A judge in Georgia unsealed roughly 145,000 absentee ballots from the November election for review in a Friday ruling.
The ballots must remain with Fulton County election officials throughout the audit, and the results of the review cannot impact the outcome of the November election, Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero said. The plaintiffs in the case accepted the terms, saying that the review is still needed after controversial behavior by Fulton County election officials last year, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Friday’s decision came in a lawsuit filed by nine plaintiffs, including Garland Favorito, a Fulton county resident and self-styled election watchdog,” the Journal-Constitution reported. “It’s one of more than 30 Georgia lawsuits stemming from the November presidential election and the January runoff for U.S. Senate. Some of the lawsuits are still winding their way through the courts.”
Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who now leads the voter registration group Greater Georgia Action after losing a runoff election in January, cheered the judge’s ruling in a statement:
Voter confidence in our election system is the bedrock of our republic. Unfortunately, inconsistencies in Fulton County’s November 2020 absentee ballots cast serious doubt on voters’ faith in our elections. An independent investigation even characterized Fulton County’s absentee ballot handling as ‘generally bad management.’ While there is a dire need to investigate a number of other well-documented issues, we must also inspect Fulton County’s absentee ballots to reassure Georgians that their voices are heard and their votes are counted. The integrity of future elections is critical, and Judge Amero’s decision is a helpful step in restoring transparency, accountability, and voter confidence. We look forward to the findings and their role in promoting transparency and rebuilding faith in our elections.
Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts slammed Amero’s decision, pointing out that the Fulton County results have been certified multiple times through recounts since the November election.
“It is outrageous that Fulton County continues to be a target of those who cannot accept the results from last year’s election,” Pitts told the Journal-Constitution. “The votes have been counted multiple times, including a hand recount, and no evidence of fraud has been found.”
“The fact remains that Fulton County safely and securely carried out an election in the midst of a public health crisis,” he added.
Fulton County received national scrutiny following the November election amid allegations that county election officials had brought out scores of hidden ballots to count after sending GOP election observers home. State investigators later said that the controversy stemmed from a misunderstanding between the election officials and the GOP observers.
Fulton County’s election efforts were plagued by a series of other issues including counting errors and other crashes, eventually earning the county a reprimand from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
In February, the elections board in Fulton County voted to fire election director Rick Barron over the series of controversies. The board’s decision was denied by the county Board of Commissioners, allowing Barron to keep his position.