Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to state legislators: Picking own presidential electors 'not an option'

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ATHENS, Georgia — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued a stern reminder to Georgia’s state legislators about the limits of their powers Monday, specifically in regards to a push by six members of the Georgia General Assembly to convene a special session to select a separate slate of presidential electors.

Speaking to lawmakers at the Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators, a legislative session primer held every two years at Athens’ The Classic Center, Kemp reiterated a statement issued late Sunday regarding election challenges.

President Donald Trump, who lost the Nov. 3 election in Georgia by approximately 12,000 votes to Joe Biden, recently appealed to Kemp to convene a special session in hopes the Republican-controlled Legislature would designate Trump loyalists to award the state’s 16 Electoral College votes Dec. 14. When Kemp refused, Sens. Brandon Beach, Greg Dolezal, Burt Jones and William Ligon and House Reps. Colton Moore and Vernon Jones called for the special session.

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Kemp told lawmakers Monday that doing so “is not an option” under Georgia law. A statute enacted in 1960 prohibits the Georgia General Assembly from choosing delegates to the Electoral College except in cases where an election cannot be held.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is greeted as he visits the House Chambers on Sine Die, day 40, of the legislative session in Atlanta, Friday, June 26, 2020.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is greeted as he visits the House Chambers on Sine Die, day 40, of the legislative session in Atlanta, Friday, June 26, 2020.

“You all will be taking an oath to uphold the laws and constitution of our state, and now more than ever, it is important to remember that thousands of brave men and women have paid the ultimate sacrifice for those laws, that constitution and all that they protect,” Kemp said.

“I’m confident that each of you will live up to the words and greater calling regardless of political consequences. That’s what I’ve been doing.”

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The judicial system, not the Georgia Capitol, is the appropriate venue to decide election challenges, Kemp said.

Kemp, along with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s top elections official, have been frequently criticized by the Trump campaign and their supporters since the initial election results were released. Georgia has conducted a hand audit of ballots and a recount in the time since, and last week certified the results.

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Kemp’s comments Monday came just hours after a panel of lawyers, including a Georgia Supreme Court justice, told legislators that attempting to subvert the election results and choose its own presidential electors would be “highly unlikely” to withstand legal challenges. The discussion was part of a program focused on “powers vested to the General Assembly.”

Kemp received a standing ovation from the approximately 200 members of the Georgia General Assembly in attendance for his lunchtime address.

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"I applaud the governor's efforts when it comes to upholding Georgia's Constitution and his authority. He has shown the citizens of Georgia neither he nor his office will be bullied by outside influences," said Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah. "Gov. Kemp has chosen to stand for people rather than politics."

The governor also received praise from Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston, and not just for his handling of the post-election controversy.

“Being governor of a state is never easy, but in just the last few months he has managed through a pandemic and a suddenly smaller state budget,” Ralston said. “I appreciate more than he knows his leadership and his friendship both to me and every legislator here today.”

President Donald Trump talks to reporters at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Phoenix.
President Donald Trump talks to reporters at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Phoenix.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Georgia's Brian Kemp: Legislature can't overturn presidential election

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