down calls for a special legislative session to pick GOP electors.

Kemp spoke to lawmakers at their biennial training session after four Republican state senators – Brandon Beach, Greg Dolezal, William Ligon and Burt Jones – drafted a petition seeking an emergency special session because of “systemic failures” in the election system.

The petition circulating over the weekend seeks to allow the Republican-controlled Legislature to “take back the power to appoint electors.”

But Kemp and fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan issued a statement late Sunday throwing water on the idea, and the governor repeated that message to a room full of state lawmakers on Monday.

“This is not an option under state or federal law,” Kemp said. “The statute is clear. The legislature can only direct an alternative method for choosing presidential electors if the election was not able to be held on the date set by federal law.”

The governor and other Republican leaders first ruled out a special session to help Trump undo Joe Biden’s victory on Nov. 10, and he rejected the president’s extraordinary personal plea to intervene in the election results on Saturday.

State elections officials have said there is no widespread evidence of fraud and Georgia courts have thrown out several complaints seeking to block the certification of the vote. But Trump’s false narrative of a “stolen” election has seeped deeply into the Georgia GOP and sparked a bitter internal feud.

In the 1960s, the General Assembly decided that Georgia’s presidential electors would be determined by the winner of the state’s popular vote. Under Georgia law, the Legislature can only outline a new method of choosing electors if the timing of the vote was shifted from the date set in federal law.

Kemp and Duncan said any attempt to retroactively change that process for the Nov. 3 election “would be unconstitutional and immediately enjoined by the courts, resulting in a long legal dispute and no short-term resolution.”

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said lawmakers should be looking forward - examining any changes that might make future election more secure.

“I understand people’s concerns,” Ralston said. “I understand that people are very suspicious of this election process we have been through.

“I would remind people if we overturn this one, there could be one overturned on us some day. We just have to be very careful about how we act out our frustrations and concerns and understand that these things can happen again some day.”

Lawmakers don’t necessarily need the governor to summon them back to Atlanta. They could call a special session on their own, but only if 60% of members in both chambers agree to it in writing. That won’t happen, given that Democrats control more than 40% of the state House.

Kemp has come under pressure from Trump to undo Biden’s narrow victory in the state. At the president’s rally in Valdosta Saturday, a crowd of thousands booed Kemp as Trump criticized his former ally for refusing to take the illegal step.

The president also openly invited U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a loyalist who heads Trump’s recount effort, to mount a primary challenge against Kemp in 2022. And he praised the four senators circulating the petition by name.

On Sunday, Duncan drew Trump’s wrath after he called the election “fair” and said that the president “did not win Georgia.”

“On January 20th, Joe Biden is going to be sworn in as the 46th president. And the Constitution is still in place,” Duncan said on CNN’s “New Day.“ “This is still America.”

Trump lashed out at both Republicans on Sunday, calling Kemp a “so-called” governor and Duncan his “puppet” for refusing to reverse his election defeat.

Kemp and Duncan, meanwhile, had an alternative route for those pushing false claims that the election was “rigged” in Biden’s favor: A court system that has dismissed each of the legal complaints from pro-Trump forces, including two separate complaints that were tossed on Monday.

“The judicial system remains the only viable - and quickest - option in disputing the results of the November 3rd election in Georgia,” wrote the two.