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Saturday October 23rd, 2021 10:20AM

Investigators: No evidence of Fulton County ballot fraud

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — Investigators in Georgia haven't found any evidence to substantiate claims that fraudulent or counterfeit ballots were counted in Fulton County during the 2020 general election, according to a court filing.

Henry County Superior Court Chief Judge Brian Amero is presiding over a lawsuit that alleges fraud in Fulton County during last year's election. He's weighing a request from county officials to dismiss the lawsuit. At a hearing last month, he asked for an update into any investigations by the secretary of state's office and Georgia Bureau of Investigation into allegations of fraudulent or counterfeit ballots in the state's most populous county.

Lawyers with the state attorney general's office on Tuesday filed a response brief that details investigative steps taken in response to the claims.

Former President Donald Trump fixated on Georgia, and particularly on Fulton County, after the November general election, claiming without evidence that fraud in the county contributed to his narrow loss in the state.

The brief filed Tuesday on behalf of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger addresses allegations made in sworn affidavits filed with the lawsuit that say witnesses saw suspicious-looking absentee ballots during a hand count of ballots that stemmed from a state audit requirement.

“Based upon the witness statements and examination of approximately 1,000 absentee ballots and ballot images, the Secretary’s investigators have not uncovered any absentee ballots that match the descriptions given ... or otherwise appear to be fraudulent or counterfeit,” the brief says.

Investigators spoke with Susan Voyles, an auditor during the hand count. She said she saw a batch of “pristine” absentee ballots that appeared to have been marked by a computer rather than by hand and weren't creased as they would have been if they had been put in envelopes.

Investigators examined the ballots in the batches and box identified by Voyles, but all had been creased and none appeared to have been marked by a computer. Voyles then told investigators she may have been mistaken and gave them another box number. Investigators determined the box-batch combination she cited didn't exist.

Voyles told investigators she reported the suspicious-looking absentee ballots to a county election official at the time, but no officials recalled speaking to her about suspicious-looking ballots.

Investigators also spoke to Barbara Hartman, an auditor at the same table as Voyles. She confirmed she saw suspicious-looking ballots but said she didn't note the box or batch numbers. She also said they didn't report suspicious-looking ballots to election officials out of fear that the election workers would crease them.

Investigators also spoke to Sonia-Francis Rolle and Gordon Rolle, both auditors during the hand count. They said they saw ballots that appeared not to have been folded but didn't report that to elections officials or take note of the batch or box number.

The brief also addresses a widely discussed and previously debunked assertion that Fulton County election employees working at State Farm Arena on election night pulled out “suitcases” of ballots from under a table after observers and media had left and scanned the ballots multiple times.

Investigators reviewed nearly 24 hours of security footage. They found that the video confirms that the “suitcases” were normal ballot bins that election workers had stowed under tables when they thought they were done for the night and then pulled back out when they were told to keep counting.

Investigators interviewed the county’s chief registrar, four elections workers and a county media liaison. They said the ballot scanners jammed frequently, which required them to make multiple attempts to scan all of the ballots in each batch. Investigators reviewed the scanner activity logs, which confirmed the paper jams reported by the election workers and seen in the video.

Investigators concluded, therefore, that there was no evidence to corroborate allegations in the lawsuit that election workers scanned and counted fraudulent ballots that had been hidden under tables at the arena. The brief notes that former U.S. Attorney BJay Pak reached the same conclusion based on statements made to the FBI and an independent review of the evidence.

Originally filed in December, the lawsuit said there was evidence of fraudulent ballots and improper ballot counting in Fulton County. It relied heavily on the affidavits of the witnesses interviewed by investigators. It was filed by nine Georgia voters and spearheaded by Garland Favorito, a longtime critic of Georgia’s election systems. As part of the suit, they're seeking to inspect some 147,000 absentee ballots to determine whether any are illegitimate.

At a hearing Sept. 20, Amero stayed the case for 20 days to give investigators time to respond to his order. He said it was important to him to know whether or not counterfeit ballots were “introduced into the mix.” He's scheduled another hearing for next month.

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