See disputed Georgia ballots where election workers decided a vote was for Biden, not Trump

State policy appears to allow subjective worker judgment in divining voter intent where vote is unclear.

Published: August 6, 2021 11:04am

Updated: August 8, 2021 11:21pm

As part of a review of hundreds of pages of election documents from Georgia's Fulton County, Just the News reviewed dozens of disputed ballots in which election workers known as "adjudicators" determined that a voter intended to vote for Democratic candidate Joe Biden instead of Republican incumbent Donald Trump. 

Just the News's review of the Fulton documents revealed a system rife with subjective judgment of thousands of ballots on the part of a small number of election workers, all of it governed by a confusing patchwork of state laws that simultaneously seemed to sanction and proscribe the practice of ballot adjudication. 

Votes for candidates of all types — Democratic, Republican and independent — were subject to the adjudication process. Many ballots reviewed by Just the News, meanwhile, revealed adjudication decisions regarding votes for Trump that ranged from the obvious to the uncertain. 

In one ballot, for instance, a voter bubbled in a vote for Trump before drawing a big X through the choice and opting instead for Biden. In another case, a voter did the same thing and added "NOT MY CHOICE" above Trump's name, along with the voter's initials. 

Those examples constitute some of the more self-evident judgment calls that adjudicators would have to make. Others were less clear. 

In one, for instance, the voter scribbled in bubbles for both Trump and Biden, after which he or she appears to have appended a tiny check mark next to Biden's name with no commentary. The adjudicator awarded the ballot to Biden. 

In another, a voter heavily scribbled the bubble next to Trump and then put a small checkmark in Biden's bubble. In still another, the voter messily bubbled in Biden's name but drew a larger X through the bubble beside Trump. Both ballots went to Biden. 

The images highlight the difficult and in many cases purely instinctive nature of ballot adjudication, where election workers might be confronted with an obvious judgment call on one ballot and then far more uncertain decisions on many others. 

Georgia code stipulates that ballots with more than the permitted number of votes should be rejected by tabulators and reviewed by adjudication teams in the manner as was done in the ballots above. 

Yet Georgia law also states that ballots should be considered "spoiled" if a voter has "cast more than the permitted number of votes." A spoiled ballot "shall not be reinstated," the code states, suggesting that any ballots deemed as such should not be used. 

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