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Fact-checking Trump’s letter to Georgia secretary of state


CNN

By Tara Subramaniam

More than 10 months after the 2020 election, former President Donald Trump is still trying to claim victory in Georgia, a state that flipped from Trump in 2016 to Biden in 2020. Since just days after he lost, Trump has been tossing out debunked conspiracy theories over the election in Georgia, including in a now-notorious call with Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and staff.

Ahead of his scheduled rally in Georgia this weekend, Trump is once again attempting to have the state’s 2020 election results overturned, even as his previous efforts to do so are under criminal investigation.

In a letter sent to Raffensperger Friday, Trump alleged that “large scale Voter Fraud continues to be reported in Georgia” and requested that Raffensperger “start the process of decertifying the election, or whatever the correct legal remedy is, and announce the true winner.”

As evidence of the potential fraud, Trump’s letter cites an article from The Georgia Star News, a pro-Trump website whose reporting CNN previously fact-checked when the Trump campaign used it to support their claims of fraud last year.

This time, in an article published August 30, The Georgia Star News claimed that more than 43,000 absentee ballot votes counted in Georgia’s DeKalb County violated the state’s chain of custody rule. Trump claims those votes would be invalid if the rule was violated.

DeKalb County is a large, majority Black and heavily Democratic county that Biden won by nearly 250,000 votes in 2020. Biden’s margin of victory across all of Georgia was fewer than 12,000.

According to Georgia’s state election board rules regarding absentee voting, “ballots from the drop box shall be immediately transported to the county registrar.” The Georgia Star News article argues this rule was violated because, it claims, absentee ballot drop box transfer forms show some of the ballots obtained from the drop box were documented as being received by the county registrar the next day or that there was no receipt time recorded at all. CNN has not independently verified The Georgia Star News’ claims about the number of ballots that fit this description.

Facts First: Trump’s claims of fraud in Georgia remain completely baseless. Even if the drop box process was violated, the Georgia Secretary of State says the ballots themselves remain valid. Georgia has certified its election results three times under Raffensperger’s leadership and found no mass voter fraud.

In his first public response to the letter, Raffensperger on Monday evening told CNN’s Erin Burnett that an investigation into the claims raised by Trump and The Georgia Star News is ongoing, but suggested that the outcome of the investigation would not change the results of the election or invalidate any ballots.

“The ballots themselves were approved and are lawful ballots, but were processes violated? That’s what we’re investigating right now,” Raffensperger said.

Beyond this investigation, there’s not much else the state or DeKalb County can do.

“At this juncture, the DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections has no legal authority under state law to invalidate presidential election results certified in December of 2020 by the Georgia Secretary of State,” Erik Burton, a spokesperson for DeKalb Voter Registration & Elections, told CNN Monday. “Election contests for the 2020 presidential election had to be filed in court within five days of the certification by the Secretary of State.”

According to David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, a non-partisan non-profit, if Trump is serious about his allegations, he should take it to court, not ask Georgia elections officials to do something outside the scope of their abilities.

“If they think they have a claim, if they think this is new information that can withstand scrutiny by a court,” Becker said, “they should go ahead and file a claim. But bullying elections officials 10, 11 months after an election literally means nothing.”

“All we have here is a losing candidate so disconnected from reality that he’s asking for extrajudicial decertification of an election nearly a year ago,” Becker told CNN, adding, “which even if it were possible to decertify, would not change the outcome of the election.”

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