Federal judge denies Trump supporter’s attempt to halt Georgia election certification

Federal judge denies Trump supporter’s attempt to halt Georgia election certification
Officials sort ballots during an audit at the Georgia World Congress Center on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Atlanta. Election officials in Georgia's 159 counties are undertaking a hand tally of the presidential race that stems from an audit required by state law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) (Brynn Anderson)

ATLANTA — A federal judge on Thursday concluded there was no basis in “fact or law” to grant an emergency injunction that sought to delay Georgia’s election certification and request a recount.

The injunction of the relief denial, a part of a lawsuit filed by President Donald Trump supporter Lin Wood,  concluded a three-hour virtual hearing from Judge Steven D. Grimberg’s Northern District of Georgia courtroom. Wood recently filed a suit alleging observers were not allowed proper access to the recount process and that a state settlement agreement prevented proper verification of ballot signature matches.

“He (Wood) has not suffered any legal injury, and it harms the public’s interest in countless ways, particularly the environment in which this election occurred, and the need of our state, our district and our community have certainty in the results of the election,” Grimberg said.

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“To halt the certification at literally the eleventh hour would breed confusion and potential disenfranchisement that I find has no basis in fact or in law,” Grimberg continued.

Russ Willard, an attorney representing the state of Georgia, delivered an argument of illegal voter disenfranchisement when requesting the suit be tossed out.

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“The election is over, and rather than accept that his preferred candidate has lost, plaintiff seeks the largest disenfranchisement of eligible electorates since the abolition of the poll tax and other vestiges of Jim Crow in the state of Georgia,” Willard said.

Grimberg pointed out that the 8-month-old agreement had not been contested in three prior elections. Also, neither the Republican Party nor the president’s campaign was the plaintiff in the suit. They’d be the only parties privy to a legal request to a recount.

Wood’s attorney Ray Smith revealed that Wood had been retained by the Trump campaign and planned to add it to the lawsuit, to which Grimberg noted the party was not at the center of the case before the court.

“It’s clear that observers were not meaningfully able to monitor the recount,” Smith argued. Early in the hearing, he’d argued only four of Georgia’s 159  counties had properly conducted the audit recount, and those were the counties that had discovered batches of ballots this week.

None of the discovered ballots changed the final result projections for the winner of the presidential race, although state elections officials have pointed out that Trump will still be within a margin and legal right to request a machine recount following the hand-count audit.

Grimberg also concluded the case lacked evidence and that rather, it highlighted a broad complaint against county election workers and did not violate Wood’s constitutional rights as a voter.

“What’s your client’s standing to bring this claim?” Grimberg asked early on in the hearing.

“(His claim) is to ensure an accurate count and only lawful ballots counted,” attorney Ray Smith answered.

Smith also told the judge that Wood was arguing procedural and substantive due process in his claim.

The plaintiffs entered 15 affidavits and presented a sole live witness, a woman who served as a Fulton county poll manager during the recount. The woman, who has more than two decades of experience as a poll worker, described suspicions about ballots’ physical appearance, as well as batches of votes that went for President-elect Joe Biden.

She testified that she’d “somewhat” received training for the recount, noting she watched a five-minute training video lacking audio three times.

The woman began to describe a batch of ballots that she believed lacked proper creasing from having been in secure envelopes.

“I remember everything about that batch …” she testified, adding the ballots “felt like it was put in a copy machine, a scanner, too fast. It was not perfectly printed.”

She went on to say that particular batch contained 97 votes for Biden, one for candidate Jo Jorgensen and two for Trump.

“It was unusual to see,” she said.

When asked by the assistant state attorney general, Charlene McGowan, whether she’d raised concern with Fulton County elections managers, the woman said they’d dismissed her concerns that also included the ratio of observers to each recount table.

“Did you report any of these issues to the secretary of state’s office?” McGowan asked.

“No, I did not,” the poll worker answered.

“If this was suspicious to you, and you didn’t feel like the county was treating it (with attention) … why didn’t you?” McGowan asked.

“I did report some things to the secretary’s office,” the woman answered.

McGowan then asked the woman if she’d ever held any leadership positions within the Republican Party to which Smith objected for relevancy. It was overruled, and the woman said she had held leadership positions within the party.

“Yes, I’ve been very active,” she said.

State election audit found ‘not a thimble full of difference’ in vote count, Secretary of State says