Count them all

Sharon Gregg, assistant director of elections in Walton County, Ga., feeds ballots into a machine as part of the recount of the presidential race Monday morning, Nov. 30, 2020. President Donald Trump’s campaign requested the recount after falling short in the state by a close margin. Looking on is Board of Elections member Henry Ivey.

Walton County voting officials began their machine recount of the presidential race Monday, nearly a month after Election Day.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden has been called the winner of Georgia’s presidential race. A “risk-limiting audit” ordered by the secretary of state found Biden defeated President Donald Trump by 12,670 votes out of 5 million cast, and also revealed votes from the Between precinct that weren’t tallied on election night.

Meanwhile, Trump has attacked the integrity of Georgia’s elections and state officials, including fellow Republicans Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Trump, in a Sunday interview on Fox Business, said he was “ashamed” of his 2018 endorsement of Kemp during the GOP runoff for governor.

Kemp was locked in a battle with then-Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who’d been endorsed by then-Gov. Nathan Deal a day before Trump tweeted his endorsement less than a week before the election.

Kemp went on to win the nomination in a landslide, and Trump campaigned for Kemp in Georgia two days before the general election.

“The governor’s done nothing,” Trump said Sunday. “He’s done absolutely nothing. I’m ashamed that I endorsed him. But I look at what’s going on. It’s so terrible.”

Trump continued his diatribe Monday, tweeting that Kemp is the “hapless Governor of Georgia” and urging him to overrule Raffensperger.

But that’s not going to happen. A spokesman for Kemp said state law prohibits the governor from getting involved and that the secretary of state’s oversight of elections may not be overruled by an executive order.

Raffensperger, who has faced attacks from fellow Republicans and threats from Trump allies in recent days, on Monday denounced “dishonest actors” for spreading “massive amounts of misinformation” about Georgia’s election integrity since the Nov. 3 election.

“There are those who are exploiting the emotions of many Trump supporters with fantastic claims, half-truths [and] misinformation,” Raffensperger said at a news conference Monday. “And, frankly, they are misleading the president as well, apparently.”

Kemp’s office said the governor supports scrutinizing a sample of absentee-ballot signatures for any irregularities. Election officials in Georgia have repeatedly dismissed claims from Trump and his allies of widespread absentee-ballot signature fraud as unfounded, noting the push to match signatures again without a court order is unlikely since mail-in voters’ signatures were verified before the initial count on Nov. 3.

Two federal lawsuits have been filed so far by Trump allies seeking to force election officials to re-verify voter signatures statewide and halt the election results from reaching the Electoral College.

One suit, filed by Atlanta attorney and vocal Trump supporter Lin Wood, was rejected by a federal judge on grounds it contained scant evidence of any election fraud and would more likely result in disenfranchising millions of Georgia voters. Wood’s attorneys have appealed the ruling.

The second suit, filed late last week by Texas attorney Sidney Powell, accuses Georgia’s new voting equipment of “ballot-stuffing” that allegedly mishandled 96,600 absentee ballots due partly to being compromised by Venezuelan and other foreign actors.

“Georgia’s election officials and poll workers exacerbated and helped, whether knowingly or unknowingly, the [voting] system to carry out massive voter manipulation by refusing to observe statutory safeguards for absentee ballots,” Powell’s lawsuit claims.

A hearing has been set for Friday to determine whether Powell’s legal team can inspect voting machines in Cobb, Gwinnett and Cherokee counties.

Georgia’s chief election manager, Gabriel Sterling, blasted many of the claims found in those lawsuits and circulating on social-media channels as “insanities, fever dreams [and] made-up internet cabal.”

“It’s like playing a game of whack-a-mole,” Sterling said Monday. “Every time we knock down one, there’s a crazier one.”

Still, Sterling noted election officials have launched investigations in some counties stemming from specific fraud and irregularity complaints, including one claim that more absentee ballots were counted than there were envelopes in Gwinnett County.

In all, Sterling and Raffensperger said officials are working through 250 investigations into election issues opened since the start of 2020, though none so far have suggested any evidence of widespread fraud capable of changing the presidential election’s outcome in Georgia.

Raffensperger’s office is now focusing on allegations of groups attempting to register people from outside Georgia and those temporarily staying in the state like college students for the U.S. Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5.

On Monday, Raffensperger highlighted four groups under investigation for allegedly sending mail-in ballot applications to voters in New York City, encouraging out-of-state college students to swap residences for the election and trying to register a dead Alabama woman to vote in the Georgia runoffs.

“This office will continue to take steps to protect the voting rights of the legally registered voters in this state,” Raffensperger said.

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


Email: david.clemons@waltontribune.com

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