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UGA will help state conduct study on ballot signatures

Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger made the announcement on Wednesday.

ATLANTA — The University of Georgia will help conduct a statewide study of the signatures used during the absentee voting process in the 2020 election, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Wednesday.

The Secretary of State had announced the audit earlier this week, providing more details in a news conference this afternoon.

Sec. Raffensperger framed the statewide audit as an academically-minded undertaking that he said would "restore faith in the process and put these rumors to bed once and for all," referencing the numerous fraud allegations supporters of President Donald Trump have made in the wake of the Nov. 3 election.

Those allegations have not to this point found been deemed credible by any court, and a multi-pronged effort to overturn the results failed to stop Georgia's Electoral College voters from casting their votes for President-elect Joe Biden this week.

RELATED: Georgia Sec. of State hits out at signature audit criticisms

Those efforts have included many calls by the president and his most vocal allies for an audit of the signature matching process. They have charged that it was not done rigorously enough in many counties, allowing for more invalid ballots than usual.

The state has noted a number of times that the percentage of ballots rejected over an issue with the signature was consistent between 2016, 2018 and 2020.

Raffensperger noted in a release earlier this week that the audits "will not change the outcome of the November election." The president's advocates have generally not articulated what they hoped Trump would gain from a signature audit - because the signatures are only made on the envelopes used by voters, once those envelopes are separated from the ballots, there is no way to tie them back together.

In other words, if you found a certain number of bad signatures, you would not be able to determine how the votes tied to those signatures were actually cast. At least one lawsuit, the so-called "Kraken" action taken by Sidney Powell, asked a judge to invalidate all of the more than one million absentee votes used in the 2020 election in Georgia.

The statewide audit, Raffensperger said, would be conducted by a research team from UGA's School of Public & International Affairs.

"Because there has been so much different information spread about this issue, I am ordering this extraordinary step," Raffensperger said Wednesday. "Our goal is to do our best to answer every and all questions. At this point, we understand it would be difficult to change some minds ... but as I said earlier, all voters need to be respected equally. All voters deserve to have faith in this election system."