According to Georgia state law, if a voter “cast more than the permitted number of votes” on a ballot, it is considered “spoiled,” and the vote “shall not be reinstated.”
Each ballot also has a disclaimer that reads, “If you make a mistake or change your mind or change your mind on a selection do not attempt to mark through the selection or attempt to erase. Write ‘Spoiled’ across the ballot and across the return envelope” and request a new ballot.
But thousands of such votes, called overvotes, originally rejected by vote-counting machines, were later altered by election workers and recounted in Fulton, County, Georgia, reports Just The News.
This process is called adjudication, and it means that human judgment is used instead of the machine when a ballot is incorrectly filled out to determine the voter’s intent. According to Georgia regulations:
Detection of at least 10% but less than 20% fill-in of the target area surrounded by the oval shall flag the ballot for adjudication by a vote review panel as set forth in O.C.G.A.. In reviewing any ballot flagged for adjudication, the votes shall be counted if, in the opinion of the vote review panel, the voter has clearly and without question indicated the candidate or candidates and answers to questions for which such voter desires to vote.
Because of widespread absentee voting, adjudication played a much larger role in 2020 than in past elections. For example, over 5,000 of the 148,000 absentee ballots cast in Fulton County required adjudication, according to logs acquired by Just The News.
“The adjudication ballots alone are not enough to change a Georgia election in which Biden and Trump were separated by less than 13,000 votes,” notes Just The News, “However, they reveal an imperfect system vulnerable to chaos, subjectivity, or political dirty tricks, especially in a county like Fulton where state officials documented widespread irregularities and misconduct and now want to take over election counting.”
Just the News reviewed hundreds of ballots that met the definition of a “spoiled” ballot that were nevertheless counted after adjudication. “The reason? Another Georgia regulation gives election officials broad discretion to try to determine the intent of a confused voter, and actually encourages them to find a way to make flawed ballots count.”
Despite state law dictating that spoiled ballots should not be counted, there is a state code that says voting machines must be programmed to “reject any ballot, including absentee ballots, on which an overvote is detected,” and those ballots must be “manually reviewed.” If a voter “has marked his or her ballot in such a manner that he or she has indicated clearly and without question the candidate for whom he or she desires to cast his or her vote,” the ballot can be counted.
But according to instructions on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, voters are instructed to declare their ballot spoiled if they make a mistake.
However, according to a longtime election official in Fulton County, they never had clear instructions for handling spoiled or adjudicated ballots. “According to a Fulton County Board member, there were no written adjudication processes given to adjudicators,” Bridget Thorne told Just the News. “Processes were given verbally. In the event the Democrat and the Republican adjudicators could not agree, [county executive] Ralph Jones would decide.”
“Based on my experience, it is not surprising that they did not have a standard written process for adjudicators,” she added. “An internal audit financial report that came out on Wednesday also states that they are missing Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).”
And, based on a review by Just The News, having no standard process appears to have benefited Joe Biden, according to scans of ballots showing an apparent disparity in how spoiled ballots were ultimately counted. One ballot had an erroneous vote for Trump, which was then crossed out and marked “spoiled,” and then a vote for Biden was marked. It was adjudicated, and the vote was awarded to Biden. But another ballot labeled spoiled only had one mark (for Trump and other Republican candidates for lower offices) but was not counted. Other overvotes or spoiled ballots presented by Just The News suggests that human intervention generally benefitted Joe Biden.
While it appears that adjudicated ballots wouldn’t have altered the outcome of the election, this report comes on the heels of a previous report documenting election integrity problems witnessed in Fulton County. A recent lawsuit also claims that the Georgia hand recount was “riddled with massive errors and provable fraud.” Given the small state-certified margin of victory for Biden, there’s more than enough reason to be concerned that election-altered irregularities and fraud may have occurred.