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House Speaker David Ralston proposes changes to the way Georgia Secretary of State chosen

Here are the latest updates on election news in Georgia from Thursday, Dec. 10.

ATLANTA — Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Georgia today for a rally in Augusta, as Joe Biden announced he will be here as well on Tuesday.

The high-profile visits signal how the Georgia Senate runoff races are beginning to take center stage.

RELATED: Here's where the Trump lawsuits in Georgia stand

Meanwhile, the various legal challenges against Georgia's election results are seemingly taking a backseat for the moment to the Supreme Court lawsuit sought by Texas that President Donald Trump appears to be pinning his hopes on.

Georgia's response to that lawsuit, on why it should not be heard, is due today at 3 p.m.

Legal analyst Page Pate has told 11Alive that lawsuit has "almost zero chance of succeeding."

In addition to the Texas suit, there are three major lawsuits that are still working their way through the system - two of them already having been dealt significant losses.

To this point, these challenges have not posed a serious threat to Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election. Dozens have been filed around the country, and often - as in the case of the so-called "Kraken" suit - they are being thrown out for simple procedural deficiencies before even being heard on the merits.

Throughout the day, we’ll update this blog with new information from the counties as they continue the tally along with other election updates. 

(Note: All times are Eastern)

5:15 p.m. | The Gwinnett County Solicitor General’s Office has made a promise that it will prosecute "all individuals who threaten or assault election workers, election officials, elected officials, volunteers and contractors."

Any person "who would threaten or endanger the life of local election staff, elected officials and volunteers" would receive a recommendation of up to 12 months in jail and/or a $1,000.00 fine per conviction.

"We are aware that tensions are high in our communities and across the nation, but violence will not be tolerated," the office said in a statement. 

4:30 p.m. | In a response to Speaker Ralston's remarks, Deputy Secretary Jordan Fuchs said what the speaker suggested amounted to a "power grab."

"Ralston and the Trump campaign want to give the General Assembly the power to select winners of elections and violate the will of the people," Fuchs said in a statement.

3:50 p.m. | The Speaker's press briefing has begun, and in his remarks David Ralston was critical over correspondence from the Secretary of State's Office in which the office reportedly declined participating in a hearing by members of the General Assembly last week on the election.

Ralston said he was "shocked" and "disappointed" that the office did not participate.

As a result, Ralston said he felt it is time to reconsider the way the Secretary of State is selected, and suggested the General Assembly elect the secretary - instead of the secretary being elected by voters - so that the office is "accountable to the General Assembly" because "we are accountable to the people" who elected them.

"I'm dead serious about it," Ralston said. "It's the only way to right this ship."

Ralston proposed a constitutional amendment during next session to accomplish this. 11Alive has reached out to the Secretary of State's office for a response.

3:30 p.m. | A spokesperson for House Speaker David Ralston confirmed that he will hold a press briefing at the Georgia State Capitol at the Capitol at 3:45 p.m., following the Secretary of State's briefing. The details on what the speaker's presser will be about weren't shared.

Watch the briefing below.

3:20 p.m. | Here is Georgia's response to the Texas lawsuit

Opening below:

“None are more conscious of the vital limits on judicial authority than are the members of this Court, and none stand more in admiration of the Constitution’s design to leave the selection of the President to the people, through their legislatures, and to the political sphere.” Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98, 111 (2000) (per curiam). That is as it should be, given that the Constitution vests each State with the power to “appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors.” U.S. Const. art. II, § 1, cl. 2. And that reality requires that Texas’s motions challenging the results of the presidential election in Georgia be denied. 

3:10 p.m. | The reason for the delay with the Secretary of State's press conference, we're told, is that the sign language interpreter hasn't yet arrived.

You can watch the briefing here when it begins: 

2:55 p.m. | By the way, Rep. Kwanza Hall - who won the special election earlier this month to fill the late John Lewis' 5th District seat until November general election winner Nikema Williams is sworn in with the new Congress next month - has introduced his first bill as a congressman.

It's called the John Lewis Prompt and Accurate Reporting of Elections Act.

Hall, from a release:

"If passed, this legislation would ensure that all absentee ballots cast in elections for federal office must be counted before Election Day. It would directly address the dynamic our country confronted following the 2020 general election, which found Americans waiting many days to ascertain the victor of the election, namely because certain states had laws which prevented them from counting absentee and mail-in votes before Election Day."

2:45 p.m. | We'll be streaming the press conference with the Secretary of State's Office in the video player above in about 15 minutes. Meanwhile one of the states sued by Texas along with Georgia, Pennsylvania, has submitted its response to the Supreme Court:

1:50 p.m. | The Secretary of State's Office has announced it will be conducting a press conference at 3 p.m.

1:40 p.m. | Here's an anecdote from New Yorker writer Charles Bethea, who spoke to Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling:

12:50 p.m. | 11Alive's Brendan Keefe pulled some of Rudy Giuliani's comments during the Georgia state House Governmental Affairs Committee hearing this afternoon:

12:35 p.m. | Six states - Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah - have joined Texas in the lawsuit against Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Georgia has until 3 p.m. today to submit its response why the Supreme Court should not hear the case. It's not clear if the state will file that individually or collectively with the other three states.

It remains to be seen, once that happens, if the Supreme Court will grant a hearing or not.

9:35 a.m. | President Trump has tweeted at Gov. Brian Kemp again, asking, "How does Governor @BrianKempGA allow certification of votes without verifying signatures and despite the recently released tape of ballots being stuffed?"

Under Georgia law, the governor has no authority over certifying the election results.

9:25 a.m. | House representatives in the hearing below will not be permitted to question the witnesses, who are speaking in support of President Trump's lawsuit. (Update: Despite what was said at the beginning of the meeting, representatives are in fact being allowed to question and challenge the witnesses.)

Rep. Shaw Blackmon, the chairman of the committee, said representatives from the Secretary of State's Office were invited to the hearing, but declined to participate.

9:05 a.m. | The Georgia House Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the election is now beginning. You can watch it here.

7:40 a.m. | Couple more items to highlight this morning:

We don't really have any details on the nature of this one yet, but state GOP Chairman David Shafer says another federal lawsuit has been filed against Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger over the election:

It's not clear what outcome that lawsuit would be seeking. Shafer's own lawsuit has asked a state court to nullify the presidential election results and order a new one.

And state Sen. William Ligon says he is filing an amicus brief in support of the Texas lawsuit. It's unclear if other state legislators will join him, as he called for in a tweet.

6:30 a.m. | Another thing to look out for in that Texas lawsuit today - Georgia (along with the three other states involved) has until 3 p.m. to submit a response to the Supreme Court, on why the case should not be heard.

6:00 a.m. | Busy morning already - Joe Biden's staff has alerted news organizations that he'll be here on Tuesday to campaign on behalf of Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

Meanwhile, there are a few noteworthy things going on today:

  • Pence is scheduled for a 2 p.m. rally in Augusta.
  • The Georgia House Governmental Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on the election at 9 a.m. This is expected to feature many of the same people from last week's Senate hearing who presented supporting accounts for Rudy Giuliani as he made the case that the state legislature should overturn Georgia's election result.
  • The Fulton County Board of Registration & Elections has a meeting at 10 a.m., in which we may hear more about the State Farm Arena video that has become a thorny issue for them. The notion that it is a smoking gun of nefarious election manipulation in Georgia has largely been dismissed.
  • There is also a federal hearing at 10 a.m. for a case brought by Black Voters Matter and other groups about what they charge was improper paring of voter rolls ahead of the 2020 election. State officials have rejected that any kind of "purge" took place.

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