Seven Months Later, Georgia County Officials Have Not Produced Chain of Custody Records for 316,000 Absentee Vote by Mail Ballots Deposited in Drop Boxes in 2020 Election

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Seven months after the November 3, 2020 presidential election, state and county officials in Georgia have failed to produce chain of custody records for more than 316,000 absentee vote by mail ballots deposited in drop boxes located around the state for that election.

Nonetheless, Joe Biden was certified as the victor of Georgia and was awarded the state’s 16 Electoral College votes by a margin of 11,599 votes – less than 0.25 percent of the 5 million votes cast in the November 3, 2020 presidential election in Georgia. According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, 1.3 million of those votes were cast as absentee vote by mail ballots.

Polling conducted by John McLaughlin & Associates indicates 700,000 of those absentee vote by mail ballots were sent via regular mail and 600,000 were deposited in the estimated 300 drop boxes located around the state. Those ballots were manually picked up and then transported by election workers to the local county registrar for subsequent counting.

Drop Box Ballot Transfer Form
An example of a completed Absentee Ballot Transfer Form from Cook County, Georgia.

As of June 21, just sixty of Georgia’s 159 counties have provided ballot transfer form data to The Georgia Star News. The number of absentee by mail ballots delivered to registrars in those 159 counties total only 283,257 – or 47.2 percent – of the estimated 600,000 absentee vote by mail ballots deposited in drop boxes and delivered to county registrars that were subsequently counted in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.

Now, more than seven months after the November 3, 2020 election in Georgia, there are still no chain of custody documents for 316,743 – or 52.8 percent – of the estimated 600,000 absentee vote by mail ballots deposited in drop boxes and delivered to county registrars and counted in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.

According to Georgia Election Code Emergency Rule 183-1-14-0.8-.14, promulgated by the Georgia State Election Board in July 2020, but not codified by the state legislature at the time as the Georgia Constitution requires, each of Georgia’s 159 counties is responsible for documenting the transfer of every batch of absentee ballots picked up at drop boxes and delivered to the county election offices with ballot transfer forms. The forms are required to be signed and dated, with time of pick up by the collection team upon pick up, and then signed, dated, with time of delivery by the registrar or designee upon receipt and accepted.

The Office of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told Breitbart News in December that it was not the responsibility of the Secretary of State to obtain, review, and make these ballot transfer forms available to the public. Instead, it is the responsibility of each county.

From Monday, December 7 through Friday, December 11, The Georgia Star News issued Open Records Requests to all 159 counties in order to obtain copies of the ballot transfer forms. The forms were required as part of the hastily crafted Election Code Emergency Rule unilaterally put in place by the Georgia State Election Board in July 2020.

Since The Star News’ latest update on the status of the Open Records requests, little progress has been made in documenting the chain of custody for the estimated 600,000 absentee vote by mail ballots deposited in drop boxes and counted in the November 3, 2020 election.

Partial ballot transfer form data from Fulton and DeKalb Counties obtained by The Star News via Open Records Requests have been added to the total number absentee vote by mail ballots deposited in drop boxes in the November 3, 2020 general election for which there are chain of custody documents.

Fulton County provided ballot transfer forms for 59,042 absentee vote by mail ballots deposited in drop boxes. After a stunning admission The Star News by county election official Mariska Bodison that some documents may be “missing” and/or “misplaced,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger vowed a “thorough investigation” into the matter. Meanwhile, The Star News is continuing to communicate with election officials to determine the whereabouts of absentee ballot drop box transfer forms not yet produced by Fulton County.

However, the Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) has claimed Fulton County did produce to them a nearly complete set of records within 48 hours of the state-run new outlet’s Open Records Request for “the forms not included in the Georgia Star’s request.”

The Star News reported Saturday:

Between Monday, June 14, and their report of Wednesday, June 16 at 2:46 p.m., GPB News says Fulton County fulfilled their records request for the transfer forms.

“[E]lections staff located all but eight of the more than 1,500 forms” and “provided them to GPB News on a flash drive,” said the GPB News report.

Fulton County also reportedly sent the transfer forms to state investigators, according to GPB News.

On December 17, DeKalb County provided documents that were not responsive to the Open Records Request. Instead of providing ballot transfer forms that provided chain of custody records for the movement of ballots from drop boxes to registrars, they provided documents that showed the movement of boxes of absentee ballots from registrars to centralized tabulation areas.

After The Star News made DeKalb County officials aware of their error, Supervising Attorney Niki McDonald delivered an 87-page document containing absentee ballot drop box transfer forms on Monday, January 11.

The following list contains a breakdown of the 60 counties in Georgia that, as of June 16, have provided chain of custody documentation for the 282,286 absentee vote by mail ballots deposited in drop boxes and delivered to county registrars in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election:

  • Baker totals 69
  • Banks totals 324
  • Barrow totals 2,583
  • Bartow totals 4,909
  • Berrien totals 92
  • Bleckley totals 89
  • Bulloch totals 2,256
  • Butts totals 481
  • Catoosa totals 532
  • Cherokee totals 17,033
  • Clarke totals 4,909
  • Cobb totals 89,860
  • Colquitt totals 571
  • Cook totals 530
  • Coweta totals 4,422
  • Crawford totals 1,519
  • Crisp totals 216
  • Decatur totals 963
  • DeKalb totals 16,257
  • Dougherty totals 3,793
  • Douglas totals 7,949
  • Elbert totals 440
  • Fannin totals 771
  • Fayette totals 6,471
  • Fulton totals 59,042
  • Gilmer total 513
  • Gordon totals 1,326
  • Hall totals 7,565
  • Harris totals 1,067
  • Lincoln totals 513
  • Lowndes totals 3,266
  • Lumpkin totals 1,382
  • McDuffie totals 738
  • McIntosh totals 913
  • Mitchell totals 262
  • Murray totals 162
  • Oconee totals 3,016
  • Oglethorpe totals 636
  • Paulding totals 9,731
  • Peach totals 461
  • Pierce totals 444
  • Pike totals 495
  • Polk totals 826
  • Quitman totals 34
  • Rabun totals 1,163
  • Richmond (Augusta) totals 11,814
  • Schley totals 64
  • Screven totals 190
  • Spalding totals 1,489
  • Stephens totals 308
  • Talbot totals 329
  • Tattnall totals 282
  • Telfair totals 401
  • Terrell totals 105
  • Towns totals 1,197
  • Walker totals 475
  • Walton totals 3,198
  • Ware totals 123
  • White totals 414
  • Whitfield totals 1,763

28 scofflaw counties simply failed to respond at all The Star News Open Records requests:

Bibb, Brantley, Bryan, Chatham, Clay, Clayton, Dodge, Dooly, Evans, Franklin, Glynn, Houston, Jefferson, Johnson, Lamar, Lanier, Liberty, Long, Monroe,  Pulaski,  Sumter, Tift, Toombs, Troup, Turner,  Upson, Wayne, and Wilkes.

The remaining 71 counties in Georgia either did not use drop boxes in the November 3, 2020 election, or have said they will make the records available upon payment of a processing fee.

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Tiffany Morgan is a reporter at The Georgia Star News and the Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected] Star News journalists Laura Baigert and Chris Butler contributed to this report.

 

 

 

 

 

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