Records: City Hall staffer claims voter fraud in 2017 election

Ralph Jones prepares to recount votes cast in the Atlanta mayoral election runoff at the Fulton County Elections Preparation Center in December. A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Brian Kemp says investigators are planning a forensic review of the contest, which was decided by 821 votes out of nearly 90,000 ballots cast. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

An Atlanta City Hall staffer claimed her supervisor ordered her to print and deliver absentee ballots to an advocacy group’s staffer during work hours, according to records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The accusations are part of a broader sexual harassment complaint filed by the employee, Judith Richards, who worked in the city’s Constituent Services Department. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said through a spokesman that the accusations are false.

The Georgia Secretary of State's Office confirmed in May that it had launched an investigation into potential irregularities during the city of Atlanta runoff in December that yielded a narrow victory for Bottoms. The office didn't comment on the allegations, but it seems likely they are part of the state's probe.

In the complaint, Richards claims she was told to “create a voter numbers list during work hours” and that she had to campaign for Bottoms “because our jobs depended on it.”

Richards, who could not be reached for comment, also claimed she was told to print and deliver 500 blank absentee ballots to an Urban League staffer downtown, and to pick up other absentee ballots from Bottoms’ campaign headquarters and drop them off at a Fulton County office during business hours.

Fulton County Director of Elections Richard Barron said that only elections staffers can print absentee ballots, and that even delivering a small handful of them would have raised a “red flag” in the office.

“She can print absentee ballot applications and sample ballots,” he said, “but we’re the only ones who can print ballots.”

City Hall was unequivocal in its denial of any wrongdoing.

“At no point did the campaign direct any City of Atlanta employee, intern, or representative to pick up, transport, deliver or handle any ballot of any kind,” a spokesman for the mayor said in a statement. “Nor did the campaign pressure any City of Atlanta employee, intern, or representative to conduct campaign activity in order to retain their employment.”

A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is in a July 24 runoff for the GOP nomination for governor, has said investigators are planning a forensic review of the Atlanta contest.

The probe involves irregularities over absentee ballots in the runoff between Bottoms and Mary Norwood in December, the AJC previously reported. That race was decided by 821 voters in a contest in which nearly 90,000 people cast ballots.

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