Judge Dismisses Georgia Lawsuit That Election Truthers Were Watching Closely

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 04: Election workers count Fulton County ballots at State Farm Arena on November 4, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. The 2020 presidential race between incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump and Democr... ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 04: Election workers count Fulton County ballots at State Farm Arena on November 4, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. The 2020 presidential race between incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden is still too close to call with outstanding ballots to count. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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October 13, 2021 5:10 p.m.

A Georgia judge on Wednesday dismissed a lingering lawsuit over the 2020 election that had attracted significant attention from Trump-aligned election truthers. 

The dismissal came a day after lawyers for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s (R) office explained in detail, again, that investigators had found no evidence of counterfeit ballots in Georgia. Plaintiffs had sought to gain physical access to Atlanta voters’ absentee ballots in order to continue to push the argument that the election was corrupted. 

During the final weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, Justice Department officials were under pressure to pursue one of the conspiracy theories that formed the basis of the suit — alleged wrongdoing that Trump’s campaign said resulted in fraudulent ballots being counted in Fulton County, home to Atlanta. 

Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday that Superior Court Judge Brian Amero’s decision was a “win for democracy.” 

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“This lawsuit was the result of the ‘big lie,’ which is nothing more than a meritless conspiracy theory being spread by people who simply cannot accept that their side lost. Its defeat here today should echo throughout the nation,” Pitts said.

On the phone with TPM Wednesday, the lead plaintiff in the suit, Garland Favorito of the group VoterGA, accused the state of making false claims in a filing Tuesday that asserted investigators had found no evidence of counterfeit ballots. He said he would likely appeal the case. 

“All citizens of Georgia have a right to know whether or not counterfeit ballots were injected into the Fulton County election results,” said Favorito.

Suit Focused On Trumpy Conspiracy Theory Over Supposed ‘Suitcases’ Of Ballots At Atlanta Counting Site

The suit focused on perhaps the most persistent myth out of Fulton County: A video from Atlanta’s State Farm Arena, which was circulated by the Trump campaign, and which Trump staffers and supporters asserted showed election workers smuggling ballots in suitcases hidden under tables. Rudy Giuliani trumpeted the footage at a Dec. 3 Georgia Senate hearing.

The suitcase story became an obsession for Trump: As the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed in a recent report, then-Attorney General Bill Barr directed “that the FBI interview witnesses concerning allegations that election workers at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena secretly tabulated suitcases full of illegal ballots.”

The then-U.S. Attorney in Atlanta, BJay Pak, told the committee that Barr had instructed him on Dec. 4 to make investigating the claims a “top priority” — even though by that time, the Georgia secretary of state’s office had investigated the situation and found that the “suitcases” on the video were really normal ballot containers, and that election workers had followed normal protocol. 

The lawyers for Raffensperger’s office cited Pak’s congressional testimony in their filing Monday. They also cited a May deposition of Raffenspger’s deputy chief investigator. In short, the lawyers wrote, the deputy testified “that the evidence did not substantiate the allegations.” 

‘Reprehensible That The Judge Dismissed It!”

The judge’s decision sparked immediate ire among 2020 election deniers like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and others who’d propped up the suit as a venue for exasperated 2020 dead-enders.

“Reprehensible that the judge dismissed it!” Greene tweeted Wednesday, calling for “full forensic audits” of the 2020 results. 

Greene fumed that “No court will hear the actual evidence.” And while Amero ruled that “Petitioners failed to allege a particularized injury” and dismissed the case for lack of standing, he also noted the “substantive and detailed” response from the secretary of state’s office filed Tuesday. 

In that filing, lawyers for the secretary of state’s office addressed the plaintiffs’ points head on, writing that “the Secretary’s investigators have been unable to substantiate the allegations that fraudulent or counterfeit ballots were counted in the 2020 General Election in Fulton County.” 

Key to the plaintiffs’ case were affidavits from people who attended a “risk-limiting” audit after the election, and who claimed afterward that they saw what they said were suspiciously “pristine” mail-in ballots, without folds or creases. They claimed that these ballots in some cases looked like they had been filled out by computers. 

But when the secretary of state’s investigators looked in late December at the specific ballots that allegedly showed these suspicious markings, however, they found the opposite: In one box cited by affiant Susan Voyles, who served as an auditor in the risk-limiting audit, the ballots had creases from folds, and “none appeared to have been marked or printed by a computer.” 

Potentially affected ballots identified by another, unnamed witness, were also found to be fine: “Those ballots did not meet the description of ‘pristine’ and none had perfectly filled-in bubbles,” the filing said. 

Favorito, who spoke at a Trump rally in Georgia last month, was not convinced. “The evidence and the claims that they made in that response to the order are false,” Favorito claimed on the phone with TPM. He said the affiants would have demonstrated as much in a scheduled November hearing in the case.

Favorito said the plaintiffs would have used a group of “top forensic document experts” to examine the ballots for counterfeits — one of whom would have been Jovan Pulitzer, a “failed treasure hunter” and inventor who has claimed that he can discern fake ballots from real ones by examining them up close for “kinematic markers.” 

Pulitzer, somewhat of a celebrity in circles demanding “audits” of the 2020 recount, was reportedly involved in the audit of Maricopa County, Arizona’s 2020 results that concluded recently. Still, the final report from that review did not mention him at all. 

Pulitzer attributed the snub to the “deep state.” 

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