Two months after the November 3 presidential election, the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and county officials in the state have failed to produce chain of custody documents known as ballot transfer forms that tracked the movement of 76 percent of the estimated 600,000 absentee ballots deposited in 300 drop boxes around the state and subsequently delivered to county registrars responsible for accurately and honestly counting those votes in that election.
Neither Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger nor the Georgia State Election Board have taken any actions in the subsequent two months to ensure that this failure to transparently produce these chain of custody documents will not be repeated two days from now on Tuesday when the two U.S. Senate runoff elections that will determine which party will have the majority in the U.S. Senate are held.
In order to account for the secure whereabouts for absentee ballots left in drop boxes across the state, the Georgia Election Code Emergency Rule approved by State Election Board on July 1, 2020, required that every county is responsible for documenting the transfer of every batch of absentee ballots picked up at drop boxes and delivered to the county election offices with ballot transfer forms. The forms are required to be signed and dated, with time of pick up by the collection team upon pick up, and then signed, dated, with time of delivery by the registrar or designee upon receipt and accepted.
The Georgia Star News reported earlier on the details of Secretary Raffensperger’s disinterest in transparently making chain of custody documents for absentee ballots readily available to the public:
As Breitbart News reported in November, Secretary of State Raffensperger does not know how many of the 1.3 million ABM “Absentee by Mail” ballots counted in the November 3 election were delivered by mail and how many were delivered via drop boxes.
A poll by McLaughlin and Associates of Georgia voters released in December indicated that about 600,000 of the 1.3 million ABM ballots were delivered by drop boxes and 700,000 were delivered by mail.
Since Secretary of State Raffensperger and the Georgia State Election Board showed no desire to make these critical chain of custody documents available to the public, The Star News decided to undertake the task as a matter of public interest.
From December 1 to December 13, The Star News sent open records requests for ballot transfer forms to all of the state’s 159 counties.
To date, 28 counties have responded with records of the ballot transfer forms, which account for just 140,628 of the estimated 600,000 absentee ballots placed in drop boxes during the November 3 election, or a mere 23. 4 percent. You can see the breakdown by responding county in the chart at the bottom of this story.
Two months after the November 3 election, no chain of custody documents have been produced by either state or county officials for more than three-fourths (76.6 percent, or 459,372) of the estimated 600,000 absentee ballots placed in drop boxes and subsequently transmitted to county registrars by election workers.
Another 25 counties have responded by stating they did not have any drop box locations. Those counties include: Atkinson, Burke, Candler, Charlton, Chattooga, Dade, Effingham, Emanual, Glascock, Haralson, Heard, Jenkins, Macon, Meriwether, Miller, Montgomery, Randolph, Stewart, Talliaferro, Treutlen, Twiggs, Warren, Webster, Wilcox and Wilkinson.
An additional five counties – Appling, Floyd, Forsyth, Jeff Davis, and Madison-have told The Star News they will make their ballot transfer form records available to the public upon the payment of a processing fee.
Two counties – Fulton, Gwinnett – have responded by saying they don’t know if they have documents responsive to the open records request but will provide an answer to that question at some time in the near future. In the case of Fulton County, that time in the near future could be as late as January 19, 2021.
One county – DeKalb – told The Star News they were unsure if responsive documents existed as we reported in this December 5 article, and then on December 15 provided documents that were not ballot transfer forms responsive to the request but were instead documents that showed the movement of containers filled with absentee ballots from “pre-tabulation” areas to “tabulation areas,” as we reported in this December 17 article.
One county – Coffee – said they will process the ballot transfer form request once the Election Supervisor recovers from illness.
One county – Worth – said, “nothing in this chapter shall require agencies to produce records in response to a request if such records did not exist at the time of the request.”
Shockingly, 96 Georgia counties have not responded at all to The Star News open records request for ballot transfer forms from the November 3 election.
Here is the breakdown, by the 28 responding counties, of the 140,628 absentee ballots deposited in drop boxes for which there is now a publicly available ballot transfer form chain of custody:
- Bartow totals 4,909
- Butts totals 481
- Catoosa totals 532
- Cherokee totals 17,033
- Clarke totals 4,909
- Cobb totals 89,860
- Colquitt totals 571
- Cook totals 530
- Decatur totals 963
- Dougherty totals 3,793
- Elbert totals 440
- Gilmer total 513
- Lincoln totals 513
- Lowndes totals 3,266
- McDuffie totals 738
- Murray totals 162
- Oconee totals 3,016
- Oglethorpe totals 636
- Pierce totals 444
- Pike totals 495
- Rabun totals 1,163
- Schley totals 64
- Tattnall totals 282
- Telfair totals 401
- Terrell totals 105
- Towns totals 1,197
- Walton totals 3,198
- White totals 414
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Tiffany Morgan is a reporter at The Georgia Star News and the Star News Network. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Poll Worker” by Phil Roeder. CC BY 2.0.