Georgia governor orders probe into 'sloppy' November 2020 vote counts in Fulton County

Brian Kemp says some audited results from state's largest county are "inconsistent" and erroneous. One count of 950 votes for Biden actually appears to be just 92.
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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp
(Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In a rare act for a state chief executive, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has referred the audited November 2020 election results in the state's largest voting metropolis to the State Election Board after multiple reviews found significant problems with absentee ballot counting that included duplicate tallies, math errors and transposed data.

Kemp referred Fulton County's risk-limiting audit results this week to election regulators, saying he was not asking for any changes to the declaration that Joe Biden beat Donald Trump but was alarmed by the level of sloppy vote counting in the county that includes the city of Atlanta.

The errors could have skewed the audit totals reported to the state by several thousand votes, according to a 36-item summary Kemp included with his letter. Biden was declared the state's winner by about 12,000 votes.

"The data that exists in public view on the Secretary of State's website of the RLA Report does not inspire confidence," he wrote in his referral letter. "It is sloppy, inconsistent, and presents questions about what processes were used by Fulton County to arrive at the result."

Kemp's referral comes several months after a Just the News investigative report first raised questions about the audited election tallies Fulton County reported to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office after conducting a hand count known a risk-limiting audit.

Just the News reported the tally sheets Fulton County used for the audit/recount absentee ballots did not match totals from ballot images, in some cases appeared to include duplicate counts, and used batch numbers that did not correspond to existing ballot stacks.

A separate review conducted by Georgia lawyer Bob Cheeley, likewise, found irregularities this summer.

The referral to the State Elections Board is likely to add fuel to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's push to place Fulton County elections into state receivership, meaning state officials and not county workers would supervise the next few elections.                   

Kemp wrote he first learned of the problems when a Georgia citizen named Joseph Rossi compared the audit tally sheets to ballot images, and found similar problems as those enumerated in the Just the News article.

Rossi recently referred his concerns to Kemp's office, which did a similar analysis and confirmed there appeared to be serious errors in the final audited tallies Fulton County reported to the state.

Kemp's referral letter identified numerous instances in which batches of absentee ballots appeared to have been counted twice.

For instance, one batch of ballots that awarded 93 votes to Biden and just four for Trump "appears to be duplicated" on the final report to the state, the letter said.

"The batch entry on Row 19676, identified as AbsenteeScanner3Batch 368, nearly matches the same vote count reported by the batch entry on Row 19677, identified as Absentee Scanner 3 Batch 368. The lone exception being that Row 19677 reports an additional vote for Jorgensen. One of these entries appears to be duplicated," Kemp wrote.

Some of the duplicate counts flagged by Kemp were quite large. For instance, one duplicate gave 745 votes more to Biden than the ballot images actually showed.

Sometimes vote tallies were transposed, the letter said. For instance one batch of absentee votes was counted as 76 for Trump and 22 for Biden when the ballot images show it was the opposite tally in favor of Biden.

The Kemp-Rossi review also found two batches of absentee ballots in which all 100 votes in each batch were given to Biden. In fact, the actual images show Biden only got 60 votes in one batch and 78 in the other.

The largest tally of all Biden votes that Fulton County reported was 950 votes for Biden and none for Trump, all apparently from a batch of military absentee ballots.

But when Kemp and Rossi went to the images, the tallies were magnitudes smaller: just 92 votes for Biden and six for Trump, the letter said.

Rossi also flagged several batches of ballots that included misidentified batch numbers for which there were no corresponding ballot images, something that led some experts last summer to worry there were missing batches of ballots.

In fact, Kemp's letter said, it was likely Fulton County wrote down erroneous batch numbers.    

"The 36 inconsistencies noted by Mr. Rossi are factual in nature, pose no underlying theories outside of the reported data, and could not be explained by my office after a thorough review detailed below," the governor wrote the elections board.  

"The purpose of this letter is to convey these inconsistencies to the Board and request them to be explained or corrected," Kemp added. "To be clear, this letter does not purport to dispute or contest the outcome of the 202O election, but rather to highlight apparent  inconsistencies discovered in the RLA Report data."

Kemp's letter ordered the board to force corrections to any vote totals if there were "verified errors" and to "review the audit methodology used in counties across Georgia, and create a prescriptive and uniform set of rules that ensure one process is followed by all counties."