Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’s campaign argued in a press conference today that a recount or runoff is still possible—if all the votes in the state are counted. Republican candidate Brian Kemp cannot declare victory in their midterm race, as he did on Wednesday, they said, due to thousands of uncounted or unaccepted ballots throughout the state.
In strong terms, members of Abrams’s litigation team and campaign demanded that Kemp’s office or the office of the secretary of state release the data on as-yet-uncounted provisional ballots as well as military and overseas votes, which Kemp’s spokeswoman Candice Broce claimed to amount to around 22,000 to 24,000. Abrams’s camp also indicated that additional early votes had been reported after at least one county had said that all of its early votes had been tallied—they believe that, contrary to what Kemp has said, if all of the remaining votes are counted, there could be enough additional votes for Abrams to trigger an official recount, or even a runoff election.
The Abrams race in Georgia is among a few highly contested election races around the country, including Andrew Gillum’s in Florida, which is narrowing toward the threshold for a recount. Both Abrams’s and Gillum’s races became national flash points for potential repudiation of so-called Trumpism by the left in 2018; both candidates not only ran progressive campaigns, focusing on health care, immigration, and poverty, but were black challengers taking on white Republican candidates.
Here, what you need to know about where these races stand:
Update, 3:24pm EST: Both the Florida governor and senate races are now in recount territory. The race between Gillum and Ron DeSantis for governor has narrowed to a percentage below the threshold legally needed to trigger a recount by machine. A communications consultant with the Gillum campaign tweeted the vote count below. Gillum now only trails by .47 percent. Senator Bill Nelson and outgoing governor Rick Scott's race has narrowed to .22 percent, which is under the legal threshold of .25 percent for a manual recount. Regarding both races, according to Florida law, Secretary of State Ken Detzner must order a recount once it passes the legal requirements; the candidate with fewer votes can decline—but not request—a recount.
Abrams’s team says with as-yet-uncounted votes, runoff or recall is still possible.
At the press conference on Thursday, Abrams campaign chairwoman Allegra Lawrence-Hardy introduced members of Abrams’s legal team, who were assembled to make an announcement regarding the candidate’s next litigation steps regarding voter suppression. She then introduced Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams’s campaign manager, who stated that “all of the votes in this race have not been counted.” She reported that 236 early votes for Abrams in Cobb County were reported just this morning, despite the fact that Cobb was listed at 100 percent reporting. There are also additional votes from military and overseas ballots, and there continues to be confusion over provisional ballots, including paper ballots cast at polling places where machines were not functioning. (Provisional ballots are those cast by voters whose eligibility is in question at the time their votes are cast; for example, ballots from voters who did not have sufficient ID at the polls.)
Groh-Wargo said that Kemp “has had us believe that there are 22,000 outstanding votes,” but that the Georgia secretary of state’s office (over which Kemp presided until 11:59 p.m. today) had not provided the Abrams campaign nor the public with the breakdown in numbers. “They probably can’t,” however, she continued, saying that reports of confusion made it likely that the exact status and location of every vote is unknown. Even with Kemp’s numbers as they’ve been reported, she said, it is too early for Kemp to declare victory. According to her, Kemp is only 25,622 votes above the threshold for a runoff election (when neither candidate receives 50 percent plus one of the vote); if there are at least 22,000 provisional votes uncounted, plus an additional 2–3,000 overseas ballots, a runoff could very well be triggered. And if Abrams receives roughly 24,000 additional, the margin of difference would fall below 1 percent, triggering a taxpayer-funded recount.
Lawrence-Hardy added that the campaign’s legal team is “issuing litigation holds throughout the state,” in order to assure that every single vote is counted. She thanked absentee voters who had reported their so-far unaccepted ballot statuses.
Voter suppression was already an issue in the Georgia gubernatorial race.
The issue of voter suppression in Abrams’s race in Georgia was well-known long before the midterms took place on November 6. Not only is Georgia a state that has been watched by advocacy groups for several years, with 1.5 million people having been purged from voter rolls between 2012 and 2016. Abrams’s opponent Brian Kemp’s conflict of interest as both the secretary of state in charge of ensuring fair elections and a candidate in the race himself became bigger as it was revealed earlier this fall that his office had held up more than 50,000 voter registration attempts, often for failing to adhere to a practice called “exact match” (in which voter application information must precisely mirror what appears on other identification information held by the Social Security Administration or the Georgia Department of Driver Services), about two-thirds from black voters. A federal judge ordered just days before the election that more than 3,000 flagged as ineligible under the exact match rule must be allowed to vote if they bring proof of citizenship or to cast a provisional ballot by Friday.
On election day itself, reports poured in detailing problems at Georgia polling stations that some critics said amounted to suppression tactics: Some voters waited for hours; others tried to vote in places where machines didn’t work or ran out of battery power because they had not been provided with power cords; the Abrams campaign said on Wednesday that three of the state’s largest counties had “reported only a portion of the votes that were submitted by early mail” and four other counties had “reported exactly 0 votes by mail.”
Abrams refused to concede even as Kemp claimed that “the math is on” his side; “Democracy only works when we work for it. When we fight for it. When we demand it. And apparently, today, when we stand in lines for hours to meet it at the ballot box,” she said in a speech early Wednesday morning. Effective noon on Thursday, Kemp finally resigned from his position as secretary of state; as of that time, he still only had 50.3 percent of the vote to Abrams’s 48.7 percent.
Though he already conceded, Andrew Gillum could see a recount.
Andrew Gillum conceded his Florida gubernatorial race to Republican opponent Ron DeSantis on Tuesday night, but it might have been preemptory: As of even Wednesday afternoon, DeSantis’s lead over the Tallahassee mayor had fallen to .62 percent, then .52 percent; then by Thursday afternoon, it was reported to be .47 percent. In Florida, an automatic machine recount is triggered at .5 percent or below; if the margin is .25 percent or less after that, votes are counted again manually.
On Wednesday night, Gillum tweeted that he was “looking forward to seeing every vote counted,” along with a Sun Sentinel article reporting that officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties were still reporting from thousands of provisional ballots. Both Broward and Palm Beach are heavily Democratic areas, and those ballots are expected to possibly bring a recount officially within reach. Election officials there had expected to release their first unofficial results by 1:00 p.m. Friday—meaning the Florida gubernatorial contest could go on into the weekend. Jon Cooper, chairman of the Democratic Coalition, a grassroots organization, tweeted a statement from Gillum on Thursday afternoon: “It has become clear there are many more uncounted ballots than was originally reported. Our campaign, along with our attorney . . . is ready for any outcome.”
Meanwhile, incumbent Democratic senator Bill Nelson’s race against current governor, Rick Scott, was even closer, and the gap between the two is currently well within the .5 percent margin for a recount. As of Thursday morning, Scott led Nelson by only 21,899 votes, or .26 percent. Legal teams for both Nelson and Scott had begun the process regarding a recount.