In the lawsuits, Republican officials raised concerns with the ways that signatures were matched on absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 election — the source of criticism lobbed by President Trump and his allies in their efforts to sow doubt in the integrity of the presidential vote in Georgia.
That state certified its election results for the second time this week after a second recount of presidential ballots reaffirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the state. But Trump and his allies have repeatedly, without evidence, alleged widespread improprieties with the state’s signature-matching process for absentee ballots — a voting method widely preferred by Democrats this year.
The lawsuits seek changes for the runoff election, although absentee voting is already underway and tens of thousands of Georgians have already submitted their ballots.
Signature verification is a process through which election workers verify the authenticity of a mail ballot by matching the signature on the envelope to the one they have on their voter files. Georgia verifies the voter’s signature once it receives the absentee ballot envelopes.
The Georgia Republican Party, National Republican Senatorial Committee and the two Republican candidates for the runoff elections, Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, filed a lawsuit this week in federal court, asking the judge to declare the state’s absentee ballot verification process unconstitutional.
They asked the court for additional reviews of absentee ballots, and to allow for “meaningful public observation” of election officials verifying their authenticity.
The signature verification process is already open to the public for poll workers and other officials who are authorized to observe the process, according to a Wednesday election bulletin distributed by the secretary of state’s office to county election officials.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) has recommended improvements to the state’s signature verification requirements and said he plans to work with state legislators next year to explore other options, such as photo identification verification.
But until the legislature meets and makes changes, election administrators are bound by current verification requirements, which were written into law by Republican state leaders, according to the secretary of state’s office.
“If there’s a better way to do it, the signature match, the secretary is certainly willing to be at the table for that legislative process. But changes to the law require action of the General Assembly,” said Brian Robinson, a communications consultant for the secretary of state’s office. “Our current election laws were passed by Republican general assemblies.”
Last month, the Georgia State Election Board passed rules extending the use of absentee ballot boxes for the runoffs and requiring counties to begin scanning absentee ballots a week before the election.
Two recent lawsuits raised concerns with both absentee ballots and the use of drop boxes.
The Republican National Committee and the state GOP filed a lawsuit this week asking, among other things, for greater access for poll watchers who monitor vote counting and signature verification for the Jan. 5 runoff. The lawsuit cited concerns raised by some poll watchers who said they were not able to witness as much of the process as they had hoped.
The lawsuit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court, also asked for restrictions on when voters could drop off their ballots at secure drop boxes, and for video surveillance of such drop boxes to be made available in real time for the public.
In another lawsuit filed in federal court, the Republican Committee of the 12th Congressional District in Georgia and other plaintiffs raised similar concerns about the verification of absentee ballot signatures and the security of ballot drop boxes. They asked the court to prohibit the use of ballot drop boxes for the runoff elections. But the drop boxes are already secure and require constant video surveillance, and many counties already provide video footage, Robinson said.
County election officials continue to face harassment and threats of violence amid the torrent of misinformation, conspiracy theories and unfounded allegations of widespread fraud. They said they are working to ensure that voters have faith in the election process, and that they will adapt to any changes that may be made for the runoffs.
“As for the numerous claims of widespread fraud, we’re dealing with them the best we can as they come to our attention. It has been rather challenging,” said Ross Cavitt, spokesman for Cobb County, which has faced criticism from Trump’s allies.
Aaron Schaffer contributed to this report.