No fraud: Georgia audit confirms authenticity of absentee ballots

Law enforcement and election investigators didn’t find a single fraudulent absentee ballot during an audit of over 15,000 voter signatures, according to a report by the Georgia secretary of state’s office released Tuesday.

The audit contradicted allegations that absentee ballots were rife with fraud after President Donald Trump said the election had been stolen, said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Trump lost to Joe Biden by about 12,000 votes in Georgia.

There were 10 absentee ballots that had been accepted but voter signatures didn’t match or signatures were missing, according to the report. But agents from the GBI and investigators with the secretary of state’s office contacted those voters and confirmed they had submitted those ballots.

In one case, a voter’s wife signed her husband’s ballot envelope. Another voter signed the front of the envelope instead of the back. Eight voters had mismatched signatures, but the voters told investigators the signatures were legitimate.

Raffensperger, a Republican said the audit results confirmed the election outcome again after two recounts— both by hand and machine — of all 5 million ballots cast in Georgia’s presidential election.

“The secretary of state’s office has always been focused on calling balls and strikes in elections, and in this case, three strikes against the voter claims and they’re out,” Raffensperger said. “This audit disproves the only credible allegations the Trump campaign had against the strength of Georgia’s signature match process.”

Raffensperger ordered the audit after pressure from Trump and Republican state legislators who alleged that falsified ballots might have thrown the election.

The audit reviewed 15,118 absentee ballot envelopes, pulled from 30 randomly selected boxes, out of over 150,431 total absentee ballots returned in Cobb County, a large enough sample to give a 99% confidence level in the results, according to the report.

The report stated its findings plainly:

“No fraudulent absentee ballots were identified during the audit,” the report said.

Trump took notice of the audit. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows made a surprise visit to the Cobb County Civic Center where it was taking place last week and asked questions of election officials.

As the signature audit results were released Tuesday evening, Trump complained about the process.

“When are we going to be allowed to do signature verification in Fulton County, Georgia? The process is going VERY slowly,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The audit took place in Cobb County based on a complaint that signatures weren’t adequately checked there. Raffensperger also plans a statewide audit of each county’s signature match policies and procedures.

While Raffensperger is making the case that absentee ballots were secure, he is also proposing restrictions on them in future elections. Raffensperger asked the Georgia General Assembly to pass laws eliminating no-excuse absentee voting and requiring ID to cast an absentee ballot.

Investigators broke into 18 two-member inspection teams to evaluate voter signatures, comparing them with voter registration forms, absentee ballot applications, passports and other government documents. The looked for word and letter spacing, slant, size, flourishes and alignment.

When at least one member of a team believed a signature didn’t match, the ballot envelope was submitted for further review. Two three-member investigation teams evaluated questionable signatures.

In all, investigation teams scrutinized 396 questionable signatures on ballot envelopes. All but 10 of them were accepted as valid, and then investigators contacted voters to verify those ballots.

Georgia law requires voters to be notified when their absentee ballots are rejected, giving them a chance to verify their identities.

About 0.13% of absentee ballots were rejected because of missing or mismatched signatures in the general election. So far in the U.S. Senate runoffs, election officials have rejected nearly 0.4% of absentee ballots because of signatures issues, though that number might decline as voters correct issues and their ballots are accepted.