For The Record
Judge weighs request to dismiss Fulton absentee ballot lawsuit
A Henry County judge said Monday he would review the latest court filings before deciding on moving forward with a Fulton County lawsuit alleging election fraud in 2020. A group of voters is pushing for experts to review absentee ballots from the Nov. 3 election in the case. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder
The future of a review of more than 145,000 Fulton County absentee ballots remains up in the air following a court hearing Monday on a request to dismiss the case.
Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero said he will take time to digest the latest filings after hearing several hours of arguments Monday.
Attorneys for Fulton County and its Board of Registration and Elections argued that Amero should toss out the lawsuit because the voters are still attempting to challenge Nov. 3 election results that have long been confirmed for months.
But attorneys representing a group of voters led by self-described government watchdog Garland Favorito rejected claims that they are attempting to contest the results where President Joe Biden secured a close victory over Donald Trump in Georgia.
The plaintiff’s attorney Bob Cheeley said their lawsuit isn’t about contesting the election but ensuring that their constitutional rights aren’t violated in future elections.
Among the allegations in the suit is that Fulton election staff allegedly counted thousands of absentee ballots more than once. To ensure ballots pass muster, Favorito’s group proposes to use high-powered microscopes to inspect them.
Several recounts, including a hand count of more than 5 million ballots, confirmed the statewide results in an election called by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger the most secure in the state’s history.
“One of the bedrock guarantees of citizens against the abuse of power of government is what’s on display here today,” Cheeley said. “Fulton County and the board of registrations and elections in their arrogance is seeking to sweep out this courthouse door on the sidewalk the rights of our petitioners to know what happened in this last election.”
Prior to Monday’s hearing, Amero ordered for Fulton’s absentee ballots to be unsealed so that the plaintiff’s experts can examine their digital images.
Atlanta defense attorney Don Samuel, working for Fulton’s elections board, said he understands that the court has the authority to unseal the ballots. However, the parties disagree about how that process should play out, he said.
If the review goes forward, it will not change the result of the certified Biden win.
“We filed motions because of the sovereign immunity clause, and we filed motions because of the impropriety with declaratory judgment action,” Samuel said. “We have never said to the court, never said to the petitioners, ‘you have no right to look at these ballots.'”
“We’re going to do what I think is important and needs to be done, which is to set up a protocol that protects the ballots, protects everybody’s rights, and doesn’t turn into a circus-like occurrence,” Samuel added.
Monday’s hearing was held after a canceled May 28 trip to the Fulton County election records warehouse that was planned to coordinate inspection of the absentee ballots.
Cheeley said he prefers the review take place this summer inside the Georgia World Congress Center, which offers more space than the Fulton elections warehouse where the ballots are now stored.
Amero said he would consider the motion at a later time if needed.
“We got assurances from the sheriff’s department that they understood that they’re responsible for making sure that the warehouse is secure,” Amero said.
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