Georgia ballots rejected by machines were later altered by election workers to count

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Records obtained by Just the News provide unprecedented glimpse into human adjudication of thousands of ballots, where marks for candidates like Trump were sometimes removed so ballots could count for Biden.

A day after the November election, as Donald Trump and other Republican candidates clung to evaporating leads in Georgia, vote counters in Atlanta were confronted by a paper ballot known only by its anonymizing number 5150-232-18.

A Dominion Voting machine had rejected the ballot on election night because the voter had filled in boxes for both Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden, an error known as an “overvote.” The machine determined neither candidate should get a tally, and the ballot was referred for human review.

The image of the ballot, obtained by Just the News, shows the voter messily scribbled a large blob in the box to select Trump as president while also putting a thinner check mark next to Biden’s name.  

At 6:10 p.m. ET on Nov. 4, 24 hours after the ballot was first scanned and rejected by Machine 5150, a panel of humans decided the vote should be awarded to Biden, with the notation “mark removed for Donald J. Trump.” You can see that ballot here:

05150_00232_000018_0

Scores of additional ballots that same day had checks manually removed next to Trump’s name as well as many other candidates up and down the ticket — Libertarians, Democrats and write-ins alike — and the votes awarded instead to other candidates. 

Welcome to the arcane process known as adjudication, where human judgment is substituted for machine scanning in cases where voters incorrectly filled out a paper ballot. Election officials and official observers have dealt with it for years, with everyday citizens mostly oblivious to the process.

But in 2020, adjudication played a much larger role in states like Georgia, which allowed hundreds of thousands of additional citizens to vote absentee for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In all, more than 5,000 of the 148,000 absentee ballots cast — or about 3% — in Georgia’s largest county required some form of human intervention, according to logs obtained from Fulton County by Just the News under an open records act request.

ORR_5053-2021Adjudication_Activity_Log_11.7.2020

By John SolomonDaniel Payne and Natalia Mittelstadt

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