Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, through the Center for Election Innovation and Research, donated over $5 million in 2020 to the Georgia Secretary of State (SOS)’s office. The State Election Board, chaired by SOS Brad Raffensberger, made an emergency rule to use absentee ballot drop boxes in 2020. The SOS’s office provided grants to counties to install drop boxes, and a total of 104 boxes were used in the presidential election just in the four counties in Atlanta’s metro area. Drop boxes could be accessible 24 hours a day, and the location of boxes ranged from government centers to fire stations, libraries, gyms and the Fulton County airport.
The election board required that chain of custody transfer forms be completed for each box collection, recording the date, time, location and number of ballots and signed by the collection team and the county registrar receiving the ballots. The Georgia Star News did an analysis of the drop box transfer forms provided by Fulton County in response to an Open Records request and discovered that 385 transfer forms out of the 1,565 forms Fulton County said should have been provided were missing. When The Star News notified Fulton County that about 25% of the transfer forms were missing, a Fulton County election official admitted that “a few forms are missing” and that “some procedural paperwork may have been misplaced.” Stellar record keeping like that really inspires confidence in ballot security, doesn’t it?
As pointed out by The Georgia Star, President Biden won Georgia’s 16 electoral College votes by a margin of less than 12,000 votes over former President Donald Trump out of a total of 5 million votes cast statewide. The total number of absentee ballots whose chain of custody was supposed to be documented by the 385 missing Fulton County absentee ballot transfer forms was 18,901, according to a spreadsheet provided from Fulton County.
The 2021 election integrity law makes the SOS a nonvoting member of the State Election board and no longer the chairperson, who is now to be elected by the General Assembly. The new law limits the board’s power to adopt emergency rules, requiring that the board first notify the Governor, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and other members of state government prior to the meeting taking place of the intended action. The law makes major changes to future use of absentee ballot drop boxes. Drop box location will be at board of registrar or absentee ballot clerk offices, or inside advance voting locations, and the boxes will be open only during the hours of advance voting. All drop boxes must be under constant surveillance by an election official, law enforcement, or a security guard. The number of boxes is to be at least one per county but no more than one for each 100,000 active registered voters or the number of advance voting locations in a county. For Fulton County, this will mean a reduction from 37 drop boxes in 2020 to 8 for future elections. Less drop boxes, less chaos.