Brian Kemp is resigning as Georgia secretary of state one day after declaring victory over Democrat Stacey Abrams in the state’s gubernatorial contest.
According to the Associated Press, a member of Georgia’s attorney general office announced Kemp’s resignation in federal court Thursday morning. The AP reports that Kemp submitted his resignation to Gov. Nathan Deal earlier today, and that his resignation will be effective Thursday.
The announcement comes two days after a group of voters filed a lawsuit against Kemp, arguing that the Republican could not continue in his role as chief elections official while votes were being counted. That suit was heard in court on Thursday, where Russ Willard, an attorney with the state attorney general’s office, announced Kemp’s pending resignation.
In a press conference, Kemp said that his resignation was not due to the lawsuit but was him simply preparing for his transition to governor, adding that Abrams does not have the votes to force a runoff. “We’re in court this morning still dealing with a lot of these quite honestly ridiculous lawsuits,” Kemp told reporters on Thursday. “We’re going to continue to fight that. The votes are not there for her.”
As of Thursday morning, election counters showed Kemp with 50.3 percent of the vote and Abrams with 48.7 percent. Kemp would need to fall below 50 percent to trigger a runoff election. On Wednesday, Abrams’s campaign said that some 100,000 ballots still needed to be counted. The secretary of state’s office countered that the actual number of remaining ballots is far lower than this, leading Kemp’s team to argue that Abrams has no way forward.
Groups behind the Tuesday lawsuit declared victory after Kemp announced his resignation. “It is a basic constitutional principle that a person may not be a judge in their own case and that’s what Brian Kemp was attempting to be here. It was manifestly unfair and it is a credit to the voters who stepped forward,” Larry Schwartztol, counsel for Protect Democracy, the group which filed the suit on behalf of five Georgia voters, said in an emailed statement.
Schwartztol added that Kemp’s resignation should remove doubt about ongoing efforts to count votes in the state. “It is now critical that the votes be counted fairly and any other irregularities caused by Secretary Kemp’s conflicted role and multiple egregiously unethical and unlawful acts in the management of this election be addressed to the degree that Georgia voters can have full confidence in the result,” he noted.
Kemp has been repeatedly criticized for remaining in his role during the general election; the move has been seen as creating a significant conflict of interest as several voting rights controversies in the state unfolded and as voters in heavily black precincts encountered a limited number of voting machines and technical errors on Election Day.
Abrams’s campaign joined former President Jimmy Carter and several voting and civil rights groups in calling for Kemp to resign before the election. Kemp said he would not do so, adding that he also would not recuse himself if the contest required a recount.
While the election results show that Kemp is in the lead and has captured more than 50 percent of the vote, Abrams has refused to concede. Her campaign argues that the candidate is within striking distance of forcing both a recount and a runoff election next month, and could cross that threshold once all remaining absentee and provisional ballots are counted. The race has yet to be officially called.