Superior Court Judge Brian Amero on Thursday dismissed claims filed against Fulton County, the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections and the Fulton County Clerk of Superior and Magistrate Courts on the basis of Georgia’s sovereign immunity laws.
However, Amero also granted a request by the plaintiffs to add the county’s election board members — as individuals, not as a collective group — to the lawsuit as new respondents, effectively keeping alive a small group’s efforts to inspect all 147,000 absentee ballots cast in the state’s largest county last November. Don Samuel, an attorney representing three of the county election board members, told The Washington Post that he plans to file motions to dismiss those claims, as well.
Amero did not dismiss an effort by the plaintiffs to enforce their right to view digital images of mail-in ballots under public records laws.
Fulton County election officials and local representatives have repeatedly asserted that there has been no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, a claim perpetuated by former president Donald Trump, who has continued to baselessly allege that the election was stolen from him. President Biden won Georgia by fewer than 12,000 votes, the first time the state had gone for a Democrat since 1992.
Amero’s ruling prompted a blistering statement from Robb Pitts, chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, who called on “this whole circus” to end. Georgia officials have already conducted three audits of the 2020 election ballots, including a hand recount, which produced no evidence of widespread fraud.
“This lawsuit is the result of meritless claims and the Big Lie. The votes have been counted three times, including a hand recount, and no evidence of widespread fraud was found,” Pitts said.
“Last year, I told President Trump and others who push the Big Lie to ‘put up or shut up.’ It’s been six months and still no proof of wrongdoing has been produced. Enough is enough — this whole circus must end,” Pitts added.
Samuel, an attorney for the Fulton County elections board, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Amero’s ruling means the plaintiffs cannot inspect the absentee ballots with high-powered microscopes as they had planned.
“That litigation is finished,” Samuel told the Journal-Constitution. “Is there going to be an audit? Not right now. … There’s no discovery permitted. There’s no lawsuit pending anymore.”
Garland Favorito, the lead plaintiff, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. On Twitter, he cast the ruling as a win for himself and the other petitioners, suggesting that his group’s examination of Fulton County’s absentee ballots could and would still go forward.
Amero last month had ordered Fulton County to allow Favorito’s group to inspect all 147,000 mail-in ballots, the latest instance of a local government being forced to undergo a third-party inspection of its election practices amid baseless claims by Trump and others in the GOP.
Amy Gardner contributed to this report.