“Starting immediately, we are pulling all of our resources together with GBI [Georgia Bureau of Investigation], to conduct a signature match audit in Cobb County. Vote privacy is top of mind and we will never release how someone voted. We are only reviewing the signatures on the envelope,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger said at a Monday briefing.
“We recently received a report that Cobb County may not have conducted a proper signature match in June, and we will look into that claim. We hope to release the findings of this audit two weeks from today.”
The audit will consist of reviewing a statistically significant subset of the signed absentee ballot envelopes and comparing those signatures to the ones on file in Georgia’s voter registration system, the Secretary of State’s Office announced on its website.
Raffensperger also announced a planned statewide signature match audit. His office will partner with an accredited university to conduct a third-party signature match statewide audit study.
Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting implementation systems manager, said that Cobb County is the only county “with a specific allegation where the process may not have been followed.” As such, this is the only county where an investigation applies, which will include reviewing a sampling of signatures on ballot envelopes.
“Right now, we have a specific allegation in Cobb of the process not being followed properly, so under our investigatory powers, that is where we’re starting,” said Sterling. “That is not to say there couldn’t be other counties or a statewide situation at a later date for post-certification review.”
“And for all we know, [the process] was followed. That’s the hopeful outcome that we’re going to see, but we can’t say that until we actually do the investigation,” he said.
He later added, “this is about investigating the allegation, a lot at the same time, enhancing people’s fundamental belief in the overall system.”
Raffensberger said in a statement, “Though the outcome of the race in Georgia will not change, conducting this audit follows in the footsteps of the audit-triggered hand recount we conducted in November to provide further confidence in the accuracy, security, and reliability of the vote in Georgia.”
Georgia has seen two recounts and its officials twice affirmed Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s victory. However the two recounts were without signature verifications, which were one of the main points of contention from the Trump campaign.
The totals in Georgia now stand at 2,474,507 for Biden and 2,461,837 votes for President Donald Trump. Libertarian Jo Jorgensen received 62,138 votes.
The Trump campaign has repeatedly called for a more complete audit of Georgia votes, saying that without signature matching, any recount would include fraudulent mail-in ballots. Trump recently urged Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to permit signature verification of ballots, arguing that it would show he had won. Several Republican state senators have also called for an audit of signatures for absentee ballots in the state.
More than 1 million absentee ballots have been requested as early voting began Monday for the Georgia Senate runoff races, which will take place on Jan. 5. The outcome of the races will determine which party controls the Senate. Georgia Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) are facing Democrat challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively.
Trump earlier on Monday again urged Kemp to “call a Special Session and open up signature verification,” saying “otherwise, it could be a bad day for” both Loeffer and Perdue on Jan. 5.
Following Raffensberger’s announcement of the limited signature audit, Kemp said in a statement, “I am glad Secretary Raffensperger has finally taken this necessary step to begin restoring confidence in our state’s election processes.
“I have called for a signature audit repeatedly since the November 3rd election. As Georgians head back to the polls for the January 5th runoffs, it is absolutely vital for every vote cast to be legal and for only legal votes to be counted.”
Cobb County Election Director Janine Eveler said in a statement that her office will assist with the audit but is currently waiting for a court order before gathering the needed materials, reported The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
She said that while the complaint Raffensperger referenced came from the June primary, the audit will cover signature verification for the Nov. 3 election.
“I’m confident any audit would find our office followed procedures and only counted ballots that were processed correctly,” she said. “Even though our resources are already stretched thin by advance voting and preparations for the January 5 runoff, we will help this process move as expeditiously as possible.”