For those who think that election audits and integrity investigations are just for conspiracy theorists who still buy into the “big lie,” consider the situation in DeKalb County, Georgia.
DeKalb is the fourth-most populous county in the state and part of the Atlanta metropolitan area. It’s a Democratic stronghold that saw 83 percent of its voters go for Democrat Joe Biden in November. It also could have a serious chain-of-custody issue regarding mail-in ballots put in drop boxes — serious enough that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office has opened an investigation.
Journalist John Solomon, founder of the website Just the News, confirmed the probe on Tuesday, almost a month after the issue was first reported in the Georgia Star News, a local conservative publication. Earlier in September, the county’s elections director was put on an extended leave of absence from her job with no reason given, as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“The Secretary of State’s office has opened an investigation into the drop box chain of custody documentation for DeKalb County,” Raffensperger’s office said in a statement, Solomon reported.
“The investigation includes not only whether DeKalb County properly complied with the documentation required by the State Election Board but also whether the actual procedures used by DeKalb adequately protected chain of custody for ballots returned to drop boxes.”
Raffensperger told the Washington Examiner last week that he had opened an investigation into DeKalb County’s election integrity practices because “some information came to us that there was a question about chain of custody,” although this wouldn’t invalidate the votes from DeKalb.
In June, a similar investigation had been launched into Fulton County, home to Atlanta and the state’s most populous county.
On Aug. 30, the Georgia Star News first reported that nearly three-quarters of the absentee ballots retrieved from drop boxes during the 2020 election — 43,907 out of 61,731 — were counted despite violations of the state’s chain of custody rules.
“That rule states absentee ballots placed in drop boxes, ‘shall be immediately transported to the county registrar’ by the two person collection team, which is required to sign a ballot transfer form indicating the number of ballots picked up, the time the ballots were picked up, and the location of the drop box, and that, ‘The county registrar or a designee thereof shall sign the ballot transfer form upon receipt of the ballots from the collection team,'” the Georgia Star’s Laura Baigert reported. [Emphasis in the original.]
According to records obtained by the publication, 46 percent of the ballots, totaling 28,194 votes, weren’t documented as being received by the elections registrar until the day after they were collected.
Another 26 percent of ballots, totaling 15,713 votes, had no timestamp at all, the Star News reported.
Raffensperger’s office said most Georgia counties didn’t submit their chain of custody forms for ballots put into drop boxes until January or February, Solomon reported. While it’s found issues with chain of custody documents in other counties, these were mostly rural.
“As we announced earlier this year, Coffee, Grady, and Taylor counties all failed to complete any ballot transfer documents,” Raffensperger’s office said, Solomon reported.
“They were referred for investigation. In Stephens County, the elections director emptied an absentee ballot drop box on her own instead of with the two people that the State Election Board rule required. Stephens County was referred to the Attorney General’s office by the State Election Board.”
DeKalb is a different kettle of fish, however.
Coffee, Grady, Stephens and Taylor counties combined have a little over 100,000 residents, according to demographic data compiled by Cubit. DeKalb, meanwhile, is home to almost 765,000.
There’s also the mysterious case of DeKalb elections director Erica Hamilton’s extended leave of absence. When Atlanta’s WXIA-TV reported on it Sept. 9, it claimed that DeKalb had “mostly avoided the kinds of missteps that made Fulton [County] the epicenter of election contests last year.”
At the time, however, Raffensperger wasn’t publicly investigating the county and the Georgia Star’s report had stayed under the radar.
Furthermore, if you either haven’t been paying attention or forgot about it, Raffensperger isn’t a close ally of former President Donald Trump; the two have attacked each other since the 2020 election, Trump over Raffensperger’s decision to certify the results and Raffensperger over Trump’s stance that the results were illegitimate.
During a rally in Georgia on Saturday, Trump attacked Raffensperger as “incompetent and strange” and said “there’s something wrong with this guy,” according to WXIA. Raffensperger, for his part, told the Washington Examiner Trump had “continued to promote the big lie” and said the former president “knows in his heart that he lost the election.”
In short, this is hardly about the “big lie.” Rather, it’s the fact that, from all appearances, two of Georgia’s biggest counties — Democrat strongholds both — apparently played fast and loose with Georgia law when it came to absentee ballots during the 2020 election.
This isn’t a smoking gun that says Trump won Georgia or that the two Senate seats the Democrats picked up in the state in January runoff elections were the result of election fraud. There’s no evidence that’s the case.
Instead, it’s yet another sign Democrats treat urban boards of election like their own private fiefdoms, playing by their own rules and expecting state officials to shrug off the sloppiness.
In a swing state that could have decided the presidency and definitely decided the balance of power in the Senate, that’s utterly unacceptable — and it’s why election integrity is so crucial.
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