No counterfeit ballots found by Georgia election investigators

Superior Court Judge Brian Amero will weigh whether to proceed with a review of 147,000 absentee ballots from Fulton County or dismiss the case following a court hearing scheduled for next month. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
Superior Court Judge Brian Amero will weigh whether to proceed with a review of 147,000 absentee ballots from Fulton County or dismiss the case following a court hearing scheduled for next month. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Lack of evidence will be considered by judge in ballot review case

Georgia election investigators were unable to find any counterfeit ballots among batches identified by Republican vote-counters, according to a court brief Tuesday, dealing a blow to a lawsuit seeking to inspect absentee ballots cast in last year’s presidential election.

The court document filed on behalf of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said investigators reviewed 1,000 absentee ballots from batches in Fulton County that allegedly contained “pristine” ballots with perfectly filled-in ovals and no fold lines. All ballots in those batches appeared to be legitimate.

“The secretary’s investigators have not uncovered any absentee ballots that match the descriptions given by affiants or otherwise appear to be fraudulent or counterfeit,” stated the 89-page response to the court by Georgia Assistant Attorney General Charlene McGowan.

The secretary of state’s office provided information about its investigations in response to a request last month from Superior Court Judge Brian Amero, who is considering whether to dismiss the case.

The lawsuit is based on sworn statements by four Republican election auditors who alleged they saw suspicious ballots during a statewide audit that recounted every ballot by hand in November.

Caption
Garland Favorito, right, is the lead plaintiff in a case seeking a full inspection of Fulton County’s 147,000 absentee ballots from November's presidential election to find counterfeit ballots. State election investigators say they haven't found any counterfeits. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Garland Favorito, right, is the lead plaintiff in a case seeking a full inspection of Fulton County’s 147,000 absentee ballots from November's presidential election to find counterfeit ballots. State election investigators say they haven't found any counterfeits. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Caption
Garland Favorito, right, is the lead plaintiff in a case seeking a full inspection of Fulton County’s 147,000 absentee ballots from November's presidential election to find counterfeit ballots. State election investigators say they haven't found any counterfeits. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

The lead plaintiff in the case, Garland Favorito of the group VoterGA, said a full inspection of Fulton County’s 147,000 absentee ballots is needed to find counterfeits.

“Sworn affidavits say there were counterfeit ballots, and we need to know where they are and how they got there so we can fix this for future elections,” Favorito said.

State election officials have said there’s no indication of fraud after three ballot counts and multiple investigations. Democrat Joe Biden defeated Republican incumbent Donald Trump in Georgia’s presidential election by about 12,000 votes. But Trump and his supporters have continued to claim the election was rigged, despite providing no evidence that has stood up in court.

Investigators questioned the four Republicans who worked as auditors and said they saw problematic ballots, but they provided little information to back up their claims.

One of them, Suzi Voyles, said she saw ballots that were not creased and appeared to have been marked by computer rather than by hand. She identified Box 5 and Batches 28-36, but none of the ballots in those batches matched her description, investigators said.

Voyles said she reported suspicious-looking absentee ballots to Fulton election officials, but another auditor contradicted her in statements to investigators. Barbara Hartman said she and Voyles didn’t report their concerns to officials “out of fear that they would then fold creases in the ballots.”

Voyles also told investigators she could have been mistaken in her sworn statement and might have seen counterfeit ballots in Box 135, Batches 28-36. Investigators found that Box 135 with Batches 28-36 didn’t exist.

Two other vote-counters, Sonia-Francis Rolle and Gordon Rolle, told investigators they saw absentee ballots that looked like they hadn’t been folded, but they didn’t report their observations to election officials and didn’t take note of those ballot batch numbers.

The court filing also dispelled a conspiracy theory alleging that election workers counted “suitcases” of ballots at State Farm Arena after 10 p.m. the day of the election.

The alleged “suitcases” of ballots were normal ballot bins, which election workers had opened and sorted, but hadn’t yet scanned for tabulation. Election workers put the ballots in the bins and stored them beneath a table when they thought they were going to go home for the night, but they later counted them when an elections supervisor instructed them to keep working.

Investigations of multiple allegations involving last year’s election are ongoing and will eventually be considered by the State Election Board, which has the power to levy fines up to $5,000 per violation or refer cases to the attorney general’s office.

Amero had put the ballot inspection case on hold while he awaited the state’s response to the allegations of counterfeit ballots.

The judge will weigh whether to proceed with the ballot review or dismiss the case following a court hearing scheduled for next month.

Amero previously dismissed the case against Fulton’s elections board and the county itself, but he allowed it to continue against individual members of the elections board.

The plaintiffs recently asked Amero to dismiss the Democrats on the election board from the case and allow it to move forward against only the board’s Republican members, who don’t oppose the ballot review.

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