State Sen. William Ligon isn’t sure exactly what the legislature should do in response to allegations of irregularities and fraud during the general election, but he heard and saw enough during a seven-hour Senate subcommittee meeting Thursday to feel confident in renewing his call for a special session of the Georgia General Assembly.
Ligon, R-White Oak, told The News after the General Assembly’s regular session ended in June that he anticipated a quiet end to his last term. He decided not to run for reelection and will be replaced by Sen.-elect Sheila McNeill, a Republican from Brunswick, in January.
His prediction was more than a little off. Ligon and three other senators called last week for the legislature to hold a special session to address perceived weaknesses and deficiencies in the election process. Ligon was tapped to chair Thursday’s meeting, which was a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Seven hours of listening to witness testimony and reviewing purported evidence of voting irregularities later, he said the subcommittee had only seen a fraction of the whole.
“We got to maybe 10 percent of the people who had signed up and sent in affidavits and testimony,” Ligon said Friday. “A lot of affidavits were collected. They’ll be reviewed and evaluated. We’ll be preparing a report of the proceedings, and there are discussions right now in the Republican caucus on the next step.”
While little concrete evidence was provided to back up the irregularities people claimed to have witnessed, Ligon said the bravery of election workers to testify and sign sworn statements could not be discounted.
“When you look at the grounds in the law for contesting an election, you need to show either misconduct, irregularities or fraud which casts the result of the election in doubt,” he said. “The courts have said you have to show enough votes were affected to change the outcome of the election. I think evidence of that was presented (Thursday).”
During the seven-hour marathon hearing, the subcommittee gave the floor to a series of election workers, poll watchers, voting and security experts and Republican attorneys.
Ligon said he was particularly swayed by a video presented by Atlanta attorney Jackie Pick, who said she was volunteering her time at the committee meeting.
The video appeared to show what one Republican poll watcher reported after the election — that poll workers at a polling place in State Farm Arena in Fulton County told members of the press and poll watchers that ballot counting was over for the night. They resumed counting after observers left.
In a virtual meeting with the Fulton County Board of Election on Friday, Fulton County Elections Director Rick Barron said some staff began leaving when their jobs were finished, but that no one at the polling place told media or observers that counting was ending at that time.
Gabriel Sterling, voting system implementation manager with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, said the same day on social media that the matter was being investigated by a law enforcement officer but provided no further details.
Ligon also noted issues raised in other testimonies, including claims that documentation of the ballot chain of custody was not properly filled out, ballot boxes were delivered without the proper seals, some logs are missing information about the possession of ballots for some periods and lax security in a ballot-printing operation in the Atlanta area.
“At this point in time, I think we need to go ahead and move into a special session,” Ligon said. “Enough was produced at the hearing (Thursday) to call legislators back into a special session.”
He could not comment on the likelihood of a special session beyond that state government leaders are discussing it.
It’s very likely the Senate will take up the task of changing voting laws in the next legislative session, he said. Front and center will be absentee ballot ID verification, which currently rests solely on one’s signature.
Signatures are separated from absentee ballots before the ballots are counted to preserve voter privacy, but this also means the state cannot recall an absentee ballot after the fact if it was found to be cast illegally, Ligon said.
There has recently been support for mounting an audit of the 1.3 million signatures on file at election offices around the state.
Gov. Brian Kemp has called multiple times for a review of at least a statistically significant sampling of signatures to determine if the state needs to take any action, which Ligon supported.
Ligon dismissed the possibility of a redo of the November general election.
“I don’t think that could happen,” Ligon said. “What we need to look at is what changes and what security measures to put in place to secure the vote for the (Jan. 5) senate races, and look at and see what we need to do for the presidential election.”