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Governor calls for absentee ballot sample audit; elections lawsuit dismissed

  • By Sarah Fay Campbell
  • |
  • Nov. 20, 2020 - 9:29 PM

Georgia’s Nov. 3 election was certified Friday, with Joe Biden still the winner of Georgia’s race, but not by quite as high of a margin. The margin now stands at 12,670, after significant numbers of previously untabulated votes were found in Floyd, Fayette, Douglas and Walton counties.

On Thursday, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that sought to stop the certification of Georgia’s election. Judge Steven Grimberg dismissed the case filed by attorney Lin Wood following a three-hour hearing in which he found no real evidence or proof that Wood had been harmed by alleged issues with Georgia’s election system, according to the Marietta Daily Journal. The judge said things might be different if President Trump were a party to the suit.

Gov. Brian Kemp held a short press conference Friday afternoon. He said that, following Grimberg’s ruling, state law requires the governor’s office to formalize the certification, which paves the way for the Trump campaign to pursue other legal options and a separate recount.

In Coweta County, when all was said and done, Coweta’s vote totals in a hand count of the presidential race matched the machine-scanned totals from Election Day.

During the hand count process, any ballot with a write-in vote for president was put in a write-in pile and all write-ins are then looked at by a ballot review board.

During the hand count, there was a ballot or two where the voter colored in the oval for Joe Biden, and also wrote in Biden, according to Coweta Elections Director Jane Scoggins.

While the Coweta office was still finishing up the processes for the audit, which included the hand count, it was thought that those votes for Biden had not been counted as votes for Biden in previous totals.

However, once the process was complete, it was found that the ballot had been counted for Biden in the original results, as well. The ballots had gone through the same ballot review board process during the original counting of ballots that they went through during the audit.

While the audit and hand count helped uncover any errors by election officials around the state and showed that the electronic scanners correctly counted the votes, it did not include any new review of signatures on absentee ballot envelopes, which are already reviewed before a ballot is counted.

Friday, Kemp said that he has heard from many Georgians who are concerned about the signatures on absentee ballots. He said he was encouraging Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to conduct a sample audit of signatures on ballot envelopes, so that they can again be compared to the signatures on the ballot applications and other signatures by the voter that are on file with the Secretary of State’s Office and local elections offices.

Also on Friday, Raffensperger announced support for strengthening photo ID requirements for absentee ballots, Kemp said. “Voters casting ballots in person must show photo ID. We should consider applying that same standard to mail-in ballots,” Kemp said.

In Georgia, the only type of mail-in ballots are absentee ballots. Voters must request their ballot, and the signature on their request is checked against their voter registration before the ballot is mailed out. There is also an online ballot request portal which verifies the voter by driver’s license number.

Before voters submit their absentee ballot, they sign an oath on the ballot envelope. That signature must also match the voter’s other signatures on file with the voter registration office, including the signature on the application and registration records.

Registration records include the paper voter registration card as well as electronic signatures in the state’s Election Net system, which often include signatures from voter registration updates made during driver’s license renewals.

After the signatures are determined to match, the ballot is separated from the envelope, to maintain Georgia's constitutional provision for a secret ballot.