‘Safe harbor’ deadline arrives as Georgia legal challenges continue

Under federal law, Congress must count the electoral votes from states that certify their presidential election results. and resolve any remaining legal disputes before the “safe harbor” deadline, six days before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14. Ongoing lawsuits mean that Georgia won’t meet the “safe harbor” deadline, but the state’s votes are still valid and likely to be accepted by Congress. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp recertified Georgia’s election results Monday. with Biden winning the state by nearly 12,000 votes after a recount. But several legal challenges are still pending, including one brought by President Donald Trump himself. My general view is that people have long put too much stock in the safe harbor deadline. It’s good to meet if you can, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t, particularly under these circumstances, Bryan Sells, an Atlanta voting rights attorney

Ongoing lawsuits mean that Georgia won’t meet the “safe harbor” deadline for finalizing its presidential vote counts Tuesday, but the state’s votes are still valid and likely to be accepted by Congress.

Under federal law, Congress must count the electoral votes from states that certify their presidential election results and resolve any remaining legal disputes before the “safe harbor” deadline, six days before the Electoral College meets Dec. 14.

Georgia cleared one of those hurdles but not the other.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp recertified Georgia’s election results Monday, with Biden winning the state by nearly 12,000 votes after a recount.

But several legal challenges are still pending, including one brought by President Donald Trump himself.

Trump filed a lawsuit in Fulton County on Monday that accused felons, out-of-state residents and underage residents of casting ballots in the November election. That lawsuit was refiled after Trump’s attorneys didn’t initially pay the proper filing fee or fill out paperwork correctly.

So far, other lawsuits seeking to reverse the election results haven’t been successful — judges dismissed two cases on Monday, and a federal appeals court rejected another lawsuit Saturday. Those cases could be appealed.

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Missing the safe harbor deadline probably won’t invalidate Georgia’s votes for president, said Bryan Sells, an Atlanta voting rights attorney. When Congress meets Jan. 6 to count electoral votes, federal law only allows Congress to reject votes if the governor didn’t lawfully certify them or if an elector took a bribe or engaged in fraud.

“My general view is that people have long put too much stock in the safe harbor deadline. It’s good to meet if you can, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t, particularly under these circumstances,” Sells said.

Pending lawsuits aren’t necessarily designed to overturn the election in court, Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis said.

“It’s an attempt to muddy the water sufficiently that Georgia’s official certification doesn’t make it to the (federal) archivist in time,” he said. “It might end up as an objection” before Congress.

Neither Kreis nor Sells believes the strategy will overturn Biden’s victory — in court or in Congress.

Kreis said the evidence of alleged voter fraud has yet to hold up in court, and he doesn’t think it will sway most federal lawmakers, either.

“I think members of Congress know better,” Kreis said.

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