A signature audit of votes in one Georgia county may expand across the rest of the state according to the secretary of state’s office.
A specific complaint against Cobb County, and concerns that proper procedures were not followed in matching signatures, prompted Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to order the audit on Monday. Though the complaint on the county’s signature-matching process was triggered during the primary in June, both primary and general election ballots will be examined in the newly-announced audit.
“Now that the signature-matching has been attacked again and again with no evidence, I feel we need to take steps to restore confidence in our elections,” Raffensperger said at a Monday press conference. “Starting immediately, we are pulling all of our resources together with GBI to conduct a signature- match audit in Cobb County.”
The results of the audit, which Raffensperger said will have the assistance of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, are expected in two weeks. Signatures on absentee-ballot envelopes will be matched against signature records of registered voters in the county of the review.
“Vote privacy is top of mind and we will never release how someone voted. We are only reviewing the signatures on the envelope,” Raffensperger said. “We recently received a report that Cobb County may not have conducted a proper signature-match in June and we will look into that claim.”
Gabriel Sterling, a top Georgia election official, noted how the allegations about the June primary are being looked into by the secretary of state’s office.
“Right now, we have a specific allegation in Cobb of the process not being followed properly, so under our investigatory powers, that is where we’re starting,” Sterling said at the briefing.
“For all we know, the process was followed,” he added. “That’s the hopeful outcome that we’re going to see, but we can’t say that until we actually do the investigation.”
The audit comes after two statewide recounts which uncovered problems with thousands of votes. President Donald Trump has repeatedly called on Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and state officials, to conduct a signature-audit as voters question the integrity of the process just a few short weeks from two critical Senate runoff elections.
….Also, quickly check the number of envelopes versus the number of ballots. You may just find that there are many more ballots than there are envelopes. So simple, and so easy to do. Georgia Republicans are angry, all Republicans are angry. Get it done!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2020
Kemp noted that he was “glad” Raffensperger finally moved to take “the necessary step to begin restoring confidence in our state’s election processes.”
“I have called for a signature audit repeatedly since the November 3rd election,” he said in a statement. “As Georgians head back to the polls for the January 5th runoffs, it is absolutely vital for every vote cast to be legal and for only legal votes to be counted.”
“This is about investigating the allegation and while at the same time enhancing people’s fundamental belief in the overall system,” Sterling said at the press conference.
“Even though the complaint referenced by the Secretary of State’s office stemmed from the June Primary, the audit will apparently cover signature verification for the November General Election,” Cobb County Elections Director Janine Eveler said in a statement.
“I’m confident any audit would find our office followed procedures and only counted ballots that were processed correctly,” she added. “Even though our resources are already stretched thin by advance voting and preparations for the January 5 runoff, we will help this process move as expeditiously as possible.”
The secretary of state’s remarks came as Georgians began early-voting in the runoff elections, as Republican incumbents Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue defend their seats against Democratic challengers Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively.
Raffensperger certified the results of the presidential election on November 20, giving Democrat Joe Biden the victory in the state. On Monday, Georgia’s 16 electors cast their vote officially for Biden.
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