The Georgia Court of Appeals on Thursday revived a lawsuit by election skeptics who want to search for fraudulent ballots from the 2020 presidential race two and a half years after it was decided.
The appellate court sent the case back to a judge to decide whether to allow an outside review of Fulton County’s 147,000 original absentee ballots.
No fraudulent ballots were found by state elections investigators, but supporters of Republican President Donald Trump want the courts to help them pursue allegations that illegitimate ballots contributed to Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia.
Three vote counts and multiple investigations have countered allegations of fraud, including claims of ballot-stuffing at drop boxes, dead voters, forged signatures and “suitcases” full of ballots.
The lead plaintiff in the case, Garland Favorito of the group VoterGA, said he hopes to finally be able to find suspicious-looking ballots — with perfectly filled-in ovals and a lack of fold marks — that Republican vote-counters said they saw during a statewide audit.
“It is critical that Georgians quickly know how many counterfeit ballots were included in the 2020 Fulton election results so we can implement more fraud protection measures prior to the next election,” Favorito said. “If there is nothing to hide, all involved should be willing to show us the ballots.”
Election officials for Fulton County, the home of Atlanta where Biden received 73% of the vote, didn’t immediately comment Thursday.
Superior Court Judge Brian Amero had previously dismissed the case in October 2021 based on the legal principle of standing, finding that the plaintiffs hadn’t suffered a specific injury that would give them a right to sue.
But the Court of Appeals vacated Amero’s ruling based on a recent Georgia Supreme Court case that concluded Georgians can have standing to sue if they’re “community stakeholders” who suffer an injury when local governments fail to follow the law.
Still, there’s no guarantee that a judge will grant the ballot inspection.
Original paper ballots are confidential government records under state law, requiring a judge’s order to unseal them, and Amero reviewed the evidence before making his ruling.
State election investigators told Amero they couldn’t find any fraudulent or counterfeit ballots within ballot batches cited by four Republican witnesses who claimed they saw them, according to court documents. All of the batches contained authentic ballots, and there weren’t any “pristine” ballots with perfectly filled-in ovals that lack creases.
While paper ballots aren’t public records, digital images are. Ballot images from the 2020 presidential election don’t include any fake ballots, but the plaintiffs in the case say a manual inspection is needed because voting machines could have been manipulated and ballot images produce low-resolution pictures.
The case will next be considered in a new round of hearings and court decisions in the coming months.