Georgia Republicans gain court victory for ballot count observers in Atlanta

Georgia Republicans gain court victory for ballot count observers in Atlanta

January 6, 2021

Polls close, ballot counting underway in Georgia Senate runoffs

FOX News correspondent Matt Finn joins ‘Democracy 2020’ with an update on vote counting in Atlanta.

With counting of absentee ballots underway in Georgia for two special U.S. Senate runoff elections, Republicans in Fulton County scored a small victory when a Superior Court judge ruled that vote tallying be done in full view of observers.

Inside the massive Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, the entire floor of the absentee ballot process was rearranged per Judge Jane Barwick's order. Blue trifold posters that obstructed views were taken down per the ruling as well. 

"At all times during which absentee ballot processes are taking place, Defendants shall allow credentialed monitors to view absentee and UOCAVA [military and overseas] ballots, at least ten feet away from processing tables, inside the steel barriers as they are processed," reads a copy of that judge's ruling that was obtained by Fox News.

Earlier Tuesday, observers associated with the Fulton County Republican Party were being kept at a distance they felt was inadequate to observe.

Fulton County includes Atlanta, the state's capital and largest city.

The metal barriers were reorganized to allow observers to walk "on the floor" of the absentee ballot process. The judge ordered that observers must be able to stand within 10 feet of the process. 

"Defendants shall allow the credentialed monitors to observe the process of absentee ballot signature verification from the general public observation area," the court ruling read.

Some observers at the Georgia World Congress Center told Fox News they were under the impression they would be able to walk the floor. 

Throughout the day, several observers told Fox News they felt the metal barriers in the room were keeping them too far away to properly tell what was going on. Others said they felt they could see what was generally going on as they watched envelopes being opened.

"They took out the gates, but they switched [the positions] of the computer screens on two areas," Ashley Phillips of Atlanta told Fox News as she was trying to watch recount efforts. "Nothing's changed with the distance. It's just that you can walk the floor now."

"I can't see anything. I couldn't see it with the binoculars. No, no, no, no," she added. "There's nothing you can see. I have no idea what they're doing back there. Gates are super high. It looks like they're trying to it's like they're trying to cage people back there. I don't know. Like they're trying to keep people out."

Blue tri-fold poster boards were used as privacy screens in one far corner of the room on the tables where ballots were coming in.  Another observer told Fox news they felt the folders were blocking the counting process. 

The poster boards were also taken down as a result of the judge's consent order, which said the court’s decision was a limited issue and pertained only to the events of Tuesday's runoff elections.

But observers at the Georgia World Congress Center said that Tuesday's ruling did nothing to make watching over the counting process any easier — with many complaining they were still being kept back a great distance even though the barriers were taken down.

"What is that, 30 to 40 feet?" asked Benjamin Neer, a volunteer who has helped with runoff campaign efforts for Republicans in Georgia. "It's a joke that we are here. They call this an observation. This is not an observation. This is a complete joke."

Fox News’ Perry Chiaramonte contributed to this story.

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