Georgia High Court Upholds Results of Lieutenant Governor Race

People cast their ballots on Oct. 27, 2018, ahead of the Nov. 6 general election in Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

ATLANTA (CN) – The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously rejected an election watchdog group’s challenge to Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan’s victory last year, finding that claims of voting machine irregularities and statistical discrepancies in voting patterns do not warrant a do-over race.

The court denied the Coalition for Good Governance’s appeal late Thursday in a 94-page opinion written by Justice Sarah Warren, ruling that the group did not present enough evidence to cast doubt on the validity of the election results in the race between Duncan, a Republican, and his Democratic opponent Sarah Riggs Amico.

In the complaint filed two weeks after the November 2018 election, the coalition, joined by voters in Fulton and Morgan counties and a Libertarian former candidate for secretary of state, claimed that significantly fewer votes were cast in the lieutenant governor race compared to seven other down-ballot statewide races.

They alleged the discrepancy resulted from electronic voting machines that either prevented people from voting in the lieutenant governor race or did not count those votes.

However, the state high court was unmoved.

“Because the evidence petitioners presented at trial ‘failed to carry the burden of demonstrating the election results should be invalidated either by establishing a sufficient number of specific irregular or invalid votes to change or place in doubt the results, or by establishing sufficient irregularities in the election process to cast doubt upon the results’…we affirm the trial court’s ruling involuntarily dismissing Petitioners’ petition at the conclusion of trial,” the ruling states.

Warren wrote that even considering reported problems with direct-recording electronic, or DRE, voting machines, the court “cannot say that the cursory evidence petitioners presented about the numbers of votes cast in the 2018 lieutenant governor’s election proved an irregularity or illegality as a matter of law.”

Over 3.9 million Georgians voted in the governor’s election but only 3.78 million voted in the lieutenant governor’s race, leading to a 159,024, or 4%, difference in the votes cast in those two races. The Coalition for Good Governance claims historical voting patterns show only a 0.9% average difference between the two races over the past four general elections.

Duncan narrowly defeated Amico by 123,172 votes.

The Georgia Supreme Court found that the evidence offered at trial did not establish “enough instances of illegal or irregular votes to overcome a margin of victory of 123,172 votes.”

The security and accuracy of Georgia’s electronic DRE voting machines has been under scrutiny, and a federal judge ruled in August that the state must retire the machines in time for the March 2020 primaries.

Amico, who announced her candidacy for U.S. Senate in August, said in response to the Georgia Supreme Court’s ruling that she wants to “work at the federal level to expand voting rights and enhance election security, so that every eligible voter can be confident their voice is heard and their vote is counted.”

“Widespread voter suppression, vulnerable voting machines, and suspicious activity on the part of Republican officials will not quiet those of us who are determined to ensure that every eligible Georgian can cast their ballot in a secure, free, and fair election,” Amico said in a statement Thursday.

A representative for Duncan did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday morning.

 

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