Lawsuit demands answers to Georgia election members’ certification questions

by | May 29, 2024

The America First Policy Institute (AFPI) has filed a lawsuit against the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections (BRE). The suit alleges that the board interfered with a board member’s duty to review and ensure election integrity as mandated by Georgia election law.

A central issue in the lawsuit is whether election officials are required to certify elections regardless of adherence to election procedures.

In recent years, there has been pressure from some groups for officials to automatically certify elections, despite Georgia’s election codes mandating a thorough review of election documents and procedures before certification.

AFPI aims to provide election officials with clear guidelines. They are seeking injunctive and declaratory relief from the Fulton County Superior Court to ensure clarity ahead of the upcoming presidential election.

Earlier this month, the Georgia State Election Board (SEB) reviewed a proposed rule intended to clarify that election officials must certify an election only after completing all statutorily required duties, such as ensuring the number of ballots cast matches the number of people who voted. This proposal aimed to provide consistency within the election code. However, in recent elections, county board members have been pressured to certify results even when denied the necessary documents for review.

Public debate has emerged over the interpretation of this and similar statutes nationwide, highlighting the SEB's role in addressing such confusion. The SEB's responsibility includes promulgating rules to clarify election practices, which was the intent behind the proposed rule. Despite acknowledging the legitimate confusion surrounding certification, the board delayed adopting the rule, expressing uncertainty about whether it exceeded legislative requirements.

The delay in adopting this crucial rule is concerning, but the reasons behind it are even more troubling. SEB member Sara Ghazal, appointed by Georgia Democrats, objected to the rule's requirement for ballot reconciliation before certification and the need to stop and investigate vote discrepancies before recording votes in the precinct.

Her objection is problematic because these requirements are already clearly mandated by law. Thus, her issue appears to be with adhering to state legislation, which is a deeply troubling stance for an SEB member to take.

The reconciliation of the number of ballots cast with the number of people who voted is a crucial step in ensuring election integrity. Completing this process could have prevented Fulton County, Georgia, from counting over 3,000 duplicate ballots in the 2020 election. However, this step is often overlooked by election officials and administrators.

According to the America First Policy Institute’s (AFPI) complaint, those advocating for the automatic certification of elections argue that officials have delegated the review of such documents to administrators. Yet, questions remain about the legality of this delegation and whether election officials still retain the authority and responsibility to review these documents at the end of the election. AFPI’s lawsuit aims to address these critical questions.

The pressure on election officials to certify results prematurely compromises their duty to “inspect systematically and thoroughly” the conduct of elections to ensure they are conducted honestly, efficiently, and uniformly. A declaratory judgment from the court would help resolve this issue and reduce the tension and disputes over the certification process during the 2024 election.


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