Fact Check: Thousands Of 2020 Ballot Images Required By Law CANNOT Be Produced By Georgia Election Officials -- But They Still Have All 5 Million Originals

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: Thousands Of 2020 Ballot Images Required By Law CANNOT Be Produced By Georgia Election Officials -- But They Still Have All 5 Million Originals Have Originals

Did Georgia election officials fall short of producing all the 2020 election ballot images required by law? Yes, that's true: A top Georgia election official says not all the scans of original ballots were transferred into the election management system. But that doesn't tell the full story. Election officials still have all the original ballots cast by 5 million Georgia voters in the 2020 election.

The claim appeared in a November 9, 2021, article (archived here) published by The Georgia Record/Johns Creek Post titled "BREAKING: Georgia Can't Produce Over 17k 2020 Election Ballot Images Required By Law, More Than Margin Of Error In Biden 'Win." It opened:

GA election integrity non-profit VoterGA.org today held a press conference showing Georgia counties cannot produce over 17,000 ballot images required to be held by law. This is more than the margin of error in Biden's 'win' over President Trump.

This is what the article looked like on The Georgia Record/Johns Creek Post website on November 10, 2021:

Voter GA page.png

(Source: The Georgia Record/Johns Creek Post screenshot taken on Wed Nov 10 22:46:47 UTC 2021)

The results of Georgia's 2020 presidential election have been challenged multiple times and recounted twice. The votes have gone through a hand count, where every ballot is physically counted, and a machine count, where the ballots are scanned. The results remained nearly identical in both recounts -- a Joe Biden win over Donald Trump by less than 12,000 votes.

Despite accusations to the contrary, no widespread fraud has been found. Investigators with Georgia's secretary of state's office have not found any evidence to substantiate claims that fraudulent or counterfeit ballots were counted in Fulton County during the 2020 general election, The Associated Press reported on October 12, 2021.

As The Georgia Record/Johns Creek Post article reports, there are recordkeeping requirements for local election officials. They are spelled out in the federal and Georgia codes.

The U.S. Code says:

Every officer of election shall retain and preserve, for a period of twenty-two months from the date of any general, special, or primary election of which candidates for the office of President, Vice President, presidential elector ... are voted for, all records and papers which come into his possession ... may be delivered to another officer of election ... and the duty to retain and preserve any record or paper so deposited shall devolve upon such custodian. Any officer of election or custodian who willfully fails to comply with this section shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

The Georgia Election Code says this:

All primary and election documents on file in the office of the election superintendent of each county, municipal governing authority, superintendent, registrar, committee of a political party or body, or other officer shall be preserved therein for a period of at least 24 months and then the same may be destroyed unless otherwise provided by law.

Christina Bobb, host of "Weekly Briefing" on One America News, amplified the VoterGA report:

Gabriel Sterling, the chief operating officer and chief financial officer for the Georgia secretary of state's office, talked with Lead Stories in a November 10, 2021, phone interview about the claim. He said:

There's no indication of fraud, just a new system people are trying to learn.

He also said:

The [ballot] scans were actually done, but were they transferred into the election management system? It appears some weren't.

Sterling added:

We still have all of the ballots. They've been counted three times and they keep showing the same results. ... Nothing has changed, we just have to better train the county officials.

Sterling, a Republican, also responded to Bobb's election claim on Twitter, dismissing the notion of fraud:

The secretary of state also rejected the VoterGA claim in a statement emailed to Lead Stories on November 11, 2021. Raffensperger suggested their point was trivial:

Georgia votes with paper ballots, and all of the actual paper ballots from November's election were counted three times, including a 100 percent hand recount in which teams of poll workers touched and saw every vote cast. There is zero doubt that three counts of the ballots resulted in conclusive results on who won the election in Georgia. Wishful thinking by conspiracy theorists cannot change the outcome, no matter what immaterial technicality they claim to have identified this week.

VoterGA, which stands for Voters Organized for Trusted Election Results in Georgia, is a nonprofit group:

VOTER GA is a non-partisan, 501(c)3 registered non-profit organization created by a coalition of citizens working to restore election integrity in Georgia. We advocate for independently verifiable, auditable, recount capable and transparent elections.

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  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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