Stephen Fowler

Political Reporter

Stephen Fowler is an award-winning reporter and photographer for GPB News covering state and local politics. His work focuses on voting and elections, state government, legal issues and the 2020 election.

He got his start with GPB's All Things Considered in Atlanta, where he helped create live shows everywhere from a brewery to a baseball game to a rooftop midway, was part of award-winning hurricane coverage and (occasionally) filled in as the afternoon news host. In college, he served as the Executive Digital Editor of The Emory Wheel and was part of the inaugural cohort of the Georgia News Lab, a yearlong investigative journalism program.

His reporting takes him many places, like a chicken processing plant in southeast Georgia, fishing in the Flint River, a soul food restaurant in the mountains and protests in the streets of downtown Atlanta. His stories have appeared on Marketplace, Here and Now, All Things Considered and NPR’s national newscasts, as well as ProPublica and the Columbia Journalism Review.

Screenshot courtesy City of Atlanta

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says she has tested postive for COVID-19, although she is asymptomatic. 

In a tweet Monday, the mayor said "COVID-19 has literally hit home."

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is activating up to 1,000 National Guard troops after a spate of shootings and protests in Atlanta over the weekend. Five people died, including an 8-year-old girl, and at least 30 people were injured. The Republican governor issued an executive order Monday that would send the National Guard to protect the state Capitol, the Governor's Mansion and the Department of Public Safety's headquarters, where close to 100 demonstrators set fire to part of the building early Sunday morning.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday said he is activating up to 1,000 Georgia National Guard troops after an especially violent weekend in Atlanta that included the shooting death of an 8-year-old and protesters damaging part of the Georgia Department of Public Safety headquarters.

Liz Fabian

The Georgia State Election Board Wednesday voted to extend a pair of emergency rules that make it easier for some voters to cast absentee ballots and for counties to process them.

One emergency rule passed mid-April allowed Georgia counties to set up secure 24/7 drop boxes for voters to return absentee ballots without relying on the mail system or needing to vote in person for the June 9 primary.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday began traveling around the state urging residents to wear a mask in public, but he stopped short of ordering it.

The governor's tour comes as the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge across the country and a local mask requirement in Savannah took effect.

“We shouldn’t get to that,” Kemp said. “We shouldn’t need a mask mandate for people to do the right thing.”

GPB

Gov. Brian Kemp signed the state’s fiscal year 2021 budget Tuesday, enacting more than $2 billion in cuts due to lower revenues wrought by the coronavirus.

In a livestreamed ceremony, Kemp said the $25.9 billion spending plan still was a reflection of the state’s values, like education, health care and public safety.

The Atlanta Hawks have committed their arena as an early voting site for Georgia's upcoming elections. The basketball team has also challenged other NBA franchises to become civically involved ahead of the November election.

In a press conference Monday, leadership from the Hawks and Fulton County, where the team is based, announced that hundreds of State Farm Arena staff will be trained as volunteer poll workers, parking around the area will be free for voters, and several team-controlled billboards will push "get out the vote" messages beginning in July.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Elections officials in Fulton County Monday tested a method of auditing the tabulated results of Georgia’s presidential primary.

The county, secretary of state’s office and VotingWorks, a nonpartisan nonprofit elections group, performed a pilot of a “risk-limiting audit” to check the accuracy of the reported victories for Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

When Georgia’s fiscal year budget begins Wednesday, it will be 10% lighter because of the coronavirus pandemic – though many of the worst-case cuts have been softened.

The House approved the state’s $25.9 billion spending plan 104-62 late Friday evening, sending more than $2 billion in spending reductions to the governor’s desk.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

After nearly 16 years, Georgia once again has a hate crimes law on the books.

Flanked by Democrats and Republicans from both chambers, Kemp signed HB 426 into law Friday afternoon at the Capitol.

The law imposes tougher penalties for those who are found guilty of  committing certain crimes against someone because of their race, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation or national origin.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

With the historic 2020 legislative session drawing to a close, GPB News is live blogging the frenzied final day. Follow for all the latest.

10:15 p.m. - Sine Die!

That's it! The session is done.

9:45 p.m. - It will not look liked a blizzard of papers in the House.

Another casualty of the coronavirus at the Capitol will be a less-messy Sine Die.  House Speaker David Ralston told lawmakers not to throw papers into the air, despite the "time-honored tradition," because will be no one to pick them up.

There have been fewer people working under the Gold Dome during this shortened legislative session. Ralston suggested lawmakers begin cleaning out their desks.
 

8:38 p.m. - House passes budget 104 to 52.

The budget has passed and heads to the governor. 

8:20 p.m. - The House takes up the budget.

 The House is finally looking at 2021 budget, House BIll 793.

Appropriations Chair Terry England introduced the legislation.

"We have managed to do some truly remarkable work for our state," said England. "You have a conservative budget… while confronting the challenges in front of us."

The $25.9 billion spending plan was crafted with more than $2 billion in spending cuts, primarily in education.

Stephen Fowler / GPB News

The Georgia Senate approved a budget for the next fiscal year that would no longer require furloughs for many state employees and restores some funding to many programs that were initially on the chopping block.  

The fiscal year 2021 spending plan, which takes effect next week, passed 40-13 after a joint conference committee signed off on the measure Thursday afternoon.  

Liz Fabian

The House Governmental Affairs Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would prevent state and county elections officials from sending vote-by-mail applications to Georgians, after a similar effort by the state led to more than 1.1 million absentee ballots in the June 9 primary.

The substitute to Senate Bill 436 would outlaw “unsolicited absentee ballot applications to electors,” like the 6.9 million applications sent out by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger earlier this year.

Stephen Fowler/GPB

The Georgia legislature sent a hate crimes bill to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk Tuesday, spurred on by the recent killing of a Black man in Glynn County that received nationwide attention and revived a bill stalled in the Senate for more than a year. 

House Bill 426 adds extra penalties for those found guilty of committing certain crimes against someone because of their race, religion, sexual orientation or disability. 

The final version also requires the creation of a database to track hate crimes across the state.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

While politicians and the public are still seeking answers about what went wrong with Georgia’s June 9 primary, officials from the state’s most populous county are looking to ensure the same issues don’t plague the August runoff and November general election.

In a private meeting Monday, members of the Fulton County Board of Elections, the Secretary of State’s office and several civil rights groups including the Rainbow PUSH Coalition discussed concerns with the mail-in absentee voting process, polling place shortages and struggles with poll worker training that led to problems with a new $104-million voting system.

Stephen Fowler / GPB News

The Georgia Senate on Friday passed a budget that cuts $2.6 billion in spending, including more than $1 billion from the state’s education system.

On a party-line 34-15 vote, the chamber pared back some of the cuts submitted by state agencies last month.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

A DeKalb County temporary elections employee has tested positive for COVID-19, shutting down the elections office and forcing officials to seek a delay in certifying results from the June 9 primary. 

The part-time worker started on June 11 and tested positive Thursday, June 18. DeKalb's health board is recommending a two-week quarantine for all who work in the office and came into contact with the employee.

Fulton County Jail

Both the current and former Atlanta Police Department officers charged in connection with the fatal shooting of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks turned themselves into the Fulton County Jail Thursday, records show. 

Devin Brosnan bonded out after about an hour. Garrett Rolfe remains in custody.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan announced Wednesday the Senate’s version of a bill that would create a hate crimes statute in Georgia, setting up a tug-of-war with a House-backed measure that was passed more than a year ago.

Duncan said the four-page Senate bill would go further than the House bill.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger unveiled a plan Wednesday to help Georgia elections officials better prepare for the general election and minimize the likelihood of long lines and problems at the polls.

Speaking in front of Park Tavern, where nearly 16,000 active voters were assigned to cast their ballots and wait times lasted more than three hours, Raffensperger also took aim at the voting issues Fulton County residents faced.

Hundreds of protesters descended on the Georgia state capitol Monday to demand an end to systemic criminal justice failures including police brutality, voter suppression and to abolish the state's citizen arrest law.

The demonstration came as state lawmakers returned to work after the current session was halted for three months amid concern about the spread of the coronavirus.

Stephen Fowler/GPB

Hundreds of protesters on Monday marched through the streets of downtown Atlanta and gathered at the Capitol calling for social justice reform following the latest police killing and demanding better voting rights after last week’s problem-filled primary.

The protest came as lawmakers returned to the Capitol for the final days of the 2020 legislative session following a three-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Screenshot

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jon Ossoff said state and county election officials should resign after Tuesday’s election drew national outrage and reports of long lines, struggles with new voting machines and concerns over unprocessed and undelivered absentee ballots.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

All eyes were on Georgia’s election Tuesday, and not in the way officials hoped.  In parts of metro Atlanta, voters waited more than four hours in line as some polling places had issues with a new $104 million dollar voting system.  Now, both Democrats and Republicans want answers about what happened and what can be fixed before November.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Georgia’s Republican secretary of state warned of long lines and problems with voting machines ahead of Tuesday’s primary, and as it came true in polling places across the state, blame and outrage piled up from all corners. 

The state blamed some “counties engaging in poor planning, limited training, and [failures] of leadership.”

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Updated at 10:03 p.m. ET

Voters across Georgia experienced long lines at the polls and widespread issues with a new $104 million voting system in the state's Tuesday primary.

In the city of Atlanta, voters waited upwards of three hours at some polling places as social distancing measures decreased the number of voting machines and people inside a polling place at one time.

Georgia Primary Live Updates: Some Polls Stay Open Later; Finger-Pointing Over Problems Begins

Jun 9, 2020
"I'm a Georgia Voter" sticker
McLendon / flickr

It’s finally Election Day in Georgia, where voters will make their choices in the presidential and general primaries. 

More than 1.3 million voters have cast their ballot already through a record-setting mail-in absentee effort and three weeks of early voting. 

Stephen Fowler / GPB News

When Georgians head to the polls for in-person voting Tuesday, there will be likely be reports of longer lines, problems with voting machines and voter confusion – and none of that should come as a surprise.

For months, state and local elections officials have been tasked with planning and executing a combined presidential and general primary amidst a public health emergency, faced with fewer places to vote, an older population of poll workers and an unprecedented push to vote by mail.

Breaking Down The 1.1 Million Votes Already Cast In Georgia’s June 9 Primary

Jun 5, 2020
"I'm a Georgia Voter" sticker
McLendon / flickr

More than 1.1 million Georgians have already participated in the June 9 primary, driven in part by a record-setting surge in votes by mail due to the coronavirus.

As of Thursday, June 4, more than 561,000 people had voted in the Republican general primary, 528,000 in the Democratic primary and 20,000 returned a nonpartisan ballot.

About three-quarters of the ballots received so far have been submitted by mail – more than 20 times the 37,000 absentee ballots mailed in the 2016 general primary.

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