By Petr Svab
On the night of Nov. 3, tens of thousands of absentee ballots for Fulton County, Georgia, were counted at the State Farm Arena’s vote-tabulation center in Atlanta. In recent days, the fog of incomplete and conflicting information provided by interested parties has begun to clear.
On Aug. 10, the State Election Board approved a new rule that allows election officials to start opening and scanning absentee ballots three weeks before Election Day. State law says the ballots can only be opened on Election Day. The state is being sued over the rule, based on the argument that the board didn’t have the jurisdiction to issue the rule change. The rule allows officials to verify signatures on ballot packages and feed ballots to scanners. The votes are then to be stored in the scanner memory until they can be added to the tallies on election night. It’s not clear to what degree Fulton County has followed the new rule. County spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt declined to answer questions posed by The Epoch Times for this article.
On Election Day, ballot-processing work at the State Farm Arena was delayed. “At approximately 6:07 a.m., the staff at State Farm Arena notified Fulton County Registration and Elections of a water leak affecting the room where absentee ballots were being tabulated,” Fulton County told FOX 5, an Atlanta Fox affiliate, in a statement. “The State Farm Arena team acted swiftly to remediate the issue. Within 2 hours, repairs were complete.” “The emergency delayed officials from processing ballots between 5:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.,” the report says. An Atlanta NBC affiliate, 11Alive, reported that “Fulton County Registration chief Ralph Jones said that the pipe burst just after 6 a.m. Tuesday in the room above where they [sic] ballots were being kept, and water was draining down to the left side of the room where the ballots were.” A local attorney who filed a records request about the burst pipe only received a brief text message exchange about the incident, describing it as “highly exaggerated … a slow leak that caused about an hour-and-a-half delay” and stating that “we contained it quickly—it did not spread,” according to the text conversation that the attorney, Paul Dzikowski, shared with The Epoch Times. According to Frances Watson, chief investigator of the Georgia secretary of state’s office, “the incident initially reported as a water leak late in the evening on November 3rd was actually a urinal that had overflowed early in the morning on November 3rd.” The incident “did not affect the counting of votes by Fulton County later that evening,” he said in a Dec. 5 sworn affidavit.
SECURITY CAMERA FOOTAGE
Security camera footage from the arena shows workers moving around furniture after 8:20 a.m. It’s not clear whether that had to do with the water leak. Only some parts of the footage were made publicly available when the Trump campaign’s legal team aired them during a Dec. 3 Georgia Senate committee hearing on election issues. The arena provided the footage “to all parties in each related Georgia voting litigation,” the arena’s legal chief, Scott Wilkinson, told The Epoch Times via email. “Without a subpoena, our policy does not allow us to release video or documents,” he said. Attempts to obtain the footage from the Trump legal team, the state, and county authorities have been unsuccessful. One of the election workers in the arena center has been identified as Registration Officer Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, based on her conspicuous hairstyle and other features. At about 8:21 a.m., the cameras captured her moving one of the tables, which was covered with a black cloth that extended to the ground. The table would later become the center of national attention.
(Top R) Registration Officer Wandrea “Shaye” Moss moves a table at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, on the morning of Nov. 3, 2020.
MONITORS PLACED FAR AWAY
ALL SCREENSHOTS BY THE EPOCH TIMES
At around 8:15 p.m. on Election Day, two Republican poll monitors arrived at the State Farm Arena to observe the vote tabulation process, according to a sworn affidavit by one of the monitors, Michelle Branton. As their affidavits and security camera footage from the arena show, the monitors were roped off in a media area at one end of the large tabulation center’s room. They were so far from the election workers that they couldn’t see in any detail what was being done. Some parts of the room, such as the area where the ballot scanners were placed, were so far away that it’s likely the monitors couldn’t discern what was going on there at all. Both said they didn’t even know the scanners were in the room until one of the officials explained the process to them.
A media and poll monitor is visible by the farther end of the room at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Nov. 3, 2020.
At 8:40 p.m., 11Alive reported that “Fulton County election officials said they are behind—by about four hours—counting absentee ballots after a pipe burst in a room at State Farm Arena where some of those ballots were being held.” “According to those officials, none of the ballots were damaged in the process,” the channel said in an update to its live coverage of the election. At 10:08 p.m., 11Alive investigative reporter Andy Pierrotti reported that Fulton County wouldn’t be counting about 40,000 to 60,000 ballots that night. “It’s not due to the State Farm water pipe issue,” he said in a memo he posted on Twitter. “It’s due to the sheer volume of mail-in/drop off absentee ballots the county received.”
A screenshot of a Twitter message sent by 11Alive investigative reporter Andy Pierrotti on Nov. 3 saying that Fulton County wouldn’t be counting about 40,000 to 60,000 ballots that night.
BOXES IN FRONT OF AND ON TABLE
SECURITY CAMERA FOOTAGE
The released footage shows, beginning at 9:57 p.m., a man in a black jacket bringing an empty black ballot box and placing it next to the table installed by Moss. He’s accompanied by a woman in a purple t-shirt, who was later identified as election worker Ruby Freeman based on her apparel, hairstyle, and public posts and videos on Facebook, where she also appeared to identify herself as Moss’s mother. A minute later, the man places a white tray of ballots inside the box. Freeman then closes the box. The man then brings another box and places in it another tray of ballots that was previously on top of the table. Shortly after that, the video skips to 10:19 p.m., and two closed ballot boxes are seen on top of the table. The video, which then jumps to 10:25 p.m., shows the two boxes still on top of the table, in addition to another tray of ballots. At 10:37 p.m., the table appears to have been cleared, with no sign of the boxes. The media and the monitors can still be seen in their designated area. Nearly all the workers are gone.
Election worker Ruby Freeman is seen closing a box at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Nov. 3, 2020.
A man in a black jacket is seen placing a tray of ballots into a box at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Nov. 3, 2020
Two closed boxes are seen on top of a table at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Nov. 3, 2020.
Two closed boxes and a tray of ballots are seen on top of a table at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Nov. 3, 2020.
A clean table covered with a black cloth is seen at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Nov. 3, 2020.
‘STOP WORKING AND COME BACK TOMORROW’
SECURITY CAMERA FOOTAGE
MEGAN VARNER/GETTY IMAGES
The poll monitors said that activity at the arena slowed after 10 p.m. At around 10:30 p.m., a person clearly identified by them as Moss “yelled out [that] they should stop working and come back tomorrow (the next day, Wednesday, November 4) at 8:30 A.M.,” said Mitchell Harrison, one of the monitors, in his affidavit. Branton agreed with this description, saying the workers who were removing absentee ballots from the outer envelopes had mostly stopped working by that point. The monitors were tasked by the local Trump campaign field organizer to find out how many ballots were processed and how many were left. They asked county spokesperson Regina Waller, who was on site, about this, but she didn’t get them an answer, so they eventually left shortly after 10:30 p.m., they said.
An election worker processes absentee ballots at State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Nov. 2, 2020.
The camera footage shows them leaving at about 10:40 p.m., leaving only seven people behind: Moss, Freeman, two women in yellow t-shirts, one man in a red shirt, one man in a light blue top, and one man in a black jacket. The monitors indicated they were under the impression that work at the arena had concluded. Corbitt, the county spokeswoman, appeared to be under the same impression. In an 11:36 p.m. update, 11Alive reported that “Regina Waller with Fulton County told 11Alive that State Farm Arena absentee ballot counters have been sent home.” “The election department sent the ballot counters at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta home at 10:30 p.m., Regina Waller, the Fulton County public affairs manager for elections, tells ABC News,” said the network’s 11:34 p.m. tweet. But that wasn’t the case. The women in yellow t-shirts are seen continually placing batches of ballots on two scanners, one after another. The scanners were placed at the opposite side of the room, at least 50 feet away from where the media and monitors were instructed to stay. With several columns obstructing the view, it’s possible the monitors couldn’t see what the workers were doing.
Two people, likely the Republican poll monitors, are seen leaving the tabulation center room at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Nov. 3, 2020.
BOXES UNDER THE TABLE
SECURITY CAMERA FOOTAGE
At about 10:51 p.m., Moss is seen pulling a black ballot box out from under the table she had placed there in the morning. The box appears to have a white tray on top of it. Moss picks the tray up and then puts it back on top of the box. At 11:03 p.m., one of the women in yellow t-shirts pulls away a ballot box placed right beside the table. She takes stacks of papers out of it and starts placing them on the scanner. About 30 seconds later, Moss pulls another ballot box from underneath the table, placing it next to Freeman’s table, and takes stacks of paper out of it. Freeman then starts placing the stacks on another scanner. At one point, it appears that Freeman places the same stack on the scanner repeatedly. This could legitimately be done in cases when ballots get jammed in the scanner feed. The video quality, however, makes it difficult to discern whether this was the case. At 11:04 p.m., the man in a light blue top and the man in a black jacket leave the room. About 40 seconds later, the man in a red shirt can be seen pulling another ballot box from underneath the table. He places it next to another table and, with some help from one of the women in yellow, takes stacks of paper out of it and startsscanning them at another machine. Edison Research election results feed data published by The New York Times show that between 11:15 p.m. and 12:03 a.m., Fulton County added 46,442 votes to its tally, about 21 percent of them for Trump. All of them were early-voting ballots. Edison also provided state-level vote count updates but didn’t specify where the votes in individual updates came from, and no update around midnight that night matches 46,442. It’s possible the Fulton batch was split into two updates—one of 23,355 votes at 12:14 a.m., of which 28 to 63 percent were for Biden, and another of 23,487 votes at 12:18 a.m., of which 98 to 100 percent were for Biden. These two add up to 46,842. Overall, about 29 percent of the early vote in the county went to Trump. The available security footage continues at 12:50 a.m., when the workers are no longer manning the scanners and appear to be wrapping up. At 12:53 a.m., only Moss is left in the room. The footage then jumps to 1:41 a.m., when three people are seen coming in. One seems to be vacuuming, but the three leave again within three minutes.
Registration Officer Wandrea “Shaye” Moss is seen pulling a ballot box from underneath a table at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Ga., on Nov. 3, 2020.
A woman in a yellow t-shirt is seen pulling a box that was beside a table at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Nov. 3, 2020.
Registration Officer Wandrea “Shaye” Moss is seen pulling a box from underneath a table at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Nov. 3, 2020.
A man in a red shirt is seen pulling a box from underneath a table at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Nov. 3, 2020.
After the next jump to 1:47 a.m., three people are seen coming in. According to the Trump campaign, two of them were Republican observers. Harrison said he and another monitor, Trevin McKoy, were told to go back to the arena after they learned from news crews that the counting had continued. Indeed, Alive 11 reported around 12:38 a.m. that “another official in Fulton County says some work is still being done at State Farm Arena with ballots.”
Three people, two of them likely the Republican poll monitors, are seen right after entering the tabulation center room at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Nov. 3, 2020.
The available footage doesn’t show the exact moment the boxes are placed under the table. Watson said his investigators reviewed the footage and determined that the boxes were filled, sealed, and placed under the desk when the monitors were still present. “Around 10 p.m., with the room full of people, including official monitors and the media, video shows ballots that had already been opened but not counted placed in the boxes, sealed up, stored under the table,” he said. “This was done because employees thought that they were done for the night and were closing up and ready to leave.” Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, told Newsmax that only some of the workers were told to go home. “There are cutters, the people who are opening the envelopes, and there’s the ones who are scanning,” he said. Registration and Elections Director Richard Barron told the Fulton County Board of Commissioners that when he learned that staff were dismissed at 10:30 p.m., he advised that some workers needed to continue, the county’s spokeswoman previously told The Epoch Times. “Based on that directive, a smaller crew continued to work through the night. It may be possible that observers left at the time the majority of the staff left, but from the information we have, the processing area was never closed to observers,” she said. A Georgia secretary of state spokesperson said in a statement that its “investigator” and an “independent monitor appointed by the State Election Board … both observed scanning until it was halted for the night around midnight,” Newsmax reported. It’s not clear who the monitor and investigator were, as the video shows only five people in the room at certain times, one of whom was Moss, while the other four were engaged in the scanning. Sterling also acknowledged that there was an “82-minute” period when no monitor was present.
JESSICA MCGOWAN/GETTY IMAGES
Our Republican observers and members of the news media departed State Farm when they announced they were shutting down for the night and would resume counting at 8:30 a.m. the next day.
David Shafer, chairman, Georgia Republican Party
Gabriel Sterling, voting system Implementation manager for the Georgia secretary of state’s office, in Atlanta on Nov. 6, 2020.
ENVELOPE WITHOUT ADDRESS
Freeman’s Facebook page has ceased to be publicly accessible in recent days, after some of its content was posted on Twitter. The content included videos of her sitting in a cubicle and walking around an office space with trays of absentee ballots seen on tables. At one point, a man brings her a tray labeled “Ballot Signature Verification” with nearly 400 absentee ballot envelopes in it. The first envelope lacks a return address. Early in-person votes are cast on absentee ballots, which also need to be placed in envelopes. It’s not clear whether the envelope would have a return address in that case. In Georgia, absentee ballot signatures are matched by county election clerks to signatures on record for each voter. The clerks flag any mismatches for further verification, including a follow-up with the voter. Less than 0.2 percent of absentee ballots are rejected for signature issues, according to the state. That only accounts for mailed absentee ballots. It’s not clear what the rejection rate is for early voting ballots. Each county has a bipartisan election board, which may oversee the signature-matching process, according to Ryan Germany, general counsel of the secretary of state. “For signature matching, they can choose to be as involved in that as they want,” he said during the Senate hearing. None of the five members of the Fulton County election board answered emailed questions regarding their involvement in the signature-matching oversight.