The News4Jax Trust Index team fact-checked two tweets by President Donald Trump over the weekend where he claimed Georgia elections officials are unable to verify signatures on absentee ballot envelopes because of a legal settlement known as a consent decree.
IN a tweet on Saturday, Trump claimed: “The Consent Decree signed by the Georgia Secretary of State, with the approval of Governor @BrianKempGA, at the urging of @staceyabrams, makes it impossible to check & match signatures on ballots and envelopes, etc. They knew they were going to cheat. Must expose real signatures!”
We reviewed the consent decree and it contains nothing that would prevent Georgia election clerks from scrutinizing signatures. The issue came up when former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams brought the issue to the state’s attention that signature mismatches disproportionally affect minorities. Georgia state leaders agreed, signing the consent decree in March to set statewide standards for judging signatures on absentee ballot envelopes.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, said that not only is it entirely possible to match signatures but that the state requires it.
When a voter requests an absentee ballot on a paper application, he or she must sign it. Election officials compare that signature to the signature in voter registration files before a ballot is sent to the voter, Raffensperger said.
When those ballots are returned, the required signature on the outer envelope is compared to signatures in the voter registration system.
This process was spelled out in detail in the consent decree, a legal settlement that was signed March 6.
Duval County’s Former election Supervisor Jerry Holland says Georgia elections officials now match signatures similar to the way it is done in Florida.
”But now, because of the consent decree, they actually can correct signatures that were signed improperly or forgot to sign," Holland said.
Holland said he thinks President Trump’s real issue with the consent decree is that it was signed during the election process and that the rules were being changed during the election. That, however, is not what the president was alleging on Twitter, so the Trust Index team found his claim not true based on information from Georgia election law, the state’s Republican Secretary of State and our own former supervisor of elections.
Following state law, Georgia is pursuing a hand tally of votes in the presidential race. Democrat Joe Biden leads Trump by about 14,000 votes in the state. There are no examples of similar recounts that have overturned leads of that magnitude.
The signature issue resurfaced after lawyer L. Lin Wood Jr. filed a federal lawsuit Friday questioning whether the secretary of state had the authority to require the process of signature verification outlined in the agreement.
Wood is known for representing several high-profile clients including security guard Richard Jewell, who was identified as a suspect of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta but later cleared.