By Melody Dareing
Here is what you’re not being told about the Bartow County voting
Election officials in Bartow County, Georgia, wasn’t doing a recount of the Nov. 3 election vote, according to Election Supervisor Joseph Kirk.
Kirk said the county and the state were doing an audit. That was one of the many “miscommunications” he said was being told to the public through the media and others.
Kirk said the state can’t do an audit, recount, and recanvassing all at once as Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said was going to happen in his press conference held last week. Kirk explained the process laid out for elections was to do an audit, certify the results, then do any requested recounts after the certifications.
Bartow County will recertify its results on Wednesday. It will then send them to the state, and the state plans on certifying the election on Friday, Kirk said.
He also said many people misunderstand what an audit is. According to Kirk, an audit doesn’t validate ballots, signatures, or count votes. It has one purpose, he said. That purpose is to make sure election staff performed correctly on election night.
“It’s to verify that we didn’t decide the wrong winner,” he said
In other words, Kirk said the audit is to make sure the number of ballots matches up to the number ran through the machine and the votes run the same as they did on election night. He added counties, like neighboring Floyd County, who found ballots that weren’t run through the scanner on election night would need to adjust their numbers.
Floyd County officials found almost 2,700 previously uncounted ballots. Of that, up to 1,900 were for President Donald Trump, and around 800 were for former Vice President Joe Biden. While local officials blamed the problem on the Dominion computer software, state officials are claiming it was the result of human error.
Another Georgia county, Fayette County, had similar issues. State officials said scanned votes and were on a memory card, but the card wasn’t uploaded into the computer system. Officials caught the error by comparing the number of people who checked in on the early-vote log that the number of people on the reported vote total.
Bartow County didn’t have such dramatic differences in its numbers. Kirk said there were some changes in the write-in candidates but not in the main-ballot votes. Trump received a total of 37,498 votes compared to 11,924 votes cast for Biden, according to the uncertified results given to the press on election night.
Breaking down the in-person votes, advanced voting, and absentee mail-in ballots, Trump received 10,179 votes on election day, 21,498 in early-votes, and 5,821 votes by mail. Biden received 2,173 votes on election day 5,423 in early-votes and 4,328 in the mail-in votes.
“I’m very proud of what our staff did,” he said, adding that their audit shows there wasn’t a problem with the Dominion software used in Bartow County.
All 159 of Georgia’s counties use Dominion software.
Kirk said there are also a lot of misunderstandings of official conduct an audit. Most people think that since it was called “hand-counted” that means election staffers went through every ballot. Kirk said that isn’t how an audit usually works.
He said an audit is typically done by staff hand counting a only a percentage of the ballots, and that percentage is dependent on the margin of victory. Calculations are done to determine the accuracy of the numbers. However, Raffensperger ordered for counties to do a “full-hand count” so Kirk had teams of two coming in from Friday until Tuesday to compare the total number of ballots to what the machines said they should be.
Kirk said election staff doesn’t check signatures on absentee ballots to validate them as part of the audit or recount.
“Comparing signatures is not part of an audit. It never has been and never will be,” he said.
He said that if there is a problem with a ballot being legitimate, they notify the voter and they have a chance to “cure” it. In cases where the voter is deceased and the ballot can’t be verified, Kirk will send the information to the state to investigate. Kirk said there was once a case of that during this election.
Kirk said there is also a misunderstanding of the term “absentee” in Georgia. Early voting, absentee ballots brought into the office, and ballots mailed back are all called absentee votes. He said absentee votes by mail have been in place in Georgia for more than 10 years, but what has changed is how people apply for them.
In the past, voters wanting to request an absentee ballot could come into the office, submit in writing, by mail or fax, or download an application online to request an absentee ballot. This year, the state mailed absentee ballot applications to every registered voter. Kirk said anyone could use these ballots, even those who got a ballot with someone else’s name on it. He said they could scratch out the name and send it in and it would be legal.
Kirk said staff at the election officials approve applications. They check to make sure the voter is registered. Once the absentee ballot arrives, they compared the signature with something, but not necessarily the voter registration signature. They could compare it with the signature on the absentee ballot, he said.
He said, in theory, someone could forge the absentee ballot signature and then vote in someone else’s name. Kirk said there are times when family members have signed for ill family members to make sure they voted, or voted for them, not realizing that is a forgery and is a felony.
Kirk said if there were a group of signatures that looked the same, he would send the case to the state for investigation.
He also said that once the ballot is removed from the signature and postal envelope, there is no way to pair it.
“You can’t link back to the person who cast it, ” he said. “That’s by design.”
Kirk said ballots can’t be reconnected with signatures because a vote is by secret ballot. So, there is no way to determine if the absentee by mail votes now in possession of the elections office is legitimate now.
Kirk said the state law offers local counties options in determining how it will conduct elections. There are parameters but counties can decide on the time length, number of precincts, and other variables for early voting.
He said the election could be nullified if there is widespread voter fraud. That would mean another election would be held, Kirk said.
Attorney Lin Wood filed a lawsuit challenging the Georgia election and what has happened since. He said in an interview with an Atlanta talk show host that his case would be reviewed by the Northern District of the Federal Court, which is in Rome, Ga. There isn’t an indication of when a judge will review his complaint. Wood cited the lack of validation of signatures, mail-in votes, and officials not allowing observers to watch as votes were counted, among other irregularities, in his complaint.
Trump officials held a press conference Tuesday night in Clark County, Nevada, to announce a lawsuit filed there over numerous irregularities. There are more than 400 declarations from Nevada voters that irregularities existed that included improper, mail-in ballots being counted, a lack of a proper signature verification process, and no process to verify votes or investigate fraud. Fraud would only be looked at if a person issues a complaint, according to Trump officials.
Addtionally, more than 15,000 people voted in Nevada when they had moved to another state for more than 30 days with a change of address form submitted to the post office, according to Trump campaign officials.
The voting machines are supposed to verify signatures, but Trump officials said there isn’t a process to validate it does. Also, local election officials reduced the compatibility scanner to 40 percent, meaning that signatures only had to partially match to achieve verification. Trump officials estimate that as many as 200,000 ballots in Nevada were unverifiable. There were an estimated half-million ballots run through the Nevada system, they said.
Edited by: Wolf Daily