Newly published notes jotted down by an election monitor detail a slew of issues witnessed in Georgia’s largest county during the 2020 election.
Carter Jones was tapped by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to observe firsthand the election in Fulton County. His notes detail what he saw from Nov. 2 to Nov. 7, 2020.
Problems started from the time Jones arrived at the English Street warehouse, which holds various election materials, at approximately 9 p.m. after Raffensperger’s office received reports throughout the afternoon of materials not being delivered to polling places in a timely manner, or at all.
Just four minutes after arriving, Jones saw an election official working to reset poll pads for a precinct. The precinct only received one bag of pads, despite the system at the warehouse showing both had been checked out.
Jones said many bags of pads and other materials were not packed and paperwork was not matching up. He used the word “chaos” and said there was much “confusion.” One county official blamed the secretary of state’s office, claiming they received a “flawed file,” but officials with the office responded that the alleged issue was “easy to disprove.”
Issues continued cropping up on Election Day. At State Farm Arena, Jones said there were “too many ballots coming in for secure black ballot boxes,” so workers were moving them in rolling bins 2,000 at a time.
“This seems like a massive chain of custody problem. It is my understanding that the ballots are supposed to be moved in numbered, sealed boxes to protect them,” he said.
Later in the night, the monitor became aware of reports that Fulton County officials said they were stopping counting for the night, prompting observers to leave, only to resume with no one monitoring them.
Jones did not arrive until about an hour after workers resumed counting.
At approximately 12:08 a.m. on Nov. 5, Jones reported that “order is starting to break down.”
Ralph Jones, a Fulton County election official, “newly re-scanned some ballots that had already been processed by Shaye” Moss, an election worker, Jones added.
“Inspector James Callaway arrives to investigate the accusations that the Fulton staff had told the press to go home and were scanning without observers,” he reported shortly afterward.
Staff finally sealed up the ballot bins about 30 minutes later, after leaving them unsealed for an undetermined period of time.
Jones left and went to sleep after swinging back by the warehouse.
As workers tried to scan adjudicated ballots in the afternoon of Nov. 5, all five scanners went down and Dominion Voting Systems technology employees began uploading to flash drives. Best practices say not to take down all scanners at once, and a backlog started building, according to the monitor’s notes.
Fulton County adjudicated some 106,000 ballots. That process applies to ballots that the tabulating machines could not read. People then pore over the paper to see if they can ascertain who the voter wanted to vote for.
At 7:07 p.m., workers started hearing they’d scanned just 10,000 ballots in five hours. “People are realizing that there is at least another 8-10 hours of work to finish up so the staff redouble their efforts,” Jones said.
A fresh wave of workers arrived about 30 minutes later. Jones heard one worker ask a colleague whether they were “ready for a long night.” The second replied, “yeah, I’m ready to [expletive] [expletive] up.”
“I must keep an eye on these two. Perhaps this was a bad joke, but it was very poorly timed in the presence of a poll watcher,” Jones wrote, wondering about the vetting practices of Happy Faces, which hires the temporary workers. He also said that there seemed to be “lots of training on the fly happening” with the workers who had recently arrived.
As the girlfriend of Elections Director Rick Barron visited with him despite lacking credentials to be in the room, Barron was reading tweets from fans who enjoyed his wearing of a Portland Timbers lanyard, Jones said around 10:30 p.m. Meanwhile, staffers were working hard to speed up their work.
Barron was fired in February but remains at his job.
Pressed for time, workers kept going into the early hours of the next morning. But the slog was wearing them down. Ralph Jones, for instance, was “making mistakes.”
“Staff member tells him that he miscounted the same batch twice. He was off by one both times,” the monitor wrote.
Jones, the monitor, later said that Moss found some “sloppy final paperwork” submitted by one of the workers.
Around 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 6, one worker, described as “panicked,” told Jones that four boxes or trays of ballots were “found” at the warehouse. Ralph Jones said the ballots were cured and collected before the polls closed. The worker later agreed, saying the ballots were not “found.” Jones reminded both of “the importance of precise language when the stakes are so high.”
The counting finally ended on Nov. 7.
Jones’s notes were obtained and published (pdf) by Just the News. Raffensperger’s office confirmed the authenticity of the notes to The Epoch Times. Fulton County did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Jones.
The county is currently under investigation after legally required ballot transfer forms went missing.
The presence of the monitor was made possible by a consent order approved by the State Election Board, which Raffensperger chairs, in 2020. The order was agreed upon after Fulton County was plagued with problems in prior elections.
The notes and a report that Jones later submitted to the board were not released before now because “it just didn’t occur to us” to post them, a spokesman for Raffensperger told The Epoch Times via email.
A bill that Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed into law opens up the possibility that elections in counties that repeatedly have problems running them be taken over by the state officials. Raffensperger supported that provision, the spokesman said.
In a statement to news outlets after the recent probe was announced, Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts accused Raffensperger of “laying the groundwork for a hostile takeover of Fulton County’s Board of Registrations & Elections.”
“His comrades in this fight are conspiracy theorists who promote the same Big Lie that he purportedly doesn’t believe. The votes have been counted three times, including a hand recount, and President Biden came out ahead every time. Given the results in 2020, I would suggest he focus more on the next election than relitigating this last one,” Pittman said.
Jones, the monitor, said in his final report said that what happened between 10:30 p.m. and 11:52 p.m. on Election Night at State Farm Arena “continues to be elusive.” If poll watchers were being truthful in their recounting of what happened, “then there is a serious problem,” he wrote.
Raffensperger’s chief investigator said in an affidavit in December 2020 that observers and the media “were not asked to leave” but “simply left on their own” when a group of workers left. She also said there were “no mystery ballots” brought out from under hidden tables, as had been alleged by some.
Jones also described “persistent chain of custody issues throughout the entire absentee ballot processing system” relating to both the 2020 election and the risk-limiting audit that took place.
Jones recommended improved training, stronger processes, and some type of post-action review to identify problems and solutions.
Raffensperger has said the election largely ran smoothly and there has been no indication of enough fraud to swing the election. Democrat Joe Biden beat former President Donald Trump by less than 12,000 votes, according to the certified results. Prior to 2020, no Democrat had won Georgia since 1992.
Jones, who has experience monitoring elections from time with the International Republican Institute, told the State Election Board in February that he observed “a lot of sloppy processes,” including “the kind of fingerprints of what I will call systemic disorganization.”
However, “at no point in my more than 270 hours around Fulton County’s election processes from October to January did I see any illegality, fraud, or intentional malfeasance,” he also said.