A woman from Trion, Georgia, is being investigated for allegedly submitting a ballot for her deceased husband in the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Donald Ennis Cook Jr. died on Aug. 2, 2020, at the age of 49 at Floyd Medical Center in Rome, Georgia. Weeks earlier, due to the coronavirus pandemic and the Georgia secretary of state's newly adopted policy to send ballots earlier than usual, a ballot was sent to Cook and his wife, Sherry, at their home.
Sheena Weaver, the chief registrar in Chattooga County, said her office was sent a notice about three weeks after Cook's death that he had died and that he would no longer be eligible to vote.
However, a ballot was dropped off with his name on Election Day, officials say.
"There was no way that it was going to count because we already knew it wouldn't and because of the systems in place," Weaver said.
After Weaver and her office opened Cook's ballot, they let local law enforcement know as well as the secretary of state's office.
Investigators with the secretary of state's office spoke to Sherry Cook, and "it looks like things didn't add up," Walter Jones with the office said.
Last week, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a news release the election board sent a third batch of alleged "voting violations" to prosecutors after hearing what investigators had discovered across the state. The week before, former Ringgold mayoral candidate Paul Lee was named in a similar list for saying he would buy lunch for anyone with an "I Voted" sticker if he won the election.
The Georgia Election Board heard 75 cases and sent dozens to the attorney general's office and local district attorneys for potential fines. In this case, Sherry Cook faces potential forgery and fraud charges, Jones said. Cook did not respond to a message on social media seeking comment.
In the months after the contentious presidential election, Raffensperger and other top election officials in Georgia have repeatedly said there has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
Dozens of court cases in Georgia brought by former President Donald Trump's legal team alleging widespread issues at the polls were dismissed by both Republican- and Democratic-appointed judges.
But no election process is without individual problem cases. Trump on Nov. 11 drew attention to four alleged cases of votes cast in the name of dead voters in Georgia. Three of those were explained by state officials as legitimate, involving people with similar names.
But officials confirmed there was a problematic vote in the case of Edward Skwiot, a Dade County man who died in 2015 only to have a ballot cast in his name in 2020.
As the weeks passed after the election, and losses mounted in the courts, Trump's claims of problems at the polls became more alarming. In a Jan. 2 call with Raffensperger, Trump alleged that thousands of dead voters had cast ballots in Georgia.
"So dead people voted. And I think the number is in the — close to 5,000 people," Trump said on the call, according to The Washington Post, which obtained a recording. "And they went to obituaries. They went to all sorts of methods to come up with an accurate number. And a minimum is close to about 5,000 voters."
Raffensperger told Trump the correct number of confirmed votes cast in the name of dead people was two.
Because Donald Cook's vote was not accepted at the polls, and not counted, his is not one of the two confirmed votes in the name of dead people. The Dade County case of Skwiot, however, is one of the cases.
Tammie Vaughan, elections director in Dade County, said she has not heard of an update from the secretary of state's office about the case. She said two people — Belinda Laws and Steven Sharp — are registered voters at the home where Skwiot's ballot was sent.
Chris Arnt — the district attorney for the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit — did not return a call Monday.
Contact Patrick Filbin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.