The Morning Jolt


A Twist in the Georgia Recount

An employee of the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections processes ballots in Atlanta, Ga., November 4, 2020. (File photo: Brandon Bell/Reuters)

During the Georgia recount, a county stumbles upon a stash of votes they missed the first time, to the benefit of . . . President Trump; Georgia’s secretary of state makes a high-stakes accusation about Senator Lindsey Graham and Lin Wood files a suit that argues every absentee ballot in Georgia should be thrown out; the Democratic House majority is already getting a little smaller; and Hunting Four Horsemen hits mailboxes and Kindles everywhere.

Floyd County, Ga.: Oh, Hey, Here’s a Bunch of Votes for Trump We Missed the First Time

This is why it’s a good idea to do recounts, and while the contention from President Trump that he is the rightful winner of Georgia is unlikely . . . it is not quite impossible:

A recount in Georgia’s presidential race found more than 2,600 ballots in Floyd County that hadn’t originally been tallied, likely helping President Donald Trump reduce his 14,000-vote deficit to Joe Biden.

Trump could gain nearly 800 net votes from the discovered ballots. There were 1,643 new votes for Trump and 865 for Biden.

The problem occurred because county election officials didn’t upload votes from a memory card in an ballot scanning machine, said Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager.

He called it “an amazing blunder” and said the county’s elections director should resign.

“It’s not an equipment issue. It’s a person not executing their job properly,” Sterling said. This is the kind of situation that requires a change at the top of their management side.”

The previously uncounted votes were cast during in-person early voting at the Floyd County Administration Building, which includes the county’s elections office, said Luke Martin, chairman of the Floyd County Republican Party.

Over half of 5,000 printed-out ballots cast on an optical scanner weren’t initially recorded.

“It’s very concerning,” Martin said. “But this doesn’t appear to be a widespread issue. I’m glad the audit revealed it, and it’s important that all votes are counted.”

While it’s not likely that other counties made similar large-scale errors and missed thousands of ballots, the fact that it occurred in Floyd County means it is not impossible for it to have occurred elsewhere. The president and his campaign have made a lot of farfetched allegations since Election Night, and as noted yesterday, Trump contended that the Georgia recount was “a waste of time. They are not showing the matching signatures.” But sometimes a simple recount does find a stack of missed votes. This county’s new results don’t erase Biden’s lead, but you can bet Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger is going to want to make sure every county that used that kind of optical scanner is certain they recorded all the votes.

Raffensperger is also making a huge accusation about South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham:

In their conversation, Graham questioned Raffensperger about the state’s signature-matching law and whether political bias could have prompted poll workers to accept ballots with nonmatching signatures, according to Raffensperger. Graham also asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures, Raffensperger said.

Raffensperger said he was stunned that Graham appeared to suggest that he find a way to toss legally cast ballots. Absent court intervention, Raffensperger doesn’t have the power to do what Graham suggested because counties administer elections in Georgia.

“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” Raffensperger said.

Keep in mind, Georgia law does require registrars or clerks to verify the signatures on absentee ballots. (UPDATE: For clarity, the signature is on the absentee ballot oath envelope, not the ballot itself.) The consent decree signed earlier this year requires election officials to consult with their peers on mismatching signatures, to ensure one official isn’t making subjective assessments of a signature match. “A mail-in absentee ballot shall not be rejected unless a majority of the registrars, deputy registrars, or absentee ballot clerks reviewing the signature agree that the signature does not match any of the voter’s signatures on file in eNet or on the absentee ballot application.” If the absentee ballot is rejected, officials are required to notify the voter within three days with an “opportunity to cure” — that is, sort out whether they really are who they say they are, and work out whatever problem led to the rejection of the ballot.

Graham’s question to Raffensperger doesn’t make a lot of sense. The only way to justify rejecting all of the absentee ballots, including ones with matching signatures that are legally cast, is to contend that the election officials are deliberately allowing lots of ballots with obviously mismatching signatures to be accepted, in violation of their oaths and duties, in order to facilitate election fraud. But Graham asked this about counties that have higher rates of nonmatching signatures, which would mean the election officials were indeed weeding out ballots with nonmatching signatures.

Mind you, no court has determined that anyone voted fraudulently in Georgia so far.

On Friday, prominent Georgia lawyer Lin Wood filed a suit, contending that the secretary of state didn’t have the authority to enter into the consent decree and “as a result, the inclusion and tabulation of absentee ballots for the general election (and potentially for all future elections held in this state) is improper and must not be permitted.” Wood’s suit contends, “this Court should enter an order, declaration, and/or injunction that prohibits Defendants from certifying the results of the 2020 general election in Georgia on a statewide basis.”

Richmond Goes to the White House, Temporarily Reducing the Democrats’ House Majority

The Democrats’ House majority is so thin that Steny Hoyer is reportedly telling House Democrats not to accept positions in the Biden administration because the thin majority might not be a majority anymore if there are even just a handful of resignations. (In what Isaac Schorr accurately called the biggest New York Jets win of the decade, former Jet Burgess Owens will represent Utah’s fourth congressional district in the next Congress.) If Republicans sweep all the remaining uncalled seats where they lead, the GOP could end with 213 members. (Some of those leads are by just a few hundred votes.) Next year, if ten Democratic members got stuck in traffic or on a delayed flight, Democrats would temporarily not have a majority in the chamber — and, depending upon the day’s business, would have to remain in recess until those last members arrived.

But Biden’s closest House ally, Louisiana Democrat Cedric Richmond, will be leaving the House to join the Biden administration in “a senior adviser role focused on public engagement.

(Great news, oil and gas industry! Bad news, environmentalists!) If and when Richmond resigns, he will reduce the Democratic majority by one more seat for several months. Louisiana would likely hold a special election in March and a runoff in April.

Republicans shouldn’t get their hopes up about winning Richmond’s seat in Congress. His district includes most of New Orleans and is scored as a D+25 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index.

ADDENDUM: It’s publication day!

If you’ve ordered Hunting Four Horsemen for your Kindle, it should download automatically today. If you’ve ordered it in paperback, it should be out the door and on its way to you today.

There was a point, sometime in about April or May, when the sheer scale of the coronavirus pandemic, and the degree to which it will mark a turning point in our lives, became depressingly and shockingly clear. Past generations referred to “antebellum” and “after the war,” and in years to come, we are likely to describe things as “before COVID” and “after COVID.” “Oh, that place was my favorite restaurant before COVID.” “Yeah, since COVID, we just didn’t find living in a city as appealing.”

I had another sequel novel written and in edits when the pandemic struck, and as much as I liked that story, it didn’t seem to fit the moment. A smaller-scale story of long-forgotten real-world Cold War secrets felt moot when outside our windows, the world was experiencing a five-alarm fire, and while the vast majority of us were going to pull through, an experience such as this changes people, as surely as 9/11 or the Great Recession did.

Hunting Four Horsemen, written in the late spring and summer of this year, is set in the months after the pandemic has subsided. The world is climbing out from under this ordeal, trying to get back to “normal,” and still adjusting to the long-term psychological, societal, economic, health, and geopolitical ramifications. This is not a dystopian story, like that nightmare-fuel trailer for Songbird. But things aren’t quite right, and the world is not what it was at the end of 2019. It’s a tenser, more wary, less trusting place.

And now that we’ve just seen how a contagious virus can bring our society to a standstill in way that al Qaeda and ISIS and all of our other enemies never could . . . I fear we will see a lot of people wondering how a virus along the lines of SARS-CoV-2 could be weaponized. The biggest challenge, of course, is that viruses spread easily, and don’t distinguish between friendly populations and hostile ones. Only a doomsday cult would be interested in a deadly virus that could kill everyone.

But . . . we’re making amazing breakthroughs in genetic engineering, including the ability to design and “program” viruses to target certain proteins and bacteria. Which leads us to the dreadful possibility of someone designing a virus to target one genetic or ethnic group — or perhaps even the particular set of genes of one person. As one villain in the novel explains:

Why do you think the White House staff and stewards gather bedsheets, drinking glasses, and other objects the President of the United States has touched? Why are all of these objects sanitized or destroyed? Because they recognize the potential of someone assassinating the president with a virus engineered to target only his DNA. They would not do this if this was only a farfetched theory.

On July 31, 2009, the U.S. State Department issued secret instructions to its staff to collect biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats, permanent representatives of the United Nations Security Council, the director-general of the World Health Organization, and a variety of other diplomats. Almost no one noticed this particular revelation from the WikiLeaks expose because a Manhattan real estate mogul didn’t tweet about it. Ask yourself why the United States government found it so advantageous to possess the DNA of other countries’ diplomats.

(The research-heavy chapter about Chinese biological-weapons programs is more or less, “Here’s why Jim didn’t write a book about the Wuhan laboratories researching coronaviruses in bats.”)

My characters are adjusting and trying to return to something resembling normal life after the virus, the same as all of us will be, probably late this coming spring. They’ve dealt with a long stretch of time feeling powerless. They’ve been forced to keep their distance from family and friends, watched beloved cities get hit hard, and said farewell to several characters from Between Two Scorpions who succumbed to the virus in between stories. They’ve got a lot of pent-up frustration, and they’re looking for just the right malevolent threat to take it out on.

And once the threat is clear, the accelerator hits the floor and we are on a breakneck tour of incredible-but-real places around the globe — towers of human skulls, a lake that can allegedly turn animals to stone, an island full of diseased monkeys, a castle full of bats — and the kinds of unsavory and ruthless figures who would want to devise an ethnic bioweapon. It all comes down to as tense and white-knuckle a climax as I could write . . . with one or two in-jokes for listeners to the Three Martini Lunch podcast.

Of course, even in the middle of all this, there are jokes. Katrina suffers no fools gladly and keeps her wits about her, drier than the Sahara. Ward still wants the last word, the last shot, or preferably both. And Alec, once a particular danger is exposed, seems to be losing his marbles in pursuit of the team’s target.

A plethora of accomplished novelists, creative minds, and experts in the field have offered kind words:

Geraghty has hit another homerun! HUNTING FOUR HORSEMEN is an absolutely electrifying thriller. Fantastic plot, pacing, and characters. Bravo!

— Brad Thor, #1 New York Times bestselling author of NEAR DARK

Is there anything Jim Geraghty can’t write?  First, there’s the Morning Jolt newsletter. Then there’s his hilarious satirical novel, The Weed Agency. Then there’s his podcasts, and somewhere in the middle of all this, he writes maybe the hardest, gutsiest  –you’ll see why when you read it —  speculative fiction to write and that is a near-future, a semi-post-COVID thriller, which simultaneously reads our times perfectly and gives us a glimpse into what we hope isn’t coming.  Now, stop reading my blurb and read the book. Now, before the future takes you by surprise.

— Flint Dille, screenwriter and game designer, known for Transformers, G.I. Joe, Ingress

Jim Geraghty is one of the most fiendishly clever novelists out there — and he proves it again in this breakneck thriller. Read it now.

— Ben Shapiro, host of The Ben Shapiro Show, editor-in-chief of, author of the bestseller The Right Side Of History

You might say Hunting Four Horsemen is ‘ripped from the headlines,’ which is true but trite. What you get in this sequel to Between Two Scorpions are the trademark Jim Geraghty detail and hip cultural references dropped into the tensest scenes, along with an eerie vision of our not-too-distant-future profoundly changed by the pandemic. Sure, it’s a fun read, but it’s also an unsettlingly plausible one.

— Kurt Schlichter, Townhall columnist and author of People’s Republic and Collapse

Jim Geraghty has done it again — evocatively painting with words the type of real-world scenarios that used to keep me up at nights. Hunting Four Horsemen combines all the suspenseful plot twists, wry humor, and delightfully entertaining characters that are the author’s hallmark. It also couldn’t be any more timely as the world grapples with a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic and weapons of mass destruction remain at the apex of the threat matrix for homeland security professionals. Geraghty is the rare novelist who pens thrilling sequences that are so plausible and detail-oriented that it makes it appear he could have been one of us in the room.

— James A. Gagliano, FBI Supervisory Special Agent (retired), Homeland Security adjunct professor and doctoral candidate at St. John’s University, in Queens, NY, and CNN Contributor

A gripping, post-pandemic thriller that feeds off of our real-life, global fears. Geraghty grabs onto the reader and never lets go. This well-researched story, fueled by compelling characters and breathtaking action, is a great addition to the Dangerous Clique series.

— John A. Daly, author of the Sean Coleman thriller series

Something to Consider

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