Judge keeps 2020 presidential litigation alive with request for state info

By: - September 21, 2021 1:00 am

Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero listens as attorney Wm. Charles Bundren explains Monday why the lawsuit seeking to inspect Fulton absentee ballots should not be dismissed against members of the Fulton election board. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

A judge delayed a decision Monday in a lawsuit seeking to inspect Fulton County’s 147,000 absentee ballots from 2020 in order to get more information from state investigations into allegations of counterfeit ballots.

Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero called for the 20-day break in the lawsuit filed by VoterGa self-described watchdog Garland Favorito and other voters against the Fulton County election board to give the secretary of state’s office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation time to file updates on their investigations of accusations that fraudulent ballots were counted in the Nov. 3 election that delivered Georgia to President Joe Biden.

Once the briefs are filed, Amero said he’ll be prepared to rule on Fulton attorneys’ request to dismiss the lawsuit against members of the Fulton elections board.

If there is proof of counterfeit ballots, Amero said, then it would give the plaintiffs more credibility to award them a closer look at the ballots. Additionally, those briefs will offer insight into whether his court orders are hindering state investigations in any way, the judge said.

“It is important to me that we know whether or not counterfeit ballots have been introduced into the mix,” Amero said.

Favorito and the group of Georgia voters are asking to examine the ballots using high-powered microscopes, which they claim will demonstrate that ballot fraud contributed to former President Donald Trump’s loss in Georgia to Biden.

VoterGa’s claims of absentee ballot fraud include affidavits from poll monitors’ claiming pristine ballots were included in the batches counted. The claim hinges on the premise that the paper ballots should have been creased when folded to fit in an envelope.

An attorney representing Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Monday that the details in the brief about the state’s case will likely be limited because it’s an ongoing investigation. Once completed, it will be presented to the State Election Board that will decide whether to refer the case to prosecutors. 

State election officials have repeatedly debunked unfounded claims of election fraud, including counterfeit ballots, and resisted pressure from Trump to overturn Biden’s Georgia victory.

An August review from a VoterGa’s analysis identified nearly 200 Fulton ballots that were initially double counted and some incorrect tally sheets. However, there so far isn’t any indication that those ballots were included in the official results.

Don Samuel, an attorney who was hired by the Fulton election board to defend its handling of the presidential ballots, said unlike previous cases challenging early voting hours or the closing of polling places in minority communities, plaintiffs in this case are seeking a judge’s ruling without evidence of implications for future elections.

“Petitioners are saying ‘look in the rear view mirror and you’ll see there’s counterfeit ballots, double counting,’ but nobody says it’s undeniably true this will occur in 2022,” Samuel said.

The lawsuit isn’t seeking to overturn the general election results but is requesting the court prevent policies or procedures from continuing to allow for fraudulent and other invalid ballots in future elections, Favorito’s attorneys said.

Amero also agreed Monday to a request by an attorney for the Fulton sheriff’s office that if round-the-clock security is maintained at the warehouse housing the ballots, then the plaintiffs must pick up the tab.

Amero granted Fulton County’s request to dismiss the bulk of the lawsuit in July. The lone remaining defendants in the lawsuit are also the most recent additions — the newest individual members of the election board. 

Trump continues to demand that his presidential election loss be overturned in Georgia, citing Fulton’s duplicate ballots and incomplete chain of custody forms in DeKalb County. 

There is one investigation that is making headway, an independent state review of Fulton’s election operations that was prompted by requests from GOP lawmakers under the state’s new takeover provision for election boards.

The results of that investigation and whether the state appoints a temporary Fulton election supervisor could affect the upcoming 2022 high stakes statewide elections with a U.S. Senate seat, congressional contests and the governor’s race at the top of the tickets.

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo.