In swing states such as Georgia, Arizona, and Michigan, the chain of custody for ballots seems to be broken or missing, raising questions about the validity of election results. In the legal context, the chain of custody refers to the chronological documentation or paper trail containing the custody, control, transfer, analysis, and disposition of materials. Specifically, the movement of ballots chronologically through the election process should have no missing links.
Between Sept. 24, 2020, and Nov. 3, 2020, election workers at Fulton County made 1,565 separate and unique transfers of absentee ballots, which were collected through 37 drop boxes located throughout the county. On May 3, The Georgia Star News received a thumb drive from Fulton County officials with 30 files containing documents related to the ballots.
An analysis of the 30 files showed that they only contained 1,180 absentee ballot transfer forms, 385 less than the total 1,565 expected. The missing 385 forms contained the chain of custody documentation for 18,901 absentee ballots.
To put this into perspective, President Joe Biden won the state of Georgia with a margin of less than 12,000 votes. In an interview with The Georgia Star News, a Fulton County official admitted to misplacing paperwork and losing some of the forms.
“As we review the documents provided to you and our daily log, we noticed that a few forms are missing. It seems when 25 plus core personnel were quarantined due to positive COVID-19 outbreak at the EPC, some procedural paperwork may have been misplaced,” Mariska Bodison from the Fulton County Registration & Elections told The Star News.
An estimated 600,000 absentee ballots were cast in Georgia for the 2020 presidential race. The Star News has received chain of custody documentation for 266,492 absentee ballots from 59 counties, while the documentation for around 333,000 ballots has not been provided by the remaining counties.
An audit of the 2020 elections is ongoing in Maricopa County. In a letter written to Jack Sellers, the chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors, Arizona Senate President Republican Karen Fann raised the ballot chain of custody issues.
“As the audit has progressed, the Senate’s contractors have become aware of apparent omissions, inconsistencies, and anomalies relating to Maricopa County’s handling, organization, and storage of ballots… The County has not provided any chain-of-custody documentation for the ballots. Does such documentation exist, and if so, will it be produced?” the letter states.
The letter points out that the audit team has encountered several instances where a disparity exists between the number of ballots actually contained in a batch and the number denoted on the pink report slip that accompanies every ballot batch. In most of these instances, the number on the pink slip is higher than the number of ballots present.
For example, for pallet 5, batch number 9276, the pink slip indicated that 200 ballots should be present. However, only 165 ballots were actually present.
In an article at LetsFixStuff, Patrick Colbeck, a poll challenger at the Detroit Absentee Voter Counting Board on election night, pushed for the decertification of the Michigan election results due to flaws in the chain of custody.
“The Chain of Custody for key election artifacts such as the Qualified Voter File, Poll Books, Ballots and Vote Tallies was demonstrably broken. In a criminal case, a break in the Chain of Custody is grounds for the dismissal of charges. In the case of an election, a break in the Chain of Custody is grounds for the dismissal of the election results,” Colbeck wrote.
In the Qualified Voter File (QVF), a list of the citizens eligible to cast votes, maintained by the Secretary of State, there are 616,648 ineligible voters falsely listed as eligible. Moreover, 12.23 percent of absentee voters did not request absentee ballots.
With regard to the chain of custody issues in the Poll Book, at least 13,248 absentee or early voters were apparently not residents of the state at the time of voting. Incidents of double voting and multiple versions of poll books were also found. Colbeck stated that at least 289,866 illegal votes were cast.
There is also the issue of potential ballot dumping. On November 4, Trump outpaced Biden by 100,000 votes in Michigan. At around 3:30 a.m, a group of vehicles drove into the TCF ballot counting center in Detroit. Three election observers testified that they witnessed ballots being delivered to the center. Soon after the incident, Biden took the lead over Trump.
With reporting by Arvind Datta.