A judge in Georgia ruled on Friday to unseal and permit the audit of more than 145,000 absentee ballots cast for Joe Biden and Donald Trump in Fulton County during the 2020 presidential election.
Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero allowed the ballots to be audited, but the ballots must remain in Fulton county’s possession to prevent mishandling, and the results of the audit cannot change the certified election, Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported on Friday.
The details of the audit are not established with Friday’s ruling, but will instead be decided in a future decision.
The lawsuit was brought forth by nine plaintiffs who argued that some of the ballots were fraudulent, and the counting processes were plagued by irregularities.
The claims were investigated by the office of the secretary of state, who viewed hours of video from election day. The claims were dismissed when they declared nothing improper had taken place.
Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer for the secretary of state’s office, said in March that witnessed were wrong in describing what they saw. “They don’t understand what they’re saying,” he told Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the time.
According to Georgia elections data, 115,788 absentee ballots were cast for Biden, 29,479 for Trump, and 1,727 for Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen. Overall, Biden won Fulton County with a total of 381,144 votes – or 72.65% — while Trump received 137,240 votes – or 26.16%.
The ballots have remained sealed in the Fulton County Superior Court Clerk’s Office, in accordance with state law. Judge Amero said they will remain there until the audit details are determined.
Amero said the audit will entail county officials scanning absentee ballots to develop high-resolution images, which will then be examined by the plaintiffs –at their expense – to determine their validity. The images would reveal whether ballots were completed by hand or mass reproduction with a copy machine.
The plaintiffs requested taking the absentee ballots into their possession and transferring them to a private company to scan and inspect them, but Amero denied that request.
A statement released by Fulton County said it “will continue to participate in the judicial process that will ultimately validate the integrity of the elections process.”
Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts slammed the decision.
“It is outrageous that Fulton County continues to be a target of those who cannot accept the results from last year’s election,” Pitts told Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The votes have been counted multiple times, including a hand recount, and no evidence of fraud has been found.
Former Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who chairs the voter registration group Greater Georgia Action, said, “Unfortunately, inconsistencies in Fulton County’s November 2020 absentee ballots cast serious doubt on voters’ faith in our elections.”