The case of a deceased voter in Dade County, Georgia, whose identity was used to cast a mail ballot in the Nov. 3 general election has drawn the attention of local authorities — and is being used by the re-election campaign of President Donald Trump to emphasize concerns about vote fraud.
Edward Zigmund Skwiot, a veteran of the United States Navy, died on April 28, 2015, at his home in Trenton at age 82. Skwiot was born in Meriden, Connecticut, and had a passion for bluegrass music.
According to the Georgia secretary of state's "My Voter" page, a ballot with Skwiot's name was accepted on Oct. 19 after an absentee ballot was requested on Oct. 1.
Tammie Vaughan, Dade County's elections supervisor, said the issue has been brought to her attention and will be investigated.
"I have already turned this information over to the secretary of state to be given to the investigator," Vaughn said.
Walter Jones with the Georgia Secretary of State's Office said he is looking into the matter.
The Trump campaign highlighted the Skwiot case and three others in a news release on Wednesday morning.
"Having confidence in our elections means knowing that votes are legally cast and that voters themselves are legally eligible to cast a ballot," the release said.
Skwiot and his wife, Doris, lived in Trenton up until Skwiot's death in 2015.
Michael Bell, Doris' son, lives in East Ridge. He told the Times Free Press that his mother lived at the house for about a year after her husband's death and then sold the house on Bell Circle in Trenton — the house where the mail ballot was sent.
Doris Skwiot now lives in Catoosa County. Bell told the Times Free Press there's no way Doris could have requested a ballot for her late husband or sent one in on his behalf.
What's even more concerning, Bell said, is the state's elections website says an application for an absentee ballot was requested on behalf of Skwiot for the upcoming runoff election.
"This is all fraudulent behavior on somebody's part," Bell said.
Bell said Edward and Doris would make it a point to vote early and in person for every election. Edward Skwiot took pride in voting and made sure to exercise his right to vote, Bell said.
There's no way to know which presidential candidate received the vote on the improper 2020 ballot cast in the name of Edward Skwiot. But David Skwiot, one of Edward's sons who still lives in Connecticut, has a pretty clear idea of who his dad would have voted for if he were alive.
"There's no way in hell he would've voted for Biden," David said.
Georgia is one front in a nationwide scramble by Trump forces to question his loss in multiple states, after The Associated Press and other news organizations declared Biden the victor Saturday when he surpassed the 270 electoral vote threshold with victories in Pennsylvania and Nevada.
A flurry of post-election activity by Trump has highlighted instances such as the Skwiot vote that may indicate concerns with the election system's vulnerability, but it's hard to say at this point that the effort could successfully overcome the margins of tens of thousands of votes Biden is racking up as counts continue across the nation.
The AP has not yet called the presidential race for Georgia's 16 electoral votes. Biden now leads by more than 14,000 votes in the state.
Earlier this week, U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler took the surprising step of calling for the resignation of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the state's chief elections officer and a fellow member of the GOP.
Raffensperger quickly shot back, saying he would not be stepping down. He instead recommended Perdue and Loeffler focus on winning their runoff elections in January, which will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate for the next two years.
Raffensperger said his office is investigating any specific reports of illegal votes, but officials don't expect to find any significant problems.
"Does it rise to the numbers or margin necessary to change the outcome to where President Trump is given Georgia's electoral votes? That is unlikely," Raffensperger said.
Gabriel Sterling, Georgia's voting system implementation manager, has said in a number of news conferences that in every election there will be a small number of illegal votes and every instance will be investigated. Sterling also said the state has seen no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
On Wednesday, Raffensperger announced the state would perform a hand recount to verify the outcome of the 2020 results in Georgia. That means all 159 counties will have 10 days to verify nearly 5 million votes. The count will act as an audit, a recount and as a recanvass all at once.
Contact Patrick Filbin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.
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