Trump backs Kemp: De­clares win­ner in Ge­or­gia race de­spite chaos.

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY ELISE VIEBECK, VANESSA WIL­LIAMS AND SHARON DUNTEN elise.viebeck@wash­post.com vanessa.wil­liams@wash­post.com

Pres­i­dent Trump on Fri­day threw fresh sup­port be­hind Ge­or­gia Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Brian Kemp, whose tooclose-to-call race with Demo­crat Stacey Abrams has de­volved into chaos amid re­ports of vot­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties and miss­ing or un­counted bal­lots.

With elec­tion of­fi­cials still tal­ly­ing votes, Trump de­clared Kemp the win­ner and called for the gu­ber­na­to­rial tran­si­tion to be­gin.

“[Kemp] ran a great race in Ge­or­gia — he won,” the pres­i­dent wrote on Twit­ter. “It is time to move on!”

Kemp first de­clared vic­tory over Abrams on Wed­nes­day night, as re­ports de­scribed lengthy vot­ing lines, miss­ing or in­op­er­a­ble equip­ment and a dearth of pro­vi­sional bal­lots in key precincts dur­ing the pre­vi­ous day’s elec­tion.

The As­so­ci­ated Press still has not called the race, and Abrams, vow­ing to fight un­til ev­ery bal­lot is pro­cessed, has not con­ceded.

Kemp led Abrams by about 63,000 votes as of mid­day Fri­day, hold­ing 50.3 per­cent to Abrams’s 48.7 per­cent. His lead nar­rowed as more votes were counted.

If nei­ther can­di­date wins 50 per­cent by the time all votes are counted, the race will ad­vance to a runoff.

Kemp’s role as Ge­or­gia sec­re­tary of state be­fore and dur­ing the elec­tion has come un­der scru­tiny, as vot­ing rights ad­vo­cates ac­cuse him of us­ing his po­si­tion to in­flu­ence the gu­ber­na­to­rial race. Kemp has de­nied al­le­ga­tions of im­pro­pri­ety and re­signed from his post mid­day Thurs­day.

Abrams cam­paign man­ager Lau­ren Groh-Wargo an­nounced a pre­lim­i­nary le­gal vic­tory, say­ing that a judge had is­sued a stay in the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of re­sults in Dougherty County fol­low­ing a law­suit by the cam­paign. The county was hard hit by Hur­ri­cane Michael, prompt­ing re­ports of of­fices be­ing closed and ab­sen­tee bal­lots be­ing sent late.

At a news con­fer­ence in At­lanta, Groh-Wargo said the cam­paign’s voter pro­tec­tion hot­line had re­ceived thou­sands of calls at­test­ing to vot­ing prob­lems that dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fected peo­ple of color, stu­dents and reg­is­tered Democrats.

“Brian Kemp has abused his power and used the sec­re­tary of state’s of­fice as a tax­payer-funded arm of his cam­paign and he is bul­ly­ing elec­tions of­fi­cials into hur­riedly cer­ti­fy­ing the elec­tion de­spite all the votes not be­ing counted,” she said.

Kemp on Thurs­day de­fended his han­dling of the elec­tion.

“The in­tegrity of the process has been clear in Ge­or­gia,” he said af­ter an­nounc­ing his res­ig­na­tion. “The elec­tion in­tegrity is be­yond doubt.”

If she ul­ti­mately wins, Abrams will be­come the coun­try’s first fe­male black gover­nor, pre­vail­ing in a con­test that was char­ac­ter­ized by ugly ra­cial over­tones. Trump en­dorsed Kemp’s gen­eral-elec­tion bid in Oc­to­ber, call­ing Abrams “to­tally un­qual­i­fied” and say­ing she would “de­stroy a great state.”

Across the state, ac­tivists and vol­un­teers gath­ered for a phonebank­ing ef­fort to track down peo­ple who cast pro­vi­sional bal­lots, which re­quired ver­i­fi­ca­tion be­fore 5 p.m. Fri­day to be counted. On so­cial me­dia, celebri­ties such as ac­tor Sa­muel L. Jack­son called on vot­ers with pro­vi­sional bal­lots to have them ver­i­fied.

On a rainy af­ter­noon at the Phillip Rush Cen­ter in At­lanta, a bus­tle of ac­tiv­ity un­der­scored the stakes, as vol­un­teers spoke to each other about prob­lems with vote-tal­ly­ing in var­i­ous coun­ties.

Nikema Wil­liams, a Demo­cratic state sen­a­tor and Ge­or­gia di­rec­tor for the group Care In Ac­tion, helped man­age the ef­fort. She ex­pressed con­cern about coun­ties that had al­ready ver­i­fied their elec­tion re­sults, doubt­ing that all ab­sen­tee and ver­i­fied pro­vi­sional bal­lots had been counted.

Care in Ac­tion and an­other grass-roots group, Pro­Ge­or­gia, later said that at least 12 coun­ties had “pre­ma­turely cer­ti­fied elec­tion re­sults . . . leav­ing pro­vi­sional bal­lots un­counted.”

Wil­liams de­scribed a va­ri­ety of prob­lems with Tues­day’s vote, in­clud­ing a small num­ber of pro­vi­sional bal­lots dis­trib­uted to precincts in heav­ily pop­u­lated areas and hun­dreds of vot­ing ma­chines that went un­used, forc­ing vot­ers to wait in long lines.

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