False claims that there were thousands of ballots cast in the names of dead Georgia voters can now rest in peace.
Election investigators found just four absentee ballots in the 2020 presidential election from voters who had died, all of them returned by relatives.
The State Election Board referred the cases to the attorney general’s office this month after investigators reviewed dozens of allegations. Almost all voters were found to be alive.
The tiny number of ballots actually cast on behalf of deceased voters contrasts with then-President Donald Trump’s false accusation that there were 5,000 dead voters in Georgia’s election.
It’s the latest in a series of unsubstantiated claims of fraud that have since been debunked, including allegations of counterfeit ballots, ballot stuffing and forged absentee ballot signatures. Three vote counts showed that Trump lost by about 12,000 votes in Georgia.
In one case, a 74-year-old widow submitted an absentee ballot on behalf of her husband, William Nelson, after he died in September 2020.
“He was going to vote Republican, and she said, ‘Well, I’m going to cancel your ballot because I’m voting Democrat.’ It was kind of a joke between them,” Barry Bishop, an attorney for Sharon Nelson of Canton, told the State Election Board. “She received the absentee ballot and carried out his wishes. ... She now realizes that was not the thing to do.”
Georgia election officials said there need to be consequences, even for a mistake.
“Remorse is something we hear a lot, and it’s something I appreciate because sometimes we do make these mistakes unknowingly,” Anh Le, a member of the State Election Board, said during its Dec. 14 meeting. “However, the law is what it is.”
In another case, a ballot was submitted for deceased Augusta voter Leon Rowe. Investigators found that the signature on his absentee ballot envelope matched the handwriting of his mother, Alline Rowe, who died in October 2020.
Earlier in the year, the State Election Board found evidence that Sherry Cook of Trion had submitted an absentee ballot for her husband, Donald Cook, who died several months before the election.
Cook told investigators that she and her daughter had returned the ballot after Donald Cook signed it before he died, but investigators said that was impossible because the ballot wasn’t issued until after his death.
The board also moved forward with a case in which the widow of Herman Robert Jackson of Covington, Glynda Jackson, told investigators she filled out his ballot because she knew how he wanted to vote.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said during a recent telephone town hall that the allegations of large numbers of dead people voting are untrue.
“What I tell people is what really happened in Georgia, because we proved that none of that was what happened,” Raffensperger said.
Previously, the Trump campaign had cited the vote of James Blalock of Covington, who had died in 2006, as evidence of fraud. His widow, whose legal name is Mrs. James Blalock, confirmed that she voted, not her deceased husband.
Next, the attorney general’s office will further investigate the cases of ballots cast in the names of deceased voters.
Then the State Election Board has the power to levy fines of between $100 and $5,000 per violation.
AJC indepth: Inside the 2020 election in Georgia
- Inside the campaign to undermine Georgia’s election
- How the campaign to undermine Georgia’s election unfolded
- Key players in the campaign to undermine Georgia’s election
- Five fraud claims: What investigators found
- Georgia and Trump: Takeaways from the push to overturn the 2020 election
- AJC’s Patricia Murphy: The election wasn’t stolen
- Editor’s note: How - and why - we reported this story
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