Fulton ballot lawsuit
Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit by Donald Trump allies seeking to review Fulton County absentee ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election. During his hearing on Sept. 20, Amero halted the case pending the outcome of state investigations that found no trace of counterfeit ballots. Credit: Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

A judge dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday that aimed to discredit Fulton County absentee ballots, the latest in a string of lawsuits challenging the validity of the 2020 presidential elections to get tossed. 

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Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero ruled against a request by supporters of former President Donald Trump for an up-close review of Fulton’s 147,000 absentee ballots after a secretary of state’s office investigation cleared away their accusations that counterfeit ballots were cast in the Nov. 3 election.

Amero’s ruling cites an investigation by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office that failed to find any fraudulent votes while reviewing several batches of ballots contested by a group of voters who filed suit.

In Tuesday’s court brief, the secretary of state’s office pointed out that poll monitor turned 6th District U.S. congressional GOP candidate Suzie Voyles was unable to identify the batches of “pristine” counterfeit paper absentee ballots she claimed she observed in an affidavit.

Despite claims that illegal ballots diluted the plaintiffs’ votes, Amero wrote that without a specific injury alleged by plaintiffs then no standing to sue exists. Still, in September Amero asked the secretary of state’s office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into the possibility the claims of counterfeit ballots were true.

Garland Favorito, founder of VoterGa.org and a lead plaintiff in the Fulton County ballot inspection lawsuit, disputed the merits of the dismissal and maintained that only a public inspection could resolve questions about whether illegal ballots influenced the election. The group’s request included access to the paper ballots and the ability to use a high-powered microscope to inspect them.

The final version of the lawsuit listed as defendants the three Democrats on the Fulton election board. Favorito is planning to appeal the Amero’s ruling.

“All citizens of Georgia have a right to know whether or not counterfeit ballots were injected into the Fulton County election results, how many were injected, where they came from and how we can prevent it from happening again in future elections,” Favorito said. “It is not adequate for any organization to secretly tell us there are no counterfeit ballots and refuse to let the public inspect them.

“We prepared diligently to present concrete evidence of our allegations and refute other false claims at the scheduled Nov. 15th hearing,” Favorito said.

Raffensperger repeatedly declared Georgia’s 2020 election the most secure in the state’s history, starting soon after the Nov. 3 election. Results were confirmed by multiple recounts.

Still, Trump allies, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, have peddled baseless conspiracy theories about widespread fraud leading to President Joe Biden’s narrow Georgia victory last year.

Amero’s ruling effectively kills the already miniscule chances of proving widespread fraud in elections in 2020, said Jeffrey Lazarus, associate professor of political science at Georgia State University.

Since November, scores of lawsuits in Georgia and multiple other states challenging the election have all been either dismissed or withdrawn.

Amero suspended the case in September, in part to delay a ruling on a motion to dismiss until investigation filings were received in the Fulton absentee ballot case.

“It’s just part of the broader pattern of Republicans trying to delegitimize the 2020 election, and honestly, it’s hard to delegitimize elections in general,” Lazarus said. “They’re trying to set the stage to do successfully in 2024 what they couldn’t do in 2020, which is overturn an election result.”

Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts celebrated the rejection of the attempt that’s akin to requiring the election results be confirmed for a fourth time.

The Nov. 3 presidential election has been confirmed by three counts, including one conducted by hand on the record 5 million ballots across Georgia.

“Proponents of the Big Lie have floated this same counterfeit ballot conspiracy theory across the country and it has been discredited at every turn,” Pitts said in a statement. “I have been on the front lines of fighting the Big Lie since Day 1 when I told President (Donald) Trump and others to ‘put up or shut up’ and I will always fight those working to take away the voice of Fulton voters.”

Favorito’s group appeared to be on its way to gaining access to the ballots when Amero unsealed the ballots in May. But a planned visit to an election records warehouse came to a halt after attorneys for Fulton County asked Amero to dismiss the case.

They asked to use high-powered microscopes to inspect high-resolution images of absentee ballots in their effort to prove the baseless claims irregularities played a significant factor in election results that delivered former president Trump a loss in Georgia by about 12,000 votes.

A new state election law for the first time allows the public to inspect images of absentee ballots.

Trump continues to demand that his presidential election loss be overturned in Georgia, citing Fulton’s duplicate ballots and incomplete chain of custody forms in DeKalb County.

One investigation that is making headway is an independent state review of Fulton’s election operations that was prompted by requests from GOP lawmakers under the state’s new takeover provision for election boards. Although the review was prompted by Republicans who question the legitimacy of Georgia’s 2020 election, the potential takeover would only affect future contests.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.