Lawsuit alleges votes went missing in Georgia lieutenant governor race

Republican Geoff Duncan and Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico ran for Georgia lieutenant governor.

Republican Geoff Duncan and Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico ran for Georgia lieutenant governor.

For some reason, there were tens of thousands fewer votes cast in the Georgia lieutenant governor’s election than any other statewide race.

A lawsuit alleges that the drop-off in votes indicates the election between Republican Geoff Duncan and Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico was flawed and should be redone. Duncan won by more than 123,000 votes.

The lawsuit, filed Friday by an election integrity advocacy group and three voters, blames the state's 16-year-old direct-recording electronic voting system. About 80,000 fewer votes were counted in the lieutenant governor's race than the average of ballots recorded in 10 statewide contests in the Nov. 6 election.

“The only reasonable explanation for such an anomalous vote discrepancy … is that malfunctioning, erroneous programming or malicious manipulation of the DRE machines caused a material number of votes in the lieutenant governor’s race to not be recorded,” the lawsuit states.

While it's not unusual for voters to skip down-ballot races, the lawsuit raises suspicions about potential irregularities in the lieutenant governor's election. The rest of the statewide races on the ballot — for secretary of state, attorney general, schools superintendent and other offices — showed vote totals much closer to the average.

The lieutenant governor’s race had the lowest total vote count of any statewide race, even though it was the second race listed on the ballot after the contest for governor between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Earlier this month, Georgia Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden denied a request from Amico to conduct a recount based on the broad allegation that the vote count was lower in the lieutenant governor's race. Crittenden wrote in a letter to Amico that she didn't show verifiable evidence of discrepancies or errors.

“Despite the plaintiffs’ vague, unsubstantiated claims to the contrary, November’s election was accurate and secure,” Crittenden said in a statement Monday. “Ultimately, we believe that their claims will fail in court, and the integrity of the election system will be affirmed.”

Amico said irregularities were apparent because unlike in a normal election, the number of votes cast didn’t gradually decline in each down-ballot race. Amico, who is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment Monday.

“If these were not the results from an election, but the laboratory results from an annual physical, such anomalous, elevated results would trigger an immediate phone call from the doctor’s office, and a battery of additional tests,” Amico wrote in a Nov. 12 letter to Crittenden. “Your office can and should take immediate steps to review the anomalous residual vote rate in the lieutenant governor’s race and determine why it happened.”

Some voters reported that their choices in the lieutenant governor’s race didn’t appear when they reviewed their ballots, according to the lawsuit. While other candidates were selected, none was shown in the lieutenant governor’s race even though voters had attempted to support Amico.

The decline in votes disproportionately affected Amico, according to the lawsuit. She received 94.8 percent of Abrams’ vote total; Duncan received 98.5 percent of Kemp’s total.

“Geoff Duncan is the lieutenant governor-elect, and he’s focused on his job as we head toward the coming legislative session,” Duncan spokesman Dan McLagan said.

The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit is the Coalition for Good Governance, a Denver-based nonprofit organization that's also involved in other litigation involving vulnerabilities with Georgia's electronic voting machines.

Besides calling for a new election for lieutenant governor, the lawsuit also seeks to conduct the election on verifiable paper ballots.

“Georgia voters must not be forced to accept election outcomes that cannot be verified and in which they have no confidence,” said Marilyn Marks, the executive director for the Coalition for Good Governance.