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GBI: Mail-in ballot signature audit for Cobb County finds no fraud
Lines were sparse outside the Cobb County Regional Library voter precinct through noon on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020. (Photo by Beau Evans)

Georgia investigators found no evidence of fraud in an audit of more than 15,000 absentee ballots in Cobb County stemming from a probe Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger launched earlier this month.

Agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) called in to help conduct the audit found just two ballot envelopes with faulty signatures out of 15,118 envelopes examined late last week, GBI Director Vic Reynolds said at a news conference Wednesday.

Those ballots included one voter who signed the wrong part of the absentee oath envelope and another voter who signed the envelope for her spouse, Reynolds said. Neither instance was fraudulent.

“During the course of the audit, there were no fraudulent absentee ballots identified,” Reynolds said.

Investigators examined 10% of the roughly 150,000 mail-in ballots cast in Cobb for the Nov. 3 presidential election, marking a percentage able to verify with near-certainty the accuracy of the county’s signature-verification efforts, Reynolds added.

Absentee ballots in Georgia are verified once when a voter requests a ballot, then again on signature-bearing envelopes sent to county election boards. Those envelopes are separated from the absentee ballots to protect voters’ ballot selections and preserve voter privacy, according to state law.

The audit followed a complaint from a Cobb elections worker that processes for checking absentee signatures for the June 9 primary election seemed lax. State officials next plan to conduct a statewide study with the University of Georgia of signatures accompanying the roughly 1.3 million absentee ballots cast in the Nov. 3 election.

Raffensperger ordered the audit in part to boost confidence in the integrity of Georgia’s election system amid fraud claims from President Donald Trump and his allies that have injected doubt into the system ahead of the high-stakes U.S. Senate runoffs on Jan. 5.

Investigators in Raffensperger’s office are also working on about 130 complaints of alleged fraud in last month’s election, though state officials have repeatedly said they have found no evidence of any widespread fraud following two recounts and several tossed-out federal lawsuits.

“The Secretary of State’s office has always been focused on calling balls and strikes in elections,” Raffensperger said in a statement. “And in this case, three strikes against the voter fraud claims and they’re out.”

The audit’s results did not satisfy President Donald Trump, who lashed out at Raffensperger Wednesday on Twitter and called top-ranked Republicans in Georgia like Gov. Brian Kemp “a complete disaster” for not ordering a deeper mail-in signature audit.

Raffensperger has called on state lawmakers to change Georgia’s election laws during the upcoming 2021 legislative session by adding stricter voter ID requirements, eliminating mail-in voting without cause and giving state officials power to remove poor-performing county election managers.