McDONOUGH, Ga. — A judge on Monday asked Georgia election investigators and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to provide an update about any probes into allegations of counterfeit ballots in last year’s presidential election.
Superior Court Judge Brian Amero’s request came during a hearing on a lawsuit seeking to inspect about 147,000 absentee ballots cast in Fulton County in an effort to find fraud.
State election officials have said there’s no indication of fraud after three ballot counts and multiple investigations. Democrat Joe Biden defeated Republican Donald Trump in Georgia by about 12,000 votes.
“It is important to me that we know whether or not counterfeit ballots have been introduced into the mix,” Amero said in court.
The lawsuit is based on sworn statements by Republican election observers and auditors who alleged there were “pristine” ballots with perfectly filled-in ovals during an audit last November. They also claimed some ballots lacked creases that are necessary to fold ballots into envelopes.
The secretary of state’s office has said that investigators reviewed those ballot batches but found no signs of counterfeits or irregularities. A monitor installed in the county before the election reported sloppy ballot handling procedures, but not fraud.
Amero put the lawsuit on hold for 20 days to give the secretary of state’s office and GBI time to respond.
Amero previously dismissed the case against Fulton’s elections board and the county itself, but he allowed the lawsuit to continue against individual election board members.
The lead plaintiff in the case, Garland Favorito of the organization Voter GA, said the judge’s request for more information stalls his effort to conduct a public inspection of absentee ballots cast in Fulton, where Biden won 73% of the vote over Trump.
“What we want to do is look at the ballots and see whether they’re counterfeit or not in public. Everybody can make the same decision,” Favorito said after the court hearing. “We don’t want some organization, claiming election official authorities, to tell us what these ballots are. We the people of Georgia want to see the ballots for our own selves in front of the cameras so everyone can decide: yes they’re counterfeit or no they’re not.”
Georgia law keeps original paper ballots under seal, but the state’s new voting law requires that digital ballot images be made public.
No counterfeit ballots have been found, but the ballot images did show that some ballots were scanned twice during the initial ballot count. After a recount, official results showed that Trump gained a total of 121 absentee votes in Fulton.
Because state investigations of Fulton’s elections remain open, it’s unclear how much information the secretary of state’s office will be able to disclose until those inquiries are completed. An attorney for the state told the judge the secretary of state’s office has already looked into claims about ballot batches cited in the lawsuit.
Don Samuel, an attorney for three former and current Democrats on Fulton’s election board, said the case should be dismissed, but he didn’t object to the judge seeking more information about investigations.