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Fannin County, Georgia

Asking the Experts about the 2020 Election, by Susan Loring, Part 2

Continuing a conversation with Sonia Smith and Mary Ann Conner of the Fannin County Board of Elections, the next topic was:

“Pristine” ballot batches noted by poll workers during the Fulton County recount – After a hand recount done of presidential election ballots for Fulton County, four poll workers signed affidavits that they observed strange ballot batches, on a different kind of paper, with no folds or notes and very uniform markings. The Secretary of State said that these could be emergency ballots cast if a ballot marking device was not working, and some overseas ballots are duplicated if damaged. Replacement ballots could also be printed during adjudication.

I asked the Chairman and Vice Chairman if a standard type of paper is used for all ballots, and if poll workers could identify by appearance the difference between genuine and counterfeit or photocopied ballots. They told me that mailed absentee ballots would have folds from being mailed to the voter in an envelope and returned by the voter in the envelope provided.

Military and UOCAVA [Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act] ballots that are requested electronically are printed by the voter, and these ballots have a special watermark to identify them. When received, they are not opened until election night. The adjudication team duplicates the ballot on the standard mailed out absentee ballot paper.

Adjudication or reconciliation of ballots – After the 2020 election, a cyber security firm said that ballots sent for adjudication using Dominion Voting Systems could potentially be altered by an administrator without an audit trail of who made changes. Fulton County’s director of elections said the majority of absentee ballot batches were flagged for adjudication. Gwinnett County reported that 5,900 batches of ballots were adjudicated.

I asked if Dominion machines were used in Fannin County and what Mary Ann and Sonia’s experience was with ballot adjudication. Dominion machines were used here for the 2020 election. When asked, they reported there had not been problems in the past with the previous voting equipment. The term used by the Fannin Election Board for adjudication is reconciliation of ballots. This happens when an absentee ballot is torn, or marked in such a way that the machine rejects the ballot, such as when a check or X mark is used instead of filling in the oval next to a candidate’s name. In Fannin County, reconciliation is done with one Democrat and one Republican representative sitting together and discussing how the ballot reads. If the voter’s intent is clear, such as both candidates selected but an “error” note written by the voter next to one of them, a new ballot is made out with a note of “Duplicate” on the ballot, and this new ballot is scanned. Both the original and the duplicate ballots are saved. There were about 4,000 absentee ballots received in Fannin County for the 2020 election, and there may have been about 100 needing reconciliation.

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