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Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recently announced that he had referred Grady County and two other counties for the alleged failure to properly complete absentee ballot transfer forms, a violation of the Georgia Rules and Regulations.
Grady County Chief Registrar Malinda Butler said this week that since Raffensperger’s announcement she has not heard from anyone associated with the investigation.
Butler says approximately one month before Raffensperger issued the press release about the investigation referral, an investigator with the Secretary of State’s office had contacted her and questioned her about the absentee ballot transfer forms.
Up until the most recent session of the General Assembly, the absentee ballot transfer form had been governed under state rules and regulations, but it is now a matter of law, according to Butler.
She said that many changes to how elections were conducted were made last year due to the pandemic and were included in an emergency ruling.
“I took an oath to uphold when I took this job and that hasn’t changed since 2017. I give 110 percent and will continue to do so. This is all a matter of some paperwork,” Butler said.
At issue is a rule that each time absentee ballots were retrieved from the drop box located behind the Grady County Courthouse, Butler was to have filled out a ballot transfer form. The Grady County chief registrar said that she is the only full-time employee of her office and that she had limited part-time help. Under the state rule, two people were to sign out and retrieve the absentee ballots and transfer them to the elections office for processing.
“What was I supposed to do? Sign myself in and out?” Butler asked.
“I checked the collection box and counted the ballots like I was supposed to. I didn’t commit fraud,” she said.
Absentee ballot drop boxes were allowed by emergency rule of the State Election Board to address the absentee ballot voting surge caused by COVID-19. The emergency rule required counties with drop boxes to fill out ballot transfer forms that included the date, time, location, and number of ballots in the drop boxes whenever election officials collected ballots from the drop box.
In addition to new rules and regulations, Butler said she faced back-to-back elections, canceled elections, and “little to no help.”
According to Raffensperger, officials in Coffee and Taylor counties also are alleged to have failed to complete the required transfer forms. The office of the Secretary of State has confirmed with the other 120 counties that had absentee ballot drop boxes in November that they completed ballot transfer documents.
The Secretary of State says steps need to be taken to fully secure elections, but Butler says she was under video surveillance from the time she collected the ballots from the drop box until she returned them to her office to be counted. “There is plenty of security,” she said.
The three counties account for only 0.37 percent of all the absentee ballots cast in the November 2020 election, according to Raffensperger’s office.