Fulton County election officials provided two different versions of 34 completed critical chain of custody documents for absentee ballot drop boxes from the November 2020 election.
Shockingly, the documents Fulton County provided later, have less information on them indicating that they were produced earlier in time.
The documents were provided by Fulton County in two separate responses–one in January and one in May– to open records requests made by The Georgia Star News, which remain incomplete even six months after the election, The Star News reported.
In December, The Star News made an open records request that Fulton County produce copies of all transfer forms documenting the chain of custody in the transfer of absentee ballots that were deposited in drop boxes to the county registrar during the November 2020 election.
The absentee ballot drop box transfer forms are a requirement of the State Election Board Emergency Rule 183-1-14-1.8-.14 adopted on July 1, 2020.
On January 22, Fulton County officials responded with two PDF files with names that ended in “BX_1” and “BX_3” that through preliminary review appeared to include records for 36,635 absentee ballots placed into drop boxes.
In addition to the appearance of missing a PDF file ending in “BX_2,” the number of absentee ballots contained in the two files was significantly less than the 70,000 that was expected to have been deposited into Fulton County drop boxes, The Star News reported.
On April 8, these findings were shared with Fulton County officials, who sent an automated response the same day and then followed up on April 15, extending their response time to April 19. The response time was later extended again until April 23.
In the meantime, a more thorough review revealed that the file ending in “BX_1” contained transfer forms for the period September 29 through October 5, and the file ending in “BX_3” contained transfer forms for the period October 23 through November 3.
In other words, no transfer forms were provided for the 18-day period of October 6 through October 22.
The requested records were made available via a zip drive by Fulton County on May 3 and picked up by The Star News the same day.
At the time, Fulton County officials indicated that all of the relative documents were re-scanned onto the zip drive. This time, the absentee ballot drop box transfer forms were saved in separate files, named for the date of the ballot collection.
In addition to providing more transfer forms than the two previous PDF files, “BX_1” and “BX_3, the zip drive also included many duplicates of the transfer forms contained in the two earlier files.
Additionally, the zip drive included a spreadsheet not previously provided by Fulton County titled “Absentee Ballot Drop Box – Daily County – November 3 2020.” The spreadsheet tracked the number of absentee ballots and applications collected over 41 voting days at each of the 37 Fulton County drop box locations.
It should be noted, however, the open records request remains incomplete because Fulton County still failed to provide drop box absentee ballot transfer forms for six dates – September 30 as well as October 7, 9, 10, 11 and 20. As The Star News reported, while more than 1,100 drop box transfer forms for 59,000 absentee ballots have been provided to The Star News, it is estimated that, in total, 385 drop box transfer forms covering 18,901 absentee ballots are yet to be provided by Fulton County.
An analysis of the drop box transfer forms conducted by The Star News and reported on here, revealed that, along many other irregularities, 85 percent of the absentee ballots were not “transported immediately,” per the State Election Board Emergency Rule.
But a review of the absentee ballot drop box transfer forms for October 25 is a study in itself.
According to the “BX_3” file from January, 37 collections were made from Fulton County’s absentee ballot drop boxes and documented on a corresponding transfer form.
At first glance, the “October 25” file on the May 3 zip drive appears to have duplicated 33 of the transfer forms from that date.
However, closer scrutiny revealed that all 33 of the transfer forms in the “October 25” file on the May 3 zip drive had no name or signature by the registrar/designee or time of transfer by the collection team.
Yet, all the transfer forms for October 25 provided in the “BX_3” file from January – including the 33 provided in the later file of May 3 – had a name and signature by the registrar/designee along with the time of surrender by the collection team.
Additionally, the number of ballots recorded on the transfer forms from the October 25 drop box collections were changed 15 times in the “BX_3” file from January as compared to the “October 25” file of May 3.
In other words, the second file provided by Fulton County officials more than three months after the first file actually appears to pre-date the first file. This, while Fulton County officials presented the later May 3 file as a re-scan of previously provided files from January 22.
Even within the “BX_3” file from January, one transfer form for the Adamsville / Collier Heights Library dated October 25 was scanned twice.
One Adamsville / Collier Heights Library scan lacked the name, signature or time of transfer to the registrar/designee and showed 13 ballots. The other scan had the name, signature and time of transfer to the registrar/designee written in. It also had the 13 ballots crossed out and 12 written in.
The discrepancies in documentation go beyond those with the transfer forms.
The spreadsheet documenting the daily count of absentee ballots from drop boxes for October 25 differed from the corresponding transfer form 16 times.
In 12 of the 16 instances, Fulton County’s daily count spreadsheet recorded the number of ballots from the transfer form before it was changed and signed by the registrar/designee.
In the remaining 4 instances, the number of ballots recorded on the daily count spreadsheet was a completely different number than recorded on either version of the transfer form and is probably attributable to typographical errors.
The net result in the difference between the changed and signed transfer form and the daily count spreadsheet is a difference of 58 ballots across only 16 transfer forms from just the one date of October 25.
Meanwhile, the November 3 presidential election was decided by 11,599 votes in the state of Georgia.
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Star News Network, The Tennessee Star, and The Georgia Star News.