Georgia’s secretary of state found no fraud during an audit of absentee ballot signatures in Cobb County, the office announced Tuesday night.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ordered the audit earlier this month after it was alleged the Cobb elections department hadn’t followed proper procedure while processing absentee ballot requests before the June 9 primary. Department director Janine Eveler said the accusation was without merit and ordered due to political pressure.
Raffensperger, a Republican, described the results of the audit as a victory against those who’ve suggested the election was rigged against President Donald Trump, who lost the state by just under 12,000 votes.
“The secretary of state’s office has always been focused on calling balls and strikes in elections and, in this case, three strikes against the voter fraud claims and they’re out,” Raffensperger said in a prepared statement. “We conducted a statewide hand recount that reaffirmed the initial tally, and a machine recount at the request of the Trump campaign that also reaffirmed the original tally. This audit disproves the only credible allegations the Trump campaign had against the strength of Georgia’s signature match processes.”
The audit was conducted by officers with the secretary of state and Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and found the Cobb elections department had a “99.99% accuracy rate in performing correct signature verification procedures.”
More than 150,000 county residents cast an absentee ballot in the Nov. 3 general election. Officers audited roughly 15,000 of those, analyzing whether Cobb elections officials had properly matched signatures of absentee ballot envelopes with signatures the state has on file.
“The audit found that only two ballots should have been identified by Cobb County Elections officials for cure notification that weren’t,” read a news release from Raffensperger’s office.
Those ballots included one voter who signed the wrong part of the absentee oath envelope and another voter who signed the envelope for her spouse, GBI director Vic Reynolds said.
Neither instance was fraudulent.
“During the course of the audit, there were no fraudulent absentee ballots identified,” Reynolds said at a news conference Wednesday.
Absentee ballots in Georgia are verified once when a voter requests a ballot, then again on signature-bearing envelopes sent to county election boards. Those envelopes are separated from the absentee ballots to protect voters’ ballot selections and preserve voter privacy, according to state law.
State officials next plan to conduct a statewide study with the University of Georgia of signatures accompanying the roughly 1.3 million absentee ballots cast in the Nov. 3 election.
Raffensperger ordered the audit in part to boost confidence in the integrity of Georgia’s election system amid fraud claims from Trump and his allies that have injected doubt into the system ahead of the high-stakes U.S. Senate runoffs on Jan. 5.
Investigators in Raffensperger’s office are also working on about 130 complaints of alleged fraud in last month’s election, though state officials have repeatedly said they have found no evidence of any widespread fraud following two recounts and several tossed-out federal lawsuits.
The audit’s results did not satisfy Trump, who lashed out at Raffensperger on Wednesday on Twitter and called top-ranked Republicans in Georgia like Gov. Brian Kemp “a complete disaster” for not ordering a deeper mail-in signature audit.
Raffensperger has called on state lawmakers to change Georgia’s election laws during the upcoming 2021 legislative session by adding stricter voter ID requirements, eliminating mail-in voting without cause and giving state officials power to remove poor-performing county election managers.