11:29 GMT27 January 2021
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    President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Republican Governor Brian Kemp, suggesting the pair had been “played…for fools” by the state’s Democratic operatives by weakening signature verification safeguards ahead of the 3 November vote.

    Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has announced that his office has partnered with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to carry out a signature match audit in Cobb County.

    In a pair of tweets late Monday, Raffensperger indicated that the audit would be launched “following specific reports that the county failed to adequately conduct signature matching.”

    The official also stressed however that the audit, expected to last about two weeks, “will not change the outcome of the November elections.”

    Raffensperger also revealed that his office would be working with an accredited university to carry out a statewide third party signature match study to “restore faith” in the democratic process.

    Jordan Fuchs, Georgia’s deputy secretary of state, also promised Monday that “after the countywide audit, we will look at the entire state” and “look at the entire election to make sure signature match was executed properly.”

    The audit is expected to confirm that signatures on absentee ballot envelopes match records on file of registered voters in the county. The inspection comes in the wake of sustained pressure by President Trump and his allies to challenge the results of the presidential election in the Peach State, with Trump asking state officials to call a special session of the legislature to select electors for the Electoral College vote, and to open the state up to an audit of ballots to verify and match the signatures of mail-in ballots – the central pillar of the president’s claims about widespread voter fraud in battleground states.

    Georgia’s 16 electors formally cast their ballots for Joe Biden during Monday’s Electoral College vote, with the Democratic candidate securing 302 electoral votes total, thereby solidifying his 3 November victory. Biden won Georgia by roughly 12,000 votes, with the close margin leading to three recounts which saw Biden’s victory slipping as ‘errors’ in his favour were discovered.

    Governor Brian Kemp praised Raffensperger over the Cobb County audit, saying he had supported the idea of a signature audit “repeatedly since the November 3 election.” Kemp faced repeated attacks on Twitter by Trump, who called him a “fool” and a “clown” on Monday for not doing enough to support his fraud claims.

    Cobb County election officials said their resources are stretched thin preparing for the 5 January senate runoff election, but promised to “help this process move as expeditiously as possible” after receiving a formal court order.

    Stephen Lawson, a spokesperson for Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, said the Cobb County audit was a good start, but enough by itself. “Only 158 counties left to go. Full audit or it didn’t happen,” he said.

    Georgia is one of multiple battleground states which President Trump and his campaign have claimed were rife with fraud ahead of and during the 2020 election. In early December, Trump’s lawyers presented what they said was video evidence of fraud in Fulton County, with the footage appearing to show election workers counting ballots pulled out from under a table after observers and journalists were told that counting was over for the night. Raffensperger later dismissed the footage as “unfounded” following an internal probe.

    At the national level, Trump’s election fraud claims have suffered two major setbacks in recent days, first on Friday, when the Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit filed by Texas alleging election irregularities in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and then on Monday, when the majority of Electoral College electors formally cast their ballots in Biden’s favour.

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