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Georgia county judge may unseal absentee ballots for fraud probe

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A Georgia judge might unseal absentee ballots in Fulton County so that a government watchdog can investigate allegations of voting fraud from the 2020 presidential election. An overwhelming majority of Atlanta lies within Fulton County.

A lawsuit filed in the Fulton County Superior Court alleges that fraudulent ballots were cast and other irregularities occurred as workers counted ballots at State Farm Arena on Election Night, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday. Ultimately, those claims were investigated and rebuked by the secretary of state’s office. Although, the judge overseeing the case—Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero—said he’s willing to order the ballots to be unsealed and examined by experts who Garland Favorito, a voting-integrity advocate, hired.

The Peach State was one of the most hotly contested swing states in the 2020 presidential election, as well as the subsequent U.S. Senate runoff elections in January. The state narrowly went for Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential race and for the Democratic challengers by slightly bigger margins in the two Senate runoffs, marking the first time in decades that historically red Georgia went blue.

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Amero at a Monday hearing requested a detailed scheme for ensuring the secrecy and security of the ballots. In accordance with state law, the ballots are under seal in the Fulton County Superior Court Clerk’s Office.

“We want to do this in such a way that dispels rumors and disinformation and sheds light,” Amero said at the hearing. “The devil’s in the details.”

Favorito’s case is part of a wave of lawsuits that have claimed fraud or misconduct in the November 3 presidential election. While some aimed to overturn Biden’s victory in the state, others aimed to alter election rules for the Senate runoffs. However, none of these succeeded.

Nonetheless, the allegations of fraud have prompted a wave of controversial legislation in the Georgia legislature that could restrict voting on the grounds of election security. These bills have come under intense scrutiny from civil liberties groups, arguing that these would disenfranchise voters of color.

Last week, the watchdog group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, accusing his office of violating the Georgia Open Records Act. In November, Judicial Watch asked for documents pertaining to a 2020 settlement agreement that required additional steps before absentee ballots could be thrown out for mismatched voter signatures. They also asked for documents pertaining to the processing of absentee ballots in November.

The group’s case, filed in the Fulton County Superior Court, says Raffensperger’s office still hasn’t provided the requested documents.

Read the full original Atlanta Journal-Constitution report here.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Elections

BREAKING: Hunter Biden Found Guilty on All Three Felony Charges

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Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, was found guilty on all three felony charges on Tuesday. After a six-day trial, a jury concluded that the first son lied on a federal gun-purchase background-check form by falsely claiming he was not a drug addict. The jury deliberated for three hours, starting Monday afternoon following the conclusion of closing arguments.

Hunter Biden was convicted on two charges for lying about his crack-cocaine addiction on federal gun paperwork when he purchased a Colt Cobra revolver on October 12, 2018. Additionally, he was found guilty of a third charge for possessing the firearm while addicted to crack cocaine.

According to National Review, the criminal trial exposed deep rifts within the Biden family. Hunter’s ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle, and his deceased brother Beau Biden’s widow, Hallie Biden, testified against him. This created an emotional divide within the family, especially when Naomi Biden, the eldest daughter of Buhle and Hunter, testified for the defense, pitting mother against daughter.

Federal prosecutors Derek Hines and Leo Wise led the case against Hunter Biden as part of special counsel David Weiss’s legal team. Throughout the trial, Weiss was present in the courtroom, often seen conversing and eating chocolates during breaks.

Prosecutors presented what they described as “overwhelming evidence” of Hunter Biden’s drug addiction at the time he completed the gun purchase. This evidence included witness testimony, text messages, videos, images, bank records, and excerpts from Hunter’s memoir. Key testimonies from Hallie Biden, gun salesman Gordon Cleveland, and ex-girlfriend Zoe Kestan were crucial in establishing Hunter Biden’s pattern of drug use and his decision to lie about his addiction.

Defense attorney Abbe Lowell argued that Hunter Biden’s behavior had improved around the time of the gun purchase, asserting that he did not “knowingly” lie on the federal paperwork. However, the testimonies of Kestan and Cleveland, along with Hunter Biden’s own admissions of drug use in texts and memoir excerpts, posed significant challenges to the defense’s narrative.

Throughout the trial, Lowell conducted extensive cross-examinations of the prosecution’s witnesses and disputed the context of the evidence presented. However, Leo Wise’s cross-examination of Naomi Biden, where he scrutinized her text messages with her father from October 2018, proved to be a pivotal moment, undermining her defense testimony.

Before the verdict, President Biden stated he would respect the jury’s decision and would not pardon his son if convicted. At the trial’s onset, President Biden issued a statement expressing pride in his son’s efforts to overcome his drug addiction.

Hunter Biden is scheduled to face another trial in September on nine federal tax charges related to his alleged failure to pay over $1.4 million in taxes over four years.

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