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Election Audit—Georgia

About

In 2020, when then-presidential candidate Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in Georgia, it was by a mere 12,670 votes. Due to the close margin of victory, Georgia announced that it would conduct a statewide audit and a hand recount of all ballots cast. Results were then certified by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, on Nov. 20, 2020, affirming Biden’s win of the state’s 16 electoral college votes. Two days later Trump exercised his right under Georgia state law to request a recount, which resulted in a second pronouncement of Biden’s win on Dec. 7.

Despite the repeated confirmations of no fraud or other irregularities in Georgia, Trump and his allies continued to demand additional audits and investigations while also engaging in a pressure campaign to convince Raffensperger and other Georgia officials to “find” enough votes for the incumbent to win. Their efforts led to additional audits in various counties, including Fulton County, the state’s largest.

Proponents 

  • Trump pressured Georgia state officials to conduct more extensive audits and urged them to claim voter fraud that would overturn Biden’s victory in the state. On the infamous Jan. 2 call with Georgia’s Secretary of State Raffensperger, Trump told him: “We think that if you check the signatures… you’ll find at least a couple of hundred thousand of forged signatures of people who have been forged.” In fact, the secretary of state’s office had already completed an examination of ballot signatures by the time of the president made the call, with no fraud revealed.
  • In another call with Frances Watson, the lead elections investigator for the secretary of state, Trump urged her to find “dishonesty” and told her she would be “praised” once she found evidence of election fraud.
  • Speaking about the third audit in Fulton County in May 2021, former U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) issued a statement that read: “Voter confidence in our election system is the bedrock of our republic. Unfortunately, inconsistencies in Fulton County’s November 2020 absentee ballots cast serious doubt on voters’ faith in our elections.”
  • In speaking to Oconee County Republicans in April 2022, former U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-Ga.) called for extensive audits, stating, “I want a law enforcement agency that will enforce the voting laws, I want an audit process, and I want to get rid of these blessed—we’re in a church—but the Dominion machines have to go.” Perdue was alluding to a false conspiracy theory that voting machines manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems were faulty.
  • Nearly a year after the election, extremist U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said at a Trump rally, “There’s something all of us know in Georgia. Trump won Georgia. That’s why I’m calling for an audit in Georgia. There’s no more excuses. If the people of Georgia want an audit, then they should have an audit.”

Funding

  • Georgia’s statewide and county-based audits appear to have been mostly funded by taxpayers. The first statewide audit ordered by Secretary of State Raffensberger in November 2020 cost each county a different amount. For instance, Fulton County spent more than $200,000 on the audit while DeKalb County spent $180,000.

Results

  • In response to pressure from the Trump campaign, an audit of absentee ballots in Cobb County the week of Dec. 27, 2020 concluded that there was no fraud based on 15,000 randomly selected ballots examined by state officials.
  • In May 2021, after Republican voters filed a lawsuit, a judge authorized unsealing 147,000 mail-in ballots from Fulton County for further inspection. However, the case was later dismissed before an audit could take place because the plaintiffs “failed to allege a particularized injury.”
  • Oconee and Bartow counties conducted audits that compared hand and computer tabulations. The two audits resulted in identical results and did not surface any fraud.
  • None of the various audits and recounts identified any substantial patterns of fraud or misconduct that would undermine Biden’s victory in Georgia.
  • In July 2022, Gabriel Sterling, the Republican COO and CFO for the Georgia secretary of state’s office, reiterated that “law enforcement officers and [the] secretary of state’s office spent literally thousands of hours examining ballots in Fulton County and other counties trying to track these kinds of claims down, and so far we’ve seen nothing give any merit to it.”