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In his latest election fraud spin, former President Donald Trump falsely suggested that 3,600 criminally duplicated ballots were counted in Atlanta’s Fulton County in the 2020 presidential election. He is referring to news reported months ago about errors made during an audit — not during the official ballot count.
State investigators found there were double-counted and miscounted votes during an audit in the county to confirm the 2020 results. But the audit was never part of the certified tally in Georgia, which Joe Biden narrowly won. Investigators say the errors were unintentional and did not affect the outcome.
In his post to Truth Social on Nov. 11, Trump stated, “Fulton County, Georgia, acknowledges, in a major Consent Decree, that 3,600 individual ballots were DUPLICATED (36 Batches). THAT’S A LOT OF CRIME. When are the rest of the facts coming out? We are all waiting. This is just the beginning. UNBELIEVABLE!”
Trump is referring to a consent order (not a consent decree, which is a settlement approved by a judge) from June in which state elections investigators concluded that Fulton County elections staff “misidentified and duplicated” tally sheets in an audit of 2020 election results. Not mentioned by Trump is that state investigators concluded the errors were “not due to intentional misconduct by Fulton County elections staff” and represented just a fraction of the overall votes cast and therefore “did not affect the result” of the election in Fulton County.
That was publicly reported in June, and it’s hard to know what prompted Trump to post about it on Nov. 11. (His campaign did not respond to an inquiry about the post.) But a 2021 clip of then Fox News host Tucker Carlson raising similar issues was recirculated in a Nov. 10 post on X, formerly known as Twitter. According to the social media platform, the post has been viewed over 60 million times.
At a Georgia Board of Registration and Elections meeting on March 16, 2022, James Callaway, then deputy chief of investigations for the secretary of state’s office, said an investigation had identified “numerous examples of human error while inputting data” into an open-source software system being used in the audit to upload Fulton County results to the state.
“But there was no evidence discovered to suggest criminal behavior,” Callaway said. “I believe the errors were due to batch sheets being entered twice under different headings.”
In addition to some batches of votes being entered twice, investigators said there were instances of miscounted votes, such as when an election official misread and recorded a 47 as 97.
Joe Rossi, a Houston County resident who first identified flaws in the audit counts, said at that meeting that the inputting errors resulted in more than 4,000 extra votes for Biden.
A review by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution concluded there were about 3,000 too many absentee ballots counted for Biden in the audit. However, the AJC noted, “Despite inaccuracies in the ballot batches that were investigated, the overall count in the audit was close to the official machine results.” Biden won the state by about 12,000 votes.
Sara Tindall Ghazal, a Democratic appointee to the State Election Board, noted at that meeting that the purpose of the audit — which ultimately resulted in a hand-recount of all the votes because the margin of victory for Biden was so close — was simply to confirm whether the correct person won the election.
“It’s not supposed to be a one-to-one recount,” Ghazal said. “A recount was also conducted and that’s a different thing altogether. The recount looked at the number of votes and, in fact, the count was valid. The audit is to identify whether or not the right candidate won.”
Ghazal said the mistakes were “human data entry errors” and likely the result of time constraints placed on election officials to complete the audit.
The initial machine count indicated that Biden won by 12,670 votes. A machine recount narrowed that slightly, showing Biden winning by 11,779 votes. Those are the official results.
At the meeting in March 2022, Ryan Germany, then the general counsel for the secretary of state’s office in Georgia, noted that “the certified results of the election are, you know, the initial machine count and then the recount from the machine already certified. So the audit numbers are not part of any certified results.”
Nonetheless, at the meeting, the state board voted to turn the case over to the state attorney general’s office to investigate whether the errors amounted to a violation of the state’s rules and regulations related to preparing for an audit.
At the board’s Feb. 7, 2023, meeting, the public learned that the state attorney general’s office and counsel for Fulton County had agreed to resolve the complaint with a consent order in which Fulton County admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to implement some written policies and procedures to prevent errors in future audits.
The consent order, provided to FactCheck.org by the State Election Board, notes that state investigators confirmed there was human error in entering data, but it didn’t affect the election results in the county.
Consent order, June 8: The results of the investigation showed that Fulton County elections staff misidentified and duplicated audit batch sheet data when entering the data into the Arlo software used by the Secretary of State’s office to manage the risk-limiting audit. By failing to enter all of the audit batch sheet data accurately, Respondent [the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections] violated SEB Rule 183-1-15-.04 regarding audits.
The investigators further concluded that the reported inconsistencies were the result of human error in entering the data, which were not discovered in time to make corrections due to time limitations in completing the risk-limiting audit and the sheer amount of ballots, and not due to intentional misconduct by Fulton County elections staff.
The discovered errors were a fractional number of the total votes counted and did not affect the result of the 2020 General Election [in] Fulton County, which were confirmed as accurate by the risk-limiting audit. The purpose of the risk-limiting audit was to confirm whether the results of the original tabulation of ballots were accurate, which the audit confirmed.
Trump wrongly claimed the order was evidence of “A LOT OF CRIME.” The order says the settlement reached “is a civil settlement and has no criminal ramifications” and that there is no admission of guilt by the Fulton County election board.
The consent order was subsequently approved by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners and the State Election Board in June. In an Aug. 1 meeting of the State Election Board, its chair, William Duffey, provided an overview and timeline of the whole process.
Asked about the negotiated agreement in July, Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “The investigation specifically found that any data entry errors committed by Fulton did not affect the results of the 2020 election. The case is now closed.”
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