Georgia officials act with hostility toward whistleblowers questioning the "pristine" ballots
After several Fulton County, Ga., poll monitors testified last year that boxes of mail-in ballots for Joe Biden looked liked they’d been run through a photocopy machine, state investigators quietly broke the seal on one suspicious box and inspected the hundreds of votes it contained for signs of fraud, RealClearInvestigations has learned exclusively.
At the same time, a key whistleblower told RCI that state investigators pressured her to recant her story about what she and other poll monitors had observed -- what they called unusually “pristine” mail-in ballots while sorting through them during last November’s hand recount.
“I felt I was under investigation,” said Suzi Voyles, a longtime Fulton County poll manager whose sworn affidavits have been used by election watchdogs to sue the county for access to the ballots in question.
Although the ballots are at the center of disputes about the Georgia presidential race, which Joe Biden won by just 12,000 votes, the state never disclosed its probe to the public or to election watchdogs suing to inspect the ballots.
State officials also neglected to inform the judge hearing the lawsuit that they were conducting such an inspection, even though the judge had issued a protective order over the ballots in January. In a nine-page amicus brief recently filed in the case, attorneys for the office of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger urged Superior Court Judge Brian Amero to deny petitioners’ requests to inspect the ballots, calling them a “fishing expedition.”
Frances Watson, chief investigator for the secretary of state’s office, confirmed in a statement to RCI that she sent investigators to Fulton County earlier this year to inspect the batches of sealed ballots. Poll monitors involved in last November’s hand recount had described the mail-in ballots in sworn affidavits as devoid of creases and folds and featuring identically bubbled-in marks for Biden. But the state said it could not find any ballots matching that description.
“Our investigators looked into it and didn’t find anything,” she said, while adding the investigation is “still ongoing.”
The watchdogs question why state officials did not disclose their activities to the court and fear they may have “tampered” with the sealed ballots, which are at the center of their lawsuit seeking access to all 147,000 absentee ballots cast during the 2020 election in Fulton County, which includes much of Atlanta.
Led by longtime Georgia poll watcher Garland Favorito, founder of VoterGA.org, the court petitioners say the state has failed to inform the judge overseeing their case that they broke the chain of custody over the pallets of shrink-wrapped absentee ballots warehoused in a locked county facility in Atlanta.
“If the secretary of state’s office did that, they tampered with the ballots and violated Georgia state law,” which restricts the handling of ballots to authorized elections officials involved in the tabulation and care of the ballots, Favorito said. He also noted that Judge Amero had placed the ballots under a protective order in January. “They would have had to ask for a court order to unseal and inspect those ballots and they never did that.”
Raffensperger’s office seemed to acknowledge the ballots were still under seal when it urged Amero to prevent the watchdogs from inspecting the ballots.
The issue is further muddied by Suzi Voyles’ allegation, never previously reported, that she was pressured to recant her testimony about the pristine ballots. In sworn affidavits last November, Suzi Voyles said she observed that a large batch of mail-in ballots for Biden did not appear to have been folded or handled like she would have expected from her two decades of working elections in the county. She also said that the marks for Biden were identical, as though they had been filled in by a copying machine rather than a pen or pencil.
In a Jan. 7 interview, which took place at a secretary of state’s office in Atlanta, Voyles told RCI that an investigator identifying himself as Paul Braun “grilled me for over two hours” about her testimony. She said he was joined by another official whom she said was from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. She added that the investigators did not have a copy of her affidavit and did not know the box number and batch numbers of the ballots in question.
“I smelled a rat when they didn’t know the batch numbers when they were clearly denoted in my affidavit,” Voyles said.
She added the investigators “gave no indication" they had gone to the warehouse to find the suspicious ballots or were conducting any kind of forensic investigation. Voyles said the investigators kept trying to convince her she might have been mistaken about her observations.
“I did not recant,” she asserted. “The ballots that I saw had been pre-printed. It’s a very serious thing in my opinion. That’s what I swore to under penalty of perjury. Recanting would be perjuring myself.”
There is more.
The alleged investigators seem more interested in trying to disprove her story than in finding the truth. It is like they went into the interview with a prejudice against her testimony instead of a search for the truth. It looks like the ballots have been mishandled since the election in a way that may preclude a definitive answer.