A preliminary analysis by The Georgia Star News of Fulton County transfer forms for drop boxes used during the November 2020 election and covering five days in October 2020 that were previously missing reveals that 68 percent lack a record of the time the absentee ballots were received by the registrar or designee which documents the ballot chain of custody.
Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) News published a report on the transfer forms that they said they received from Fulton County on June 15.
The forms were requested and provided after The Star News reported that a Fulton County elections official admitted that “a few forms are missing” and that “some procedural paperwork may have been misplaced,” regarding 385 of 1,585 transfer forms representing 18,901 absentee ballots that are missing from responses to The Star News multiple open records requests.
The forms have still not been provided from Fulton County directly to The Star News. As of 9:40 p.m. ET on Wednesday, June 23, the Fulton County open records system still shows The Star News request as “in progress.”
The Star News determined the number of missing forms, based upon a Fulton County log of absentee ballot collections from 37 drop boxes over the 41-day election period titled “Absentee Ballot Drop Box – Daily Count – November 3 2020.”
Along with random drop box collections that lacked a corresponding transfer form, there were five complete days for which Fulton County provided no transfer forms to The Star News: October 7, October 9, October 10, October 11 and October 20.
A thorough review of the documentation that GPB News obtained will be forthcoming, but a preliminary review of the five previously missing days identified that a majority of the transfer forms lacked documentation of the time at which the absentee ballots were transferred to the registrar.
Of the 171 transfers over the five days, 117 – or 68 percent – had no time recorded for when the absentee ballots were surrendered by the collection team to the county registrar or the registrar’s designee which completes the chain of custody for that phase of the process.
In addition to an incomplete chain of custody, several other issues were observed with the newly available information.
- Fifty times the number of absentee ballots recorded on the daily count spreadsheet did not match that of the actual transfer forms, which makes it impossible to verify the number of transfer forms or absentee ballots that were collected from drop boxes.
- More than half of the instances where the information between the spreadsheet and the transfer forms did not match – 27 – occurred on October 20.
- Fourteen transfer forms still appear to be missing.
- There were occasions when there were multiple collections from the same drop box on the same date, which requires a more thorough examination as to the time of the collection to ensure counts are not duplicated.
- Copies of transfer forms were duplicated within a batch of the correct date and transfer forms were put in with batches from different dates, again requiring a more thorough examination to ensure duplicates are not counted as unique transfer forms.
GPB News has made available the Fulton County chain of custody documents they are in receipt of as well as their tally of the transfer forms and the number of ballots represented which can be viewed here.
The analysis conducted by The Star News on more than 1,100 drop box transfer forms representing 59,000 absentee ballots received directly from Fulton County and from which it was determined that 385 transfer forms for 18,901 ballots were missing, revealed a number of problems, including 85 percent of absentee ballots not being “immediately transported” to the Fulton County registrar, as Georgia state rule requires, and five percent of the absentee ballots being delivered before they were picked up. The Star News’ full report on the analysis can be read here.
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Star News Network, where she covers stories for The Tennessee Star and The Georgia Star News.