For The Record

Battle over Fulton absentee ballots cast in 2020 election back in court

By: - June 20, 2021 6:49 pm

A judge is set to hear Monday Fulton County’s request to dismiss a lawsuit from voters seeking to review 145,000 absentee ballots in the 2020 election. In this file photo, Fulton County sorted absentee ballots during a pilot audit after the June 9 primary. Stephen Fowler/GPB

The court battle over a potential review of Fulton County’s 145,000 absentee ballots cast last November is set to resume Monday with a push to dismiss a lawsuit that claims mishandled ballots and fraudulent votes factored into President Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in Georgia.

Henry County Judge Brian Amero is set to hear Fulton County attorneys argue Monday that he should toss out a lawsuit filed by a group of voters led by self-described government watchdog Garland Favorito. 

Monday’s virtual hearing comes after Amero canceled a May 28 trip to the Fulton County election records warehouse to create a plan to review the disputed ballots from the Nov. 3 election. 

Fulton filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit just days before the planned warehouse meeting, claiming the plaintiffs did not correctly notify the county and that the local elections board is protected by sovereign immunity.

Unlike the Republican Party-led Arizona audit, Amero ruled that Fulton would maintain custody of the absentee ballots in a court-ordered review, while providing the Favorito group scanned images.

Even as the lawsuit remained unsettled, Secretary of State Brad Raffesnperger announced last week his office would investigate allegations of missing chain of custody forms for Fulton absentee ballots collected in drop boxes.

He said it’s another example of why Fulton’s elections office needs new leadership, which the state could force under the new rule in the 2021 Election Integrity Act that allows the state to take over local elections operations it deems as troubled. 

“New revelations that Fulton County is unable to produce all ballot dropbox transfer documents will be investigated thoroughly, as we have with other counties that failed to follow Georgia rules and regulations regarding drop boxes,” Raffensperger said in a tweet. “This cannot continue.” 

An independent monitor assigned by Raffensperger’s office found no evidence of wrongdoing by Fulton but did note some sloppiness in the way the county manages its elections.

Georgia’s 2020 presidential election results were confirmed by hand and machine recounts and Raffenspeger has defended it as the most secure in the state’s history. He has also repeatedly cast Fulton’s election management as one of the most flawed among Georgia’s 159 counties.

 “Restoring confidence in our elections is going to be impossible as long as Fulton County’s elections leadership continues to fail the voters of Fulton County and the voters of Georgia,” Raffensperger said. “They need new leadership to step up and take charge.”

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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. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.