It’s a bit late in the day for a signature audit, but apparently never too late to protect your right flank. In a town-hall event hosted by Fox News’ Laura Ingraham last night, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp reacted to a viral video shown in a Georgia legislative hearing by hitting reverse. “I called early on for a signature [audit],” Kemp insisted, while noting that Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger would have to order one.

“There needs to be more transparency,” Kemp added, and he certainly looked transparent here:

The Republican, who has been criticized by President Trump for his handling of the election, told host Laura Ingraham in a Fox News town hall that he was troubled after hearings before Georgia Senate panels on Thursday in which attorneys working with the president’s legal team revealed surveillance video they claim shows ballot-counting irregularities at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

“I called early on for a signature. Obviously the secretary of state, per the laws in the Constitution, would have to order that. He has not done that. I think it should be done,” Kemp said of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

“I think especially what we saw today, it raises more questions. There needs to be transparency on that. I would again call for that. I think in the next 24 hours, hopefully, we will see a lot more from the hearings that the legislature had today, and we will be able to look and see what the next steps are,” he added.

A signature audit would only compare signatures to applications, not to ballots. Bear in mind that signatures get checked twice — first when the application for the mail-in ballot is received, and then again when the ballot itself is received. At receipt of the ballot, that second check takes place and then the ballot envelope gets opened if they match. The state constitution requires secret ballots, which is why ballots are separated from their containing envelopes with the signatures after the envelopes get opened. Therefore, any “audit” now would not be able to identify an invalid ballot even if there was a signature mismatch … which makes this a moot point in an election challenge, although an audit would be useful to ensure that the processes are effective in future elections.

This, therefore, is nonsense:

Again: two signature checks have already taken place, and there is no way to identify any specific mismatched ballot now. Kemp certainly knows this, but clearly feels a lot of pressure to bend — or at least is hoping to find a way to stay ahead of the public passion on this. That’s not unusual for a politician, and unfortunately neither is doing so by tossing an ally to the mob.

So what touched this off? This testimony from the hearing yesterday in the Georgia legislature, reportedly showing mail-in ballots being tabulated without supervision, which Rudy Giuliani and his team describe as a “smoking gun” in their fraud case:

The Trump legal team has presented what they say is compelling evidence of voter fraud, alleging that election night video footage from Fulton County, Ga., shows at least four suitcases of ballots being pulled out from under a table after election supervisors had told poll workers to leave the room. The footage appears to also show four women staying behind to count votes. …

Stephen Fowler of NPR says that the man in the blue jacket that can be seen in the video is “an official monitor from the secretary of state’s office who was there watching the vote counting.” According to Fowler, “While some partisan monitors left, it wasn’t unsupervised.”

But, according to Jacki Pick, an attorney working with Trump’s legal team, even though “two Republican field organizers had been sent” there to observe the vote counting, “At no time were they permitted to observe in any meaningful way.”

That’s not true, says the elections director of Fulton County, and the video doesn’t show what Giuliani alleges:

Here’s what Fulton County Elections Director Rick Barron had to say about the surveillance video from State Farm Arena that has become a major point of contention among those who believe there was fraud in Georgia’s election process:

“I’ll just address the timeline of that evening – the staff at State Farm that evening, they began letting certain people go, no announcement was ever made to leave, for anyone to leave. Certain staff that were on the cutting stations, that were on the flattening stations, that were extracting from the inner envelopes, those staff left as work completed. I found out sometime, I think a little after10:30, that they were gonna cease operations and I told them not to do that… at about 11:15 they were fully scanning again, and once they were scanning Carter Jones, the State Election Board monitor, he told me 11:42 or 11:52 that he arrived. There were media in the room, external affairs representative there until approximately 11:15. The Secretary of States investigator arrived at 12:15, and they scanned until all the ballots they had available to scan were complete and then cleaned up the room.

“What the video shows is that they have pulled out plastic bins from underneath the desks, those are bins that they keep under their desks near the scanners. They will cut those seals that are on those, open those up and pull the ballots out.

“They were still in the process of cleaning so they hadn’t sealed those ballot boxes up, so they were able to just start right back up, normal processing that occurred there.”

Barron says his team has been cooperating with Raffensperger’s investigators on this issue all along, and insists nothing untoward happened. Georgia NPR reporter Stephen Fowler also debunks the theory and notes that investigators were in the room for almost all of this time. That’s because Raffensperger didn’t trust Fulton County in the first place and was looking for evidence of incompetence or corruption:

Presumably, that’s what Raffensperger will be telling Kemp at some point today, too. He might need to explain it to the Georgia legislature as well.

At this point, though, Raffensperger will likely need to order a signature audit, regardless of whether it’s meaningful in these challenges or not. Hopefully, the outcome of an audit will help settle things down. Although, to be clear, a signature audit doesn’t have anything to do with the video above that prompted Kemp’s call for it, either.

Update: Fowler’s link goes to an explanation provided by Republican election official Gabriel Sterling, who insists that the tape doesn’t show anything nefarious at all. Raffensperger’s chief investigator agrees:

Election workers known as “cutters” because their job was to open absentee ballot envelopes and verify ballots for eventual scanning and counting were dismissed for the night sometime after 10 p.m. on November 3, 2020, because their work for the evening had been completed, he explained. Those workers who remained were responsible for conducting the scanning portion of the process, since ballots could not be left without being scanned overnight. He said:

“If you look at the video tape, the work you see is the work you would expect, which is you take the sealed suitcase looking things in, you place the ballots on the scanner in manageable batches and you scan them.”

Frances Watson, chief investigator for the Georgia secretary of state, told Lead Stories during a phone call on December 3, 2020, that the ballots were in standard containers, and the work during the time in question had nothing to do with pulling ballots from under a table. She said:

“There wasn’t a bin that had ballots in it under that table. It was an empty bin and the ballots from it were actually out on the table when the media were still there, and then it was placed back into the box when the media were still there and placed next to the table.”

There was never an announcement made to the media and other observers about the counting being over for the night and them needing to leave, according to Watson, who was provided information by the media liaison, who was present. She said they just followed the “cutters” as they left.

She said:

“Nobody told them to stay. Nobody told them to leave. Nobody gave them any advice on what they should do. And It was still open for them or the public to come back in to view at whatever time they wanted to, as long as they were still working.”

In addition, she explained that the only ballots that were scanned after the media and other observers had left were those that had already been opened in front of these observers.

Contrary to the claim, the ballots were not in suitcases, she said. The black boxes and bins seen in the video are the standard container used for the ballot counting process.