Georgia lawmakers aired claims of 2020 election fraud Thursday afternoon at a hearing that featured President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani.
The former New York City mayor’s appearance came after state senators fielded testimony at a separate hearing Thursday morning from a top state election official who stressed that no evidence has been found of widespread fraud in Georgia.
At the second hearing, members of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee heard from witnesses on alleged issues with the state’s voting machines and watched a video alleging ballot-counting irregularities that state election officials have dismissed as unfounded.
Luke Martin, chairman of the Floyd County Republican Party, was asked to testify about the local election process. Complaints leading up to the Nov. 3 election and the discovery of uncounted ballots during the subsequent audit led to the firing of Floyd County Chief Elections Clerk Robert Brady.
However, Martin was among the long line of witnesses who had not testified before proceedings ended shortly after 7 p.m. He submitted an affidavit to enter into the record.
Martin said “the overwhelming number of absentee ballots” affected the counting process and the lack of transparency led to a loss of confidence in the office’s ability to conduct elections.
“The elections office failed to notify the public and parties about when they would begin counting absentee ballots, resulting in the former chief clerk counting ballots in secret,” Martin said. “The doors were locked on election night, preventing ... monitors from viewing the election night count for several hours.”
While the problems in Floyd County were the result of incompetence, Martin said, he has “grave concerns” that the same people were the ones entrusted with verifying the signatures on absentee ballots.
“The General Assembly must allow a process to audit signatures to make sure the election offices across the state got it right,” Martin said.
He also recommended limiting absentee ballots to those who actually need them, saying there are weeks of early voting opportunities for motivated voters.
Martin said he told the subcommittee that laws designed to benefit unmotivated voters — such as unrestricted absentee ballots and the use of ballot drop boxes — make it harder to maintain control of the process.
“Let’s take this opportunity to get it right to restore voter confidence that only lawful votes are counted,” he said.
Hours of contention
Giuliani said he plans to file a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court, and his legal team pressed state lawmakers to appoint Electoral College electors who will cast Georgia’s 16 votes for Trump next month.
The Republican president lost to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden in Georgia.
Ryan Germany, the general counsel for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office, spoke at the earlier hearing before the Senate Government Oversight Committee. He reiterated that state officials “have not seen anything that would suggest widespread fraud or widespread problems with the voting system” after two recounts of the 5 million ballots cast.
Germany and the state’s voting system manager, Gabriel Sterling, were present to answer questions but were not invited to the afternoon hearing.
Republican state senators convened the two hearings to address allegations of voting fraud and irregularities circulated by Trump and his supporters.
A number of witnesses at the afternoon hearing were brought by Guiliani and his team.
One, who also provided an affidavit in a separate lawsuit filed by Trump ally Sidney Powell, presented statistical modeling. Giuliani’s attorneys also unveiled surveillance video they alleged shows ballot-counting irregularities at State Farm Arena in Atlanta — though they acknowledged they had not finished reviewing it.
Other witnesses discussed issues with election workers handling paper print-out and absentee ballots during the initial counts and recounts, including one witness who said ballots were kept in “cardboard boxes” and kept “less secure than a urine sample.”
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez, Fulton County’s external affairs director, said county officials followed all the rules and procedures for verifying and counting absentee ballots that have been set by state law and Raffensperger’s office.
“It is our intent to follow the law, to follow the process that is provided by the secretary of state,” Corbitt-Dominguez told lawmakers Thursday. “And to our knowledge, that is what happened.”
Democratic lawmakers at the hearings called them a farce, noting claims from Giuliani’s witnesses faced no scrutiny from election officials and that Republican lawmakers in the GOP-dominated General Assembly had the heaviest hand in selecting Georgia’s new voting machines last year.
“(Raffensperger’s) office just explained to senators and the public how the election was run and that Biden won,” said state Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta. “Now we are being forced to listen to bonkers conspiracy theories out of Rudy Giuliani’s team. What a disservice to the public!”
Republican lawmakers took the claims from Giuliani’s witnesses more seriously.
Senate Majority Whip Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, said he has “never seen this level of mistrust” in the election system after fielding concerns from constituents in his heavily conservative North Georgia district.