No, Atlanta Didn’t Count Illegal Ballots In Secret (Or In Suitcases)
I cover breaking news for Forbes.
TOPLINE President Donald Trump’s allies have spent weeks baselessly insisting Atlanta officials secretly counted scores of illegal ballots in an effort to rob victory from Trump, and on Thursday, they finally claimed to have video evidence to prove it — but the short video promoted by Trump’s campaign actually shows normal vote-counting processes, officials say.
A Fulton county worker looks over ballots at State Farm Arena on November 6, 2020 in Atlanta
During a Georgia legislative hearing on Thursday, an attorney affiliated with Trump’s campaign showed 90 seconds of security camera footage from a vote-counting center in Atlanta on election night, claiming the video showed staff clandestinely shifting hidden ballots around the room in “suitcases” after Republican poll-watchers were instructed to leave.
Trump’s allies spread the video on social media and treated it as a voter fraud smoking gun: The president tweeted Thursday that the state was “caught cold,” and Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told a credulous Sean Hannity the video was “really explosive.”
In reality, the video doesn’t appear to show fraud and is not even particularly suspicious: The supposed “suitcases” were actually normal, unexciting ballot containers, an investigator for the Georgia Secretary of State told fact-checking site Lead Stories, and state officials who reviewed the tape have said it showed standard processing of ballots.
Plus, the state investigator told Lead Stories that partisan election observers were never told to leave the counting room on election night, but instead left voluntarily after some staff members went home — and although Democratic and Republican observers are allowed to watch vote-counting in Georgia, they are not required to be present (the Secretary of State’s office told Forbes it is investigating why partisan observers left before ballot-scanning ended).
An independent state-appointed monitor was also present during vote-counting in Atlanta, and did not find any indications of illegal counting, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office told Forbes.
Trump’s campaign, as well as officials from Fulton County — which contains Atlanta — did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Nothing we have learned from the independent monitor or our investigation have suggested any improper ballots were scanned,” the Georgia Secretary of State’s office said in a statement to Forbes.
As Trump’s efforts to reverse his electoral loss falter in court, his lawyers have taken their specious vote-rigging claims on the road, testifying in front of Republican-held legislatures in key swing states in an effort to persuade them to overturn Trump’s losses. Georgia’s hearing followed a similar session in Michigan earlier this week featuring a supposed whistleblower whose testimony was deemed “not credible” by a judge, and Trump’s lawyers also presented baseless claims to state legislators at hotel conference rooms in Arizona and Pennsylvania. So far, no state legislative leaders have agreed to overturn the results of the election, and Republicans in Pennsylvania have outright shot down the idea.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) — a Trump ally who has drawn the president’s ire in recent weeks — told Fox News Thursday’s hearing “raises more questions,” and he reiterated his suggestion that Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) conduct an “audit” of signatures on mail-in ballots. But even if absentee ballots were awash with fraud (which is unproven), a signature audit could not discard any fraudulent votes because, per state law, all mail-in ballots have already been separated from the envelopes containing voters’ signatures.
Fact Check: Video From Georgia Does NOT Show Suitcases Filled With Ballots Suspiciously Pulled From Under A Table; Poll Watchers Were NOT Told To Leave