A photo of the Georgia State Capitol at night on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (Photo by: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Tuesday afternoon, the Georgia State Election Board ruled against taking over the Fulton County Board of Elections. In a letter to the Georgia General Assembly, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in part:

“Georgia’s election system is secure. It’s been battle-tested through two general elections, subjected to repeated audits and intense public scrutiny, and come through with flying colors. Georgia’s election officials are proceeding judiciously and responsibly to ensure that our elections are secure, accurate and accessible to the voters. Every single piece of voting equipment across Georgia will undergo security health checks ahead of the 2024 presidential elections, including verification no software has been tampered with.

In August 2021, Georgia’s Republican lawmakers used a provision of Senate Bill 202 that did create a runway for the State to take over elections in Fulton County. The controversial takeover provision in the 2021 election law permits state lawmakers that represent a county to request a review of local election officials and their practices. The State Election Board must then appoint a review panel that is required to issue a report after a thorough investigation.

At that time, Governor Brian Kemp voiced his support of the panel.

“Fulton County has a long history of mismanagement, incompetence, and a lack of transparency when it comes to running elections – including during 2020. I fully support this review,” he tweeted.

Fulton County is the home of 11% of Georgia’s population and is a Democratic stronghold. Many Democratic operatives believed the Georgia GOP would influence how elections were run in Democratic-controlled counties.

Former President Donald J. Trump focused on Fulton County after he lost Georgia by 11,779 votes in the November 2020 general election. In phone calls to state election officials and in public comments, Trump made unfounded claims of widespread election fraud in Fulton County. Then, on January 2, 2021, the former president made the infamous phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger:

“All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state,” Trump stated at one point. “Flipping the state is a great testament to our country. It’s a testament that they can admit to a mistake. A lot of people think it wasn’t a mistake, it was much more criminal than that. But it’s a big problem in Georgia, and it’s not a problem that’s going away.”

Eight months later, the State Election Board filed a report that said that in previous years, Fulton County’s elections have been plagued by “disorganization and a lack of a sense of urgency in resolving issues.” But it also noted that the county showed “significant improvement” from 2020 to 2022, that old staff members have left and “new staff can bring new energy and renewed commitment.”

“I’m proud of the work of Fulton County and what we’ve achieved in the last few years and feel fully confident moving into the future that we’ll be setting the standard for how elections need to be run here and across the country,” said Cathy Woolard, the outgoing chairwoman of the Fulton County election board.

Additionally, the Georgia State Election Board ruled the “stop the steal” claims made and promulgated by former President Trump were “false and unsubstantiated.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the FBI and Georgia Secretary of State’s office found that a person had created a fake social media account and attributed statements to one of the poll workers, Ruby Freeman. The report states:

Lastly, the FBI identified and interviewed the true creator of the Instagram account that reportedly contained a post by Freeman admitting she conspired to adversely affect the November 2020 election. The account creator admitted he created the fake account and confirmed the content that was posted on the account was fake.

The full investigative report can be found here.

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...