Influential Georgia senator urges audit of surveillance tapes at ballot drop boxes

State Sen. Burt Jones says mass drop boxes during 2020 election "made it ripe for bad actors to game the system."

Published: November 16, 2021 7:22pm

Updated: November 17, 2021 12:08am

An influential Georgia state senator, who is running for lieutenant governor in 2022, says he believes states like his own that used drop boxes to collect absentee ballots last year should audit the surveillance video tapes that were installed at the voting locations to ensure no shenanigans occurred.

"All those drop boxes that were sent throughout Metro Atlanta, you can't police them if you wanted to, so it just made it ripe for bad actors to game the system," Republican state Sen. Burt Jones told Just the News in an interview this week.

Jones, who is seeking his party's nomination for lieutenant governor next year, said he was disappointed that state authorities like the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the attorney general or secretary of state didn't initiate audits of the video because drop boxes were introduced as a new tactic during the pandemic and raised concerns about potential abuse.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation recently disclosed in a letter it declined to investigate or audit concerns about possible misuse of drop boxes, saying there wasn't enough evidence to warrant such an action.

Jones said he believes the camera footage should still be checked from November 2020 and the January Senate runoff in his state, and that such audits should become part of the future election integrity measures.

"Yes, they should have been audited, the video surveillance cameras," he told the John Solomon Reports podcast.

In Georgia, the use of drop boxes in 2020 was not approved by the Legislature but instead implemented in a consent decree and settlement between state officials and Democratic voter mobilization activists like Stacey Abrams. They were placed at scores of locations across the state, most heavily in the blue areas around Atlanta. The agreement required surveillance cameras record and monitor the boxes.

Jones said he and other legislative colleagues regret not going into special session before the November 2020 election and voting to reverse the consent order, predicting it might have kept the U.S. Senate in GOP hands. The defeat of incumbent GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in a Jan. 5 special election gave Democrats control of the chamber.

"What should have happened is we should have gone into special session, we should have reversed the consent order to allow that David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler have a fighting chance in that runoff election," he said.

Some experts have raised concerns drop boxes could be used to carry out illegal ballot trafficking, where party operatives collect ballots from reluctant or low-propensity voters and deliver them in bunches. Such a tactic, known as harvesting, is outlawed in most states, including Georgia.

Concerned about the potential for abuse, the Georgia Legislature this year as part of a sweeping election integrity package scaled back the use of drop boxes in future elections, requiring they only be used at official voting locations and not in random neighborhoods.

Jones said that was a good step, but he believes more safeguards, like audits, can be created for deterrence to future cheating.

"There are some things I think we can tweak to make it better, to make it easier to vote, and obviously harder to cheat and make it where you can police it better," he said.

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