Jenni Phipps

Jennifer Phipps, director of elections in Walton County, watches while Sharon Gregg, then the assistant director of elections, takes part in the recount of the presidential election on Nov. 30, 2020, in Monroe, Ga.

MONROE, Ga. — Georgia’s attorney general will consider what to do about the votes that originally went uncounted in Walton County last fall.

The State Elections Board voted last week to refer the case to Attorney General Chris Carr’s office.

An audit of the November general election revealed 284 ballots cast at the Between precinct weren’t counted on election night. At the time, Chairwoman Lori Wood of the Walton County Board of Elections, said a memory card from one of two scanners at the polling place didn’t get uploaded.

That caused the votes to be left off the original tabulation. That netted 176 votes to President Donald Trump, still not enough for the Republican incumbent to avoid losing out on Georgia’s electoral votes to eventual President Joe Biden.

The votes also weren’t enough to avert a runoff in the regular or special Senate elections, which also swung to Democrats in January.

Also catching the attention of the State Elections Board was a voter, Clarence Baty, receiving a letter about his absentee ballot too late for an issue with the signature to be resolved.

State officials alleged local Board of Elections members failed to ensure all memory cards were uploaded into the election management system.

“During the hand audit, it was found that they were over in the total number of ballots compared to the total number uploaded,” officials said. “It was determined that the number of ballots from the Between precinct did not match and a second card scanner had not been uploaded.”

The board approved a recommendation to refer Jennifer Phipps, the county’s elections director, to the attorney general’s office “for failure to verify and upload all memory cards” and “for failure to send a rejection letter.”

Wood told the State Elections Board that the county acknowledges the error with the Between precinct votes.

“We put corrective measures in place for the January runoff,” she said. “We created a chain of custody log so at this point, we would have three signatures — returned by, accepted by, uploaded by — to ensure that each memory card was uploaded.”

Wood said, in defense of local elections workers, that a technician from Dominion Voting Systems also missed the memory card and that the system used before the 2020 elections “wouldn’t let us submit anything until all the cards were in.”

She said the county received Baty’s absentee ballot on time and called and sent a letter to notify him of an issue.

“We had until that Friday to get that resolved and we didn’t get the cure affidavit in by then,” Wood said. “We feel like we did our due diligence on that part.”

Chris Carr

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr speaks at a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, at the state Capitol in Atlanta.

Board members voted 3-0 to accept the staff recommendation to forward the complaint to Carr’s office.

The meeting April 28 was the first for the State Election Board since Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly removed Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s voting powers on the board.

Georgia’s recent controversial election legislation changing mail-in and early voting requirements included a new rule stripping the secretary of state’s chairmanship of the board and giving state lawmakers the authority to appoint its chair.

Vice Chairwoman Rebecca Sullivan led the board meeting last week in Raffensperger’s stead amid complaints from the board’s sole Democrat, David Worley, who panned the Republican-pushed election legislation as “completely ignorant” and driven by refuted claims of voter fraud.

A new nonpartisan board chair has not yet been picked by the General Assembly or approved by Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed the elections bill and has repeatedly touted the voting law changes as needed to bolster confidence in Georgia’s election system.

Beau Evans of the Capitol Beat News Service contributed to this report.


Email: david.clemons@waltontribune.com

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