No evidence has been presented that there was widespread fraud or irregularities with absentee ballots in Georgia in the November election.
But that hasn’t stopped supporters of President Donald Trump from calling for an audit of the signatures on absentee ballots.
“It seems simple enough to conduct a sample audit of signatures on the absentee ballot envelopes and compare those to the signatures on applications and on file at the Secretary of State’s office,” said Gov. Brian Kemp shortly after he certified Georgia’s election results on Nov. 20.
Kemp reiterated that call at a press conference at the capitol on Tuesday.
But neither Kemp, nor President Trump, nor Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are offering any proof of why the audit is actually needed.
A statewide audit of the presidential election took place earlier this month. It included a hand count of all 4.9 million ballots. Counties are currently sending every ballot through a scanner again as part of a recount requested by the Trump administration. But officials in the Secretary of State’s office have rejected calls for an audit of absentee ballot signatures.
Signature Verification Process
In Georgia, when an absentee ballot application is received, county officials match that signature with the one from the person’s registration form. Only then do voters get an absentee ballot.
Then when the ballot is returned, the signature on the outside of the envelope is compared again. There were more than 2,000 absentee ballots rejected in the November election in Georgia because of a missing or invalid signature, roughly the same percentage as in 2018.
“That whole process, took place, starting a few weeks before the election,” said Richard Barron, elections director in Fulton County, where nearly 147,000 votes were cast by mail in November.
It was then – with the ballots still sealed inside the envelope – when parties should have contested any signatures, says Gabriel Sterling with the Secretary of State’s office.
“Both parties, had the opportunity to view this in real time when it was being done. Both of them made, I assume a decision, that they didn’t need to do that,” said Sterling.
Once the signatures are verified the envelopes and the ballots are separated.
So while an audit could find invalid signatures – they can’t be be tied back to any ballots. So the only thing a judge could do is throw out every absentee ballot in a county.
“I don’t think there’s a judge in the land that would throw out of all those legally cast votes if there’s proof of a handful of illegally cast ones, potentially, which again, we’ve seen no proof or evidence that actually exists,” said Sterling.
Almost two-thirds of the 1.3 million absentee ballots in Georgia were cast for president-elect Joe Biden.
So calls from Trump supporters for a signature audit – impractical as they may be – are likely to continue.