Trump campaign files lawsuit in Georgia over absentee ballot counting, storage

ATLANTA — The Trump campaign announced Thursday night that it will file a lawsuit over the way that elections officials are storing and counting absentee ballots.

The Associated Press initially said the lawsuit was seeking to pause election counts in the state but later issued a correction.

The lawsuit alleges that 53 ballots were turned in after the 7 p.m. deadline Tuesday in Chatham County, according to a statement by campaign officials. The campaign filed a suit to ask a judge to order Georgia election officials to follow the law on storing and counting absentee ballots.

Channel 2 Action News will have live streaming election coverage throughout the day Thursday. Download the WSB Now app on your Roku, Amazon Fire or Apple TV to watch LIVE.

Channel 2′s Justin Gray read the lawsuit, which reveals that the witness the Trump campaign cites only said he was working as a poll observer and got up and left. Those ballots were processed while he was gone, and he does not know where they came from.

Gray got a statement from an attorney for the Trump campaign, reading:

“We will not allow Democrat election officials to steal this election from President Trump with late, illegal ballots,” the official said.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said poll workers are just trying to focus on their jobs.

“We have our job to do, and we have just got to focus on what we have to do and follow the law,” Raffensperger said.

Campaign officials said they were considering peppering a dozen other counties around the state with similar claims around absentee ballots.

The campaign has already announced a plan to file lawsuits in two other key battleground states, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, asking those states to pause counting votes.

Trump was leading Joe Biden by an increasingly slim margin by 11:00 p.m. Thursday with thousands of votes still being processed, most of them in counties that lean heavily Democratic.

So far, Channel 2 Action News has not been able to get reactions from political sources or Republican lawmakers in Georgia about the election suit.

Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston talked to Georgia’s Republican party chairman David Shafer, who said the state’s GOP is still optimistic the president will take Georgia, but with the lawsuit, everything is up for grabs.

Still, members of the Georgia Trump team were more confident Trump will take the state.

“We feel confident that President Trump will be ahead and will be the one that delivers Georgia,” Shafer said.

A well-known Atlanta lawyer with extensive experience in election disputes said hundreds of lawyers are ready to challenge the initial results of Georgia’s elections -- especially for president and U.S. Senate.

Lawyers for Democrats and Republicans told Channel 2′s Richard Belcher they are gaming out their strategies right now.

Attorney Lee Parks has had two redistricting cases that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In both, he challenged racial gerrymandering in Georgia, and he won both of them.

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But the litigation which Parks expects in Georgia will likely have to do with vote counting, especially of absentee ballots.

“Georgia is one of the states that’s going to be right there in the epicenter of potential challenges,” Parks said.

He told Belcher that the first challenge will likely to be a demand for a recount, perhaps in the presidential contest and the Perdue-Ossoff Senate race.

Channel 2 Action News will have live streaming election coverage throughout the night as results come in. Download the WSB Now app on your Roku, Amazon Fire or Apple TV to watch LIVE. ABC News will also air an election special starting at 10 p.m.

A candidate is entitled to a recount if he’s within 1% of the leader. Parks said absentee ballots will be a big issue.

“It’s an arduous process, and it will be particularly difficult here because the vast number of absentee ballots,” Parks said.

He said mistakes by election workers will be a critical issue.

Take the question of whether workers properly matched up signatures from voter records and absentee ballots…

“They make very subjective decisions. Is that his signature?” Parks said. “As hard as they work and as conscientious as they are, they make horrible mistakes. Sometimes people think election challenges are just ways for dissatisfied candidates to try to get back in the game. They’re not. Mistakes are made.”

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Parks said lawyers for both sides will be allowed to witness any recount, and lawyers will be everywhere in the process.

“Would you venture a guess how many lawyers in Georgia are sitting on ready to go, right now?” Belcher asked Parks.

“I already know. Hundreds on both sides are in boiler rooms right now planning and appearing hypothetical claims based upon what we know now about what is left,” Parks said.

Parks said the challenges have to move with remarkable speed, because state law directs that the Secretary of State certify the election results within 14 days of the election.

With regard to the presidential election, Georgia’s electors need to cast their votes in the Electoral College on Dec. 14, a date set by the U.S. Constitution.