State election officials launch absentee ballot signature audit

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Monday that the GBI will assist in conducting an absentee ballot signature audit in Cobb County for the June primary and Nov. 3 general election. The state's top election official said the results of the audit won't impact the outcome of the presidential election. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Monday that investigators will audit voter signatures on absentee ballot envelopes in Cobb County in the latest attempt to confirm the state’s 2020 election results.

Raffensperger’s office is teaming up with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to recheck the signatures on a sample of Cobb absentee ballot envelopes after receiving a complaint that the county did not correctly verify them. A separate statewide signature audit is also in the works.

The audit is not going to change Georgia’s Nov. 3 election win for Democratic President-elect Joe Biden over President Donald Trump by about 12,000 votes, according to Raffensperger. The secretary of state has been blistered by fellow Republicans over his oversight of the state’s election system.

The Cobb audit, which will compare signed absentee ballot envelopes to the state’s database, should be completed in a couple of weeks, potentially before the Jan. 5 runoffs pitting the two incumbent U.S. Senate Republicans against Democratic challengers. 

Raffensperger said Georgians should have faith in the security of the state’s elections, including a presidential race in which every ballot has been counted three times. Another audit could take place after investigators complete Cobb’s, he added.

“Now that the signature matching has been attacked again and again with no evidence, I feel we need to take steps to restore confidence in our elections,” Raffensperger said during a media briefing Monday afternoon at the state Capitol. “Starting immediately, we are pooling all of our resources together with GBI to conduct a signature match in Cobb County.”

Cobb County Election Director Janine Eveler said that her office followed the proper procedures in verifying signatures. The GBI trains county election workers across Georgia to perform signature verification for absentee ballots.

The audit is prompted by allegations that election workers in Cobb County had not adequately conducted signature matching on absentee ballot applications ahead of the June primary elections.

In the November election, a record 1.3 million Georgians voted absentee, with those votes helping secure Biden’s victory. Democratic electors in Georgia and other states awarded the Electoral College to Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris on Monday.  

Trump and his allies have repeatedly launched unfounded accusations of widespread fraud facilitated through vote-by-mail ballots and the state’s new $104 million electronic voting system. Meanwhile, legal challenges backing Trump continue to play out in court, with dozens being dismissed or voluntarily removed. The U.S. Supreme Court Friday rejected a Texas lawsuit that aimed to overturn election results in Georgia and three other battleground states.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr have dismissed fraud as a factor in the election outcome while Trump continues to attack Raffensperger and GOP Gov. Brian Kemp for not doing more to help him win.

“I am glad Secretary Raffensperger has finally taken this necessary step to begin restoring confidence in our state’s election processes,” Kemp said in a statement. “I have called for a signature audit repeatedly since the November 3rd election. As Georgians head back to the polls for the Jan. 5 runoffs, it is absolutely vital for every vote cast to be legal and for only legal votes to be counted.”

Following Monday’s announcement, Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler called for the audit to be expanded to every county, as the eyes of the country focus on her runoff against Rev. Raphael Warnock and GOP Sen. David Perdue’s contest against Democrat Jon Ossoff. 

Early in-person voting started Monday and will last for 16 days. Voters have requested more than 1.1 million absentee ballots for the runoffs.