As governor-elect Brian Kemp was announcing a team that will lead his transition into the governor’s mansion, his opponent Democrat Stacey Abrams was in the middle of her own transition of sorts.
During an impassioned speech Friday evening, titled “I Will Not Concede,” Abrams acknowledged Kemp would become governor-elect of Georgia but refused to offer concession in a bitter, tight race that saw an increase in turnout and an increase in problems reported at the polls.
But Abrams also teased the launch of Fair Fight Georgia, a new nonprofit group that will push lawmakers and state officials to overhaul how elections in the state are run.
Abrams has been consistent with her message throughout her quest to become the country’s first black female governor, and she said in an interview Monday she will stay consistent in her work as a private citizen.
“I’ve been very clear from the outset of this campaign that my intention is to lift up the voices of all Georgians, and those voices were not heard in this election cycle,” Abrams said. “That's why we're launching Fair Fight Georgia: because the next time there is an election, regardless of who is the victor, there needs to be confidence in the integrity of our system.”
That confidence, Abrams said, does not currently exist.
She points to a flurry of lawsuits before and after the Nov. 6 election as an example. Various advocacy groups challenged how pending voter registrations were handled, why certain absentee mail-in ballots were rejected and tried to force the state to move to paper ballots.
Abrams said those were just the ones before the election. After polls closed, four different court rulings instructed county officials to count certain absentee and provisional ballots rejected for minor reasons.
“Four times a judge said absolutely we were right, and the process was wrong… four times the judge required more voices to be heard,” Abrams said. “And what we know is that we were only able to touch the tip of the iceberg.”
The former state house minority leader is hoping Fair Fight Georgia will bring the rest of that iceberg to light.
She says this November’s election featured “basic incompetence, gross mismanagement and voter suppression” and her group is continuing to gather data to sue the state to make changes before the next election in 2020.
Throughout the campaign season and in the days following the vote, Abrams and the Democratic Party of Georgia have urged Georgians who experienced any problems at the polls to contact the party’s voter protection hotline. Abrams’ campaign indicated they would only file suit once they have evidence of problems the legal system could hopefully resolve. The campaign also said thousands have shared their stories in recent days.
Fair Fight Georgia will also serve as an educational tool, informing Georgians about the process the state is undergoing to select new voting machines, getting voters involved with their local election boards who make many of the election-related decisions and different options for early voting in elections.
When asked what success for her newest endeavor would look like, Abrams said that Fair Fight Georgia would be successful if the number of people who have concerns about the integrity of the state’s election are greatly diminished.
“What we have in the state of Georgia right now is the moral equivalent of termites that have eaten away at the foundation so much so that any single error is problematic but taken together they have really eroded the foundation of our electoral system,” Abrams said.
Though the feverish excitement and drama of the gubernatorial race is but a few days old, there are already questions swirling around her next candidate-oriented move.
While there has been speculation that the lawsuit and nonprofit work might be a brief diversion before a 2020 Senate run against Republican David Perdue, Abrams was adamant about her focus on making sure that election will be run in a different manner.
“Our campaign has illuminated thousands of additional challenges,” Abrams said. “And my hope is that the governor-elect, and hopefully our new Secretary of State will work together to ensure the integrity of our voter system.”