CORRECTION: We are told two board members were in attendance at the hearing
On June 24, Christopher Mora, Chairman of the Pickens County Republican Party filed a petition to unseal election materials pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 21-2-500. He did so to assist the board in following through on its desire to unseal and audit the ballots in the controversial primary election, which was the collective will of many Pickens County voters. The board also voted 3 to 1 on July 19 to do so, which was a significant election transparency victory for Pickens county citizens. Mora filed the petition preemptively to hasten the board process, knowing that the court is an agency with duty in Georgia under the Open Records Act. The election returns simply needed a court order to lift the legal seal and activate the recounting.
It is key to understand that, as legal basis, O.C.G.A. § 21-2-500 describes the final steps required to secure the election returns under the legal seal of the clerk of the superior court following the consolidation of election returns and the formal, public certification by the county Election Superintendent. In Pickens county, this is the Board of Voter Registration and Elections. It also specifies that the clerk "shall hold such ballots and other documents under seal, unless otherwise directed by the superior court, for at least 24 months, after which time they shall be presented to the grand jury for inspection at its next meeting."
On September 9, a judge with the Superior Court of Pickens County heard Chairman Mora's petition. The Voice of Rural America made a full recording of the hearing, which is the only known complete record.
This case is particularly convoluted, because the county attorney in Pickens county, Mr. Phillip Landrum dramatically failed to follow-through on his commitment to draft and file the court order on behalf of the Board of Voter Registration and Elections requesting the Superior Court to unseal ballots from the May 24, 2022 primary. He repeatedly refused to follow instructions from the board to prepare the legal motion. The Georgia Record published a significant article explaining the willful deterrence of progress. It is feasible that this county attorney had also been subject to intimidation on false legal grounds emanating from Secretary Raffensperger and his General Counsel, as described in this article regarding the blocking of ballot records access.
Another significant rub was that Landrum and the board further contended at a board meeting on Aug 2 that Mora's petition must be resolved before they can move forward with an audit. This is patently false and the board was aware of Mora's June 24 petition before it voted to instruct counsel in July. Landrum and the board can unseal ballots and conduct an audit regardless of a friendly petition seeking to do the same thing.
An article just published by the American Times, describes a run-down of key events that occurred at the hearing on Sep 9, however, an understanding of these concerns requires more study of the law regarding these important election processes. The Mora case was ultimately dismissed, but there appear to be some significant issues with the decision. One issue is that if the court order is honored and a government board was prepared to act, it should not matter who requested the court order. The case specified the circumstances and plan of the board in a forthright and transparent manner.
The records are under the legal seal of the clerk for 24 months. Mr. Landrum, in court, alluded to his desire to lead the creation of some policy timing limitation on the unsealing of ballots emanating from the county. However, Mr. Landrum shall not limit open government law allowing the copy and inspection of all non-exempt public records. And, the board, by covenantal trust, must be free to conduct and guarantee the integrity of its duties at any time.
The twisted attorney activities in Pickens county seem to mirror those in Cherokee county, only this time before a slightly uninformed judge versus hundreds of people and the board. The Pickens Board of Voter Registration and Elections was present in the courtroom on Friday, but gave no testimony. Dr. David Clements probed the issue further on his Friday podcast.