Fulton County elections officials have again failed to deliver complete absentee ballot drop box transfer forms to The Georgia Star News that they provided to Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) News last week.
This screen capture of the Fulton County Public Records Center webpage at 6:30 p.m. ET Monday, June 21 confirms that not only has the open records request submitted by The Star News on June 18 been received, but it is still showing a status of “in progress” versus “completed.”
The Star News broke the news on Monday, June 14, that a Fulton County elections official admitted that “a few forms are missing” and that during a COVID outbreak at the Elections Preparation Center (EPC) “some procedural paperwork may have been misplaced,” with regard to 385 drop box transfer forms The Star News is still missing from 1,565 transfer forms Fulton County recorded on a spreadsheet that tracked daily absentee ballot collections during the November 2020 election.
The missing documents represent 24 percent of Fulton County’s total transfer forms that were required by the State Board of Election Emergency Rule 183-1-14-0.8-.14 promulgated in July 2020 to document the chain of custody of absentee ballots placed in drop boxes for the November 3, 2020, election.
Two days later, on Wednesday, June 16, GPB News reported that they had received the documents from Fulton County.
“[A]fter GPB News asked the [Fulton] county Monday about the forms not included in the Georgia Star’s records request, elections staff located all but eight of the more than 1,500 forms,” and “provided them to GPB News on a flash drive.”
While GPB News also acknowledged Fulton County’s missing forms by virtue of the “all but eight” statement, GPB News is apparently in receipt of 377 (385 forms The Star News has been shorted less the 8 forms GPB News was shorted) more transfer forms than The Star News, despite our earlier open records request.
Also, Fulton County was apparently responsive to GPB News within 48 hours of their request.
Meanwhile, The Star News request for the same documentation has been unfulfilled in terms of completeness for more than six months.
The initial open records request for all chain of custody documents for absentee ballots deposited into drop boxes for the November 3, 2020, election, was submitted to Fulton County by The Star News in December 2020.
Fulton County provided to The Star News on January 22 two PDF files with labels ending in “BX1” and “BX3.” In addition to it seeming that a file ending in “BX2” was missing, the combined files appeared to have been short an estimated 30,000 absentee ballots.
The estimate was derived from a Secretary of State reported 1.3 million absentee ballots cast in the November 2020 election. Based on polling conducted by John McLaughlin & Associates, 700,000 of those ballots were sent via regular mail and 600,000 were deposited into the estimated 300 drop boxes located around the state of Georgia.
This information was shared with Fulton County on April 8, which resulted in a thumb drive being supplied to The Star News on May 3 that was supposed to have all of the transfer files, including a re-scan of those previously supplied on January 22.
After conducting a thorough analysis, The Star News advised Fulton County on May 17 that it still appeared 385 drop box transfer forms representing 18,901 absentee ballots were missing.
The more detailed information could be provided by The Star News, mainly due to a spreadsheet titled “Absentee Ballot Drop Box – Daily County – November 3 2020” Fulton County provided on May 3 along with the additional transfer forms.
It was in their reply of June 9, that Fulton County Election and Registration Board Secretary Mariska Bodison (pictured above) admitted that some documents were still missing, but they disagreed with the 19,000 absentee ballots.
The Star News analysis of all of the absentee ballot data revealed that drop box transfer forms for about 59,000 absentee ballots had been received.
A review of the Fulton County daily count spreadsheet and comparing it to the transfer forms received showed that 385 forms for 18,901 ballots Fulton County documented were still missing.
The Star News emailed Fulton County’s Bodison on Friday, June 18, to provide further details on how the 19,000 drop box absentee ballots was derived, as well as requesting the documents Fulton County provided to GPB News.
Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) reported Wednesday, June 16, 2021, that “after GPB News asked the [Fulton] county Monday about the forms not included in the Georgia Star’s records request, elections staff located all but 8 of the more than 1,500 forms” and “provided them to GPB News on a flash drive.”
The Georgia Star News requests your response to the following requests.
A) Provide to The Georgia Star News the absentee ballot drop box transfer forms that were provided to Georgia Public Broadcasting that have not yet been provided to The Georgia Star News.
B) An explanation as to why the previously “missing” absentee ballot drop box transfer forms were provided to Georgia Public Broadcasting within 48 hours of their request on Monday, June 14, 2021, but not to The Georgia Star News, despite the incomplete responses to our three open records requests dating back to December 2020.
C) An explanation as to why GPB was able to receive from Fulton County within 48 hours of their request on Monday, June 14, 2021, the same records that The Georgia Star News initially requested in December 2020 and has received from Fulton County three incomplete responses.
A response was requested by end of business, Monday, June 21, and that request has gone unfulfilled by Fulton County.
Garland Favorito, who runs election integrity advocacy group VoterGA.org, is the lead petitioner in a case to unseal all of the 147,000 absentee ballots from the November 2020 election in Fulton County.
In addition to the legal battles Favorito has experienced with Fulton County, he has had issues similar to that of The Star News with regard to open records requests for the absentee ballot chain of custody documents.
Favorito told The Star News, “We submitted the same basic request for our Fulton County inspection case that The Georgia Star News did, only months earlier, and we received forms from Fulton County for approximately the same number of ballots that The Georgia Star News received.”
Neither Fulton County or GPB News have made the chain of custody documents available to the public by posting them on their website or publishing them in a story.
The Star News published digital images of all of the absentee ballot drop box transfer forms received May 3 from Fulton County on a thumb drive, which can be found here.
Laura Baigert is a senior reporter with The Star News Network, where she covers stories for The Tennessee Star and The Georgia Star News.
Image “Mariska Bodison” by Georgia Board of Elections.