Georgia Public Broadcasting Reveals Secretary of State Raffensperger Delivered Some Fulton County Absentee Ballot Chain of Custody Documents to Them in April

A reporter for Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) News revealed to The Georgia Star News in an interview on Wednesday that the public broadcasting entity received some of Fulton County’s drop box absentee ballot transfer forms from the office of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in April.

GPB News, however, did not publicly report the details of those Fulton County chain of custody documents obtained from the Secretary of State until after The Star News report on June 14 that a Fulton County official admitted absentee ballot transfer forms from the November 2020 were missing.

Stephen Fowler of Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) News requested an interview with John Fredericks, radio talk show host and publisher of The Georgia Star News, part of The Star News Network, earlier in the week. Laura Baigert, the reporter for The Georgia Star News and The Star News Network who broke the June 14 story also participated.

The interview request came after a series of articles by the two outlets regarding Fulton County’s missing absentee ballot drop box chain of custody documents from the November 3, 2020 election.

Late Wednesday, Secretary of State Raffensperger told Just The News that he was calling for the State Election Board to take over the administration of elections in Fulton County due to the county’s inability to competently run its elections.

Following the June 14 report by The Star News that a Fulton County election official admitted “a few forms were missing” and that “procedural paperwork was misplaced,” with regarding to 385 missing drop box transfer forms that represented 18,901 absentee ballots, GPB News published a story time stamped June 16 titled “Fact Check: Fulton County Is Not Missing Ballots or Hundreds of Drop Box Custody Forms.”

The basis of the GPB News fact check, on an initial publication date of June 16, was that they had received all of the absentee ballot drop box transfer forms from Fulton County within 48 hours of their open records request following The Star News report.

In that article and a subsequent one published on June 23, “Here’s a Look at Fulton County’s Drop Box Use,” GPB News also admitted that all of the forms had not been produced by Fulton County elections officials.

“[A]fter GPB News asked the county Monday about the forms not included in the Georgia Star’s records request, elections staff located all but eight of the more than 1,500 forms, sent them to state investigators and provided them to GPB News on a flash drive,” GPB News said in the first report published initially with a June 16 time stamp.

In the second report published June 23, GPB News said that 54 forms – or 3 percent of the 1,500 forms – representing 1,110 ballots are still missing.

‘The county is also missing records for eight individual drop boxes across three days: five from Oct. 15, two from Oct. 17 and one from Oct. 21.”

“For at least 46 drop box entries totaling just under 1,100 ballots, the county has internal records of the total number of ballots collected but did not provide the associated form.”

Over a series of questions, GPB News’ Stephen Fowler revealed that he received some portion of Fulton County’s chain of custody documents from the Secretary of State’s office in April. He received the balance of the transfer forms directly from Fulton County after The Star News report.

Fowler said he sent an Open Records Request to Fulton County on June 14 after reading The Star News article, and received the thumb drive from Fulton County with additional transfer form documentation three days later on June 17. He said his original “Fact Check” article was published on June 17, and that the June 16 time stamp that appeared on the article [from June 17 to June 19] was due to the GPB News publishing system.

Notably, Fulton County has yet to provide to The Star News the transfer forms it provided GPB News on June 17. This despite the fact that The Star News filed its Open Records Request for these documents in December 2020, more than six months ago, and that the GPB request for the same documents was completed by Fulton County in less than 72 hours.

Fowler’s revelations that GPB News obtained some Fulton County transfer form documents in April conflicts with what the Secretary of State’s office told The Star News that same month.

At the time, Brad Raffensperger reported that just three small counties were in violation of the State Election Board Emergency Rule 183-1-14-0.8-.14 regarding secure absentee ballot drop boxes, the chain of custody documents were requested by The Star News.

“You will have to get those documents through open records requests from the counties. We just confirmed with the relevant counties that they had them. We don’t have the documents here.”

The full transcript of the Wednesday June 30, 2021 telephone interview between Stephen Fowler of GPB, John Fredericks, publisher of The Georgia Star News, and Laura Baigert, reporter for The Georgia Star News and The Star News Network can be read HERE.