Georgia was a pivotal swing state in the November 2020 election, and as such became a target of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s aggressive election disinformation campaign that baselessly alleged that a massive-scale voter fraud conspiracy cost him reelection.
One year after the election, Trump’s supporters were still trying fruitlessly to prove Georgia’s election was plagued by widespread fraud.
On Nov. 9, 2021, Trump’s supporters took to social media platforms like Twitter claiming that Fulton County, Georgia was missing digital image scans of all in-person ballots, and 17,690 absentee ballot images. For example, a Nov. 9, 2021, tweet from Christina Bobb, a host for conspiracy theory-promoting network One America News (OANN) stated:
“ALL in person ballot images in GA are missing. 17,690 mail in ballot images are missing. This is FRAUD. So, GA has no way to verify that the ballots are legitimate reflections of what went through the machines.” Bobb’s statement refers to digital scans of paper ballots created by voting systems.
This statement is false, according to Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, who called it not just a lie, but a “truly dumb” lie in this sharply-worded tweet:
Nothing other than the first count, the hand re-tally, and then the recount. This is a lie…and a truly dumb one at that. They have all of the actual ballots that have been counted 3 times. https://t.co/CvLX2VsDn9
— Gabriel Sterling (@GabrielSterling) November 10, 2021
The statement in Bobb’s tweet, that “ALL in person ballot images in GA are missing. 17,690 mail in ballot images are missing,” is apparently sourced from a Nov. 9, 2021, news conference held by Garland Favorito, co-founder of the VoterGA, an activist group that has sought to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election result.
In an email to Snopes, Favorito stated that Fulton County informed VoterGA that it did not have digital images of in-person voter ballots in response to a public records request submitted by VoterGA.
Even if that’s the case, claiming the missing ballot images equate to fraud is false framing, in that it invents a crisis where no crisis exists. The absence of scanned, digital images of ballots isn’t an indication of fraud, nor does it mean there is “no way to verify” Georgia’s election results.
As Sterling indicated in the tweet above, Georgia’s 2020 election results were counted three times, including a hand recount of the original paper ballots. The hand recount affirmed that the original machine count had accurately showed that Georgia voters chose U.S. President Joe Biden over Trump. A machine recount requested by Trump again affirmed Biden’s victory in Georgia.
A law that went into effect in March 2021, Georgia Senate Bill 202, will make digital images of ballots public record. Nevertheless it’s the original paper ballots, not their digital images, that “will remain the source of official vote counts, and they’re kept in the government’s custody, only unsealed by a judge’s order,” as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted,
VoterGA was dealt a major legal defeat in its quest to find evidence of voter fraud when a judge in October 2021 threw out its lawsuit seeking to inspect absentee ballots.
“Georgia Again Certifies Election Results Showing Biden Won.” AP NEWS, 20 Apr. 2021, https://apnews.com/article/election-2020-joe-biden-donald-trump-georgia-elections-4eeea3b24f10de886bcdeab6c26b680a.
Holder, Josh, and Amy Schoenfeld Walker. “Where Georgia’s Hand Recount Differed From the Initial Tally, by County.” The New York Times, 20 Nov. 2020. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/11/19/us/elections/georgia-recount.html.
Holder, Josh and Amy Schoenfeld Walker “Where Georgia’s Hand Recount Differed From the Initial Tally, by County.” The New York Times, 20 Nov. 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/11/19/us/elections/georgia-recount.html.
Niesse, Mark. “Ballot Images Made Public in Georgia after Heated Election.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3 June 2021, https://www.ajc.com/politics/ballot-images-made-public-in-georgia-after-heated-election/EXDCNODM4RCOXB4ANZGWW7D6DA/
Wickert, David, et al. “Georgia Recount Confirms Biden Win, Again, but Trump Still Battling.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7 December 2020, https://www.ajc.com/politics/election/georgia-recount-confirms-biden-win-again-but-trump-still-battling/OZGAOQCMKVFG7G43L5PSF3BNHM/
Niesse, Mark. “Georgia Ballot Inspection Case Dismissed after No Fraud Found.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 13 October 2021, https://www.ajc.com/politics/georgia-ballot-inspection-case-dismissed-after-no-fraud-found/OUVOQ5I5ARHMBJ62CX3YBHRMYM/