Elections organization lawsuit challenges Georgia secretary of state primary

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The co-founder of a Georgia elections integrity organization has filed a lawsuit to audit the 2022 secretary of state primary race in all of Georgia's 159 counties.

"We're looking to unseal the ballots so that we would be able to count the race and make sure that the results are correct," said Garland Favorito, the co-founder of Voter GA, in a phone interview. Voter GA has an office in Ringgold. "There's a lot of suspicious results that the Dominion systems has produced. And a lot of folks are questioning whether or not it's accurate."

Filed in a Spalding County Superior Court last week, the lawsuit seeks to unseal the secretary of state primary ballots, allow them to be scanned by Favorito and his associates, invalidate the May 24 secretary of state primary and hold another primary for the position that conducts Georgia's elections.

Favorito, of Roswell, Georgia, said two primary election audits motivated the lawsuit - one official audit that found the last-place finisher in a county commission race actually got the most votes, and another unofficial, over-the-shoulder audit conducted by Voter GA that found Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was awarded about 15% more votes than he actually received.

(READ MORE: A target of Trump's ire, Raffensperger fights for reelection)

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a "security advisory" from the federal government's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency about the voting machines used in Georgia. Released June 3, just over a week after the primary, the advisory found nine vulnerabilities in Dominion Voting Systems' ImageCast X machines.

There is no evidence those vulnerabilities have been exploited, the advisory said, and "jurisdictions can prevent and/or detect the exploitation of these vulnerabilities by diligently applying the mitigations recommended " that limit unauthorized access or manipulation. Even before the advisory, the mitigations listed were recommended by the cybersecurity and infrastructure agency as best practices.

Favorito said he and other elections integrity advocates have known about vulnerabilities in the machines for years, but confirmation from the federal government is "better late than never."

Danielle Montgomery, director of elections and registration for Walker County, said she hadn't heard about the most recent lawsuit but was aware of the previous lawsuit filed by Favorito and Voter GA asking to unseal the ballots in the 2020 election. In that lawsuit, now before the Georgia Court of Appeals, Favorito is alleging a physical inspection of 2020 ballots will prove some of them are counterfeit.

(READ MORE: Ballot inspection seeks elusive proof of fraud in Georgia election)

In a phone interview, Montgomery said her department had already been following the security recommendations from the cybersecurity and infrastructure agency, so department officials did not have to make any changes based on the security advisory. If Favorito wins his case, scanning the ballots for examination wouldn't cost much money but would be time consuming and take a couple of days to complete, Montgomery said.

Tonya Moore, Catoosa County elections director, was on vacation and not available for comment.

The official primary audit occurred in DeKalb County, Favorito said, triggered when results showed that Michelle Long Spears, a candidate for DeKalb County Commission, received zero votes in several precincts - including the precinct where she and her husband lived.

A May 28 hand count audit found, Favorito said, that "she was shorted 3,000 votes. And she actually finished in first place, not last."

DeKalb County elections officials said in a statement the problem was isolated to that one race, and it "likely occurred after one candidate withdrew from the race."

Marshall Orson, who was one of the two candidates leading on election night, expected to qualify for a runoff but was put out of the race after the audit, Decaturish.com reported. He asked for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate but the GBI declined, saying the new law giving it that authority didn't go into effect until July 1, and that Orson didn't allege any crime.

In the other audit cited in the lawsuit, Cobb County elections officials were asked to hand count the results of an initiative that let voters decide if Vinings would become its own city. Video from Cobb County shows Favorito and others in the room as elections officials placed paper ballots in "yes" and "no" baskets.

While elections officials were recounting the Vinings race, Favorito and Voter GA representatives were counting votes for the secretary of state race in that precinct. In the Vinings race, the hand count of votes was identical to the scanned count and the initiative was denied - one of three Cobb County efforts to become cities that failed May 24.

"That [audit] checked out," Favorito said, "but when we monitored that audit, that was when found the machines appeared to be giving Raffensperger about 15% more than what the ballots are showing. So that generated more suspicion."

Favorito also said Raffensperger also ended up winning significantly more votes than what he received in his most favorable poll, and, "it looked suspicious." Crushing Trump-supported challenger Jody Hice and avoiding a run-off, Raffensperger won 52.1% of the primary vote and will face Democrat Bee Nguyen in the general election Nov. 8.

(READ MORE: Perdue hugs Trump as he runs to right in Georgia Republican primary)

The lawsuit and count will be expensive for his organization, Favorito said, but he thinks it's important to gain access and count the physical ballots by hand to make sure "everything is kosher." He and his fellow election integrity advocates would also accept a digital image of the ballots to inspect, he said.

Contact Andrew Wilkins at awilkins@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @tweetatwilkins.