A Georgia judge has dismissed most of a lawsuit seeking an inspection of Fulton County’s absentee ballots from the 2020 presidential election.
It’s a potential setback to the Republican-led effort to undermine the legitimacy of the results in the state’s largest county, even though the case will proceed for the time being.
The plaintiffs, who believe counterfeit ballots were counted in the 2020 election, have pushed to use microscopes to examine nearly 150,000 absentee ballots. They are seeking to examine the paper stock, creases and method in which the bubbles were filled to determine if any ballots are counterfeit.
Even if the audit proceeds, it will not lead to Georgia’s election results – which have already been certified for President Joe Biden – being overturned.
Henry County Superior Court Chief Judge Brian Amero on Thursday dismissed the case against Fulton County, the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections, and the Fulton County Clerk judge. He said the plaintiffs “have failed to meet their burden to show an applicable waiver of sovereign immunity such that their constitutional claims may proceed against these governmental actors in the petition’s current form.”
Sovereign immunity laws limit when plaintiffs can go to the courts for relief.
“However,” Amero wrote, “misjoinder of parties is not a ground for dismissal of an action. Parties may be dropped or added by order of the court on motion of any party or of its own initiative at any stage of the action and on such terms as are just.”
CNN has reached out to several plaintiffs in the case for reaction.
“The judge agreed to allow the plaintiffs to add the five individual members of the Board of Elections as defendants, so the case will proceed, temporarily, against them,” said defense attorney Don Samuel, who is representing Fulton County.
“We will, however, promptly file a motion to dismiss them, because the members of the board are not alleged to have done anything wrong. Nothing. So, we believe the court will ultimately dismiss the case against them as well,” Samuel told CNN.
The judge’s ruling to dismiss most of the lawsuit drew a sharp statement from Robb Pitts, chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.
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“This lawsuit is the result of meritless claims and the Big Lie. The votes have been counted three times, including a hand recount, and no evidence of widespread fraud has been found,” Pitts said. “Last year, I told President Trump and others who push the Big Lie to “put up or shut up.” It’s been six months and no proof of wrongdoing has been produced. Enough is enough – this whole circus must end,” Pitts added.
Conservatives have clamored for election audits in a number of states in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s November loss. The baseless belief that there was widespread fraud has persisted among some Republicans despite a lack of evidence.
Unlike the free-for-all audit playing out in Arizona, Georgia’s ballot inspection would likely have more guardrails if it were to move ahead. The judge previously said the plaintiffs would have to submit to him the protocols for the inspection.
Georgia, which Biden flipped blue for the first time in more than two decades following a close election, has emerged as a central focus of Republicans’ baseless attempts to delegitimize the 2020 results.
In January, Trump infamously leaned on the state’s top elections official, Brad Raffensperger, to “find” the necessary votes to win him the state, an effort that is now the subject of a criminal investigation. Earlier this month, Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans, were denounced at the state’s GOP convention for not objecting to the results, even though they have been the subject of several reviews that have each found Biden to be the rightful winner of the state’s electoral votes.
CNN’s Dianne Gallagher and Sara Murray contributed to this report.