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Despite unprecedented challenges, Georgia's long election proved resilient

Even during the most expensive, contentious and turbulent election cycle in American history, democracy still prevailed — even in long-controversial Georgia, where the spending, campaigning and rhetoric continued into early January.

Voters came out in record numbers despite the raging Covid-19 pandemic and the election's integrity withstood repeated attacks from President Trump and his loyalists, including Wednesday's violent invasion of the Capitol while Congress certified the Electoral College count and Joe Biden's victory.

Georgia, with a history of voter suppression, was home to one of Trump's most flagrant attempts to undermine the election. Just days before the in-person voting, the president pressured Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" 11,780 votes — one more than Biden's winning margin in the state. Despite such efforts to subvert the results, election security experts say voters should rest assured that elections in the Peach State, like the rest of the country, were conducted with integrity and fairness.

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Vice President Mike Pence arrives for a Tuesday meeting with Senate Republicans.

Trump intensifies bid to disrupt the transition, and the GOP sticks with him

The prospects for a civil and straightforward transfer of power are fading fast. A clearly decisive election result is proving unable to shield other norms of democracy from tumult orchestrated by a lame duck with 10 weeks still in power.

President Trump instructed his administration Monday night not to cooperate with emissaries from President-elect Joe Biden, hours after destabilizing American national security by firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper on suspicions of disloyalty. At the same time, Attorney General William Barr authorized his department to break with decades of precedent to investigate claims of voter fraud even before the counting is complete — prompting the Justice Department's top election crime prosecutor to quit in protest.

But Republicans who will remain in authority once Trump is gone, most notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, kept their four years of extraordinary fealty going and aligned behind the president's longshot efforts to sully if not reverse the election result.

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Stop the presses, says appeals court, even if that means longer Georgia voting lines

The three steps to ensure a well-run runoff in Georgia

Hold the champagne: The 2020 Election Season isn't over just yet. Neither of Georgia's Senate races resulted in a victor on Election Day, sending both contests to January runoffs that will likely determine control of the U.S. Senate. And while many folks are understandably focused on the political repercussions of these races, I'm pulling for a different candidate: democracy.

While Georgia will likely conduct a risk-limiting audit and recount of the presidential election later this month, the state appears to have done a good job administering the 2020 presidential election. As a former election administrator and expert on the integrity of elections, my assessment is there is no reason to question the integrity of the election outcome. If any concrete evidence suggesting that wrongful disenfranchisement has or will affect the accuracy of the outcome, that assessment could change. Right now, there isn't.

Regardless, these are three steps Georgia officials could take now to ensure the integrity of the state's runoff elections in January:

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Navigating the Electoral College process this year could be like playing Chutes and Ladders.

The next steps in the electoral process could be simple – or not

So, if this were a normal presidential election year, the country would already be focusing its attention on the next big event in the life cycle of our democracy — Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, with Joe Biden being sworn in as the 46th American president.

But almost nothing about this election has been normal, of course. Witness, most recently, President Trump's refusal to concede defeat in the face of overwhelming evidence he's lost decisively. And his stubbornness, buttressed by the passions of millions of fervent supporters and the passiveness of the Republican Party's other leaders, makes it important to understand the presidential contest's complicated path over the coming weeks.

One way to think about it is like a game with really arcane rules but a usually predictable outcome: "Win the Electoral College." The players move their pieces along the right path, hoping to reach the finish without taking dangerous side trips that set them back along the way.

Usually it works that way, but not always — a bit like an analogous kids' game, "Chutes and Ladders." Here's what the board looks like:

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