A judgment allowing or prohibiting the inspection of Fulton County’s mail-in ballots may occur as early as next week. The plaintiffs, organized by the election integrity organization Voters Organized for Trusted Election Results in Georgia (VoterGA), have been engaged in litigation for nearly a month to obtain an inspection of those ballots.
VoterGA had anticipated receiving a ruling allowing them to inspect the county’s mail-in ballots during their last hearing on January 15. However, after three hours debating the county’s compliance with open records requests concerning the mail-in ballots, akin to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requirements, Chief Judge Brian Amero decided to only address that issue.
“I’m going to take it under advisement. I’m also going to provide for a five day period during which the parties can submit any proposed order that they would like the court to consider,” stated Amero. “I’m going to issue an order on just the FOIA piece. The last thing that I’m going to say is that it doesn’t appear to me that the question of ‘unsealing’ should be a part of what we’re doing here at this moment. At this moment, the question really is whether or not there should be some find that there’s been some violation of the Freedom of Information Act, and whether or not the standard’s been met to justify or authorize a fine of some sort.”
Garland Favorito, co-founder of VoterGA, has been one of the main representatives for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. During the last hearing, Fulton County’s compliance with Favorito’s FOIA requests were the main issue discussed in court.
In a press release issued Sunday, Favorito shared initially that their team expected to receive a favorable ruling regarding the FOIA compliance.
“We provided evidence that Fulton County failed to respond properly to five different open records requests including two separate requests to inspect mail-in ballot[s],” stated Favorito. “The county was unable to provide a defense for their actions. The court will now entertain proposed orders and is expected to have a hearing late this week.”
However, Favorito later updated The Georgia Star News that there probably wouldn’t be another hearing at the end of this week. He didn’t specify why.
At the beginning of this month, the judge issued a temporary injunction on Fulton County to preserve their general election mail-in ballots. The ruling followed the Georgia State Senate’s official request for the county to turn over their absentee ballots for inspection. It doesn’t appear that the county has complied with the request.
Fulton County’s attorney, Cheryl Ringer, didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Star News.
At the close of the hearing, Amero allowed both parties to provide additional documents to inform his decision on the FOIA compliance judgment. The judge gave no indication as to whether he would rule in favor of allowing an inspection of the mail-in ballots.
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