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How are the election reviews in Arizona and Georgia different?

There are a number of key differences in the Georgia action authorized by a judge on Friday.

ATLANTA — On Friday, a judge in Georgia ruled that a group alleging fraud in the 2020 election will be allowed to unseal an inspect Fulton County's absentee ballots from that election.

If it sounds similar to an effort in Arizona, that's because both have been pushed by those who believe the 2020 election was fraudulently manipulated in some states to cause former President Donald Trump's loss.

The allegations of fraud were largely founded on supposition or distortion, and courts uniformly rejected legal efforts that sought to prove them and reverse the election result. 

But efforts to try and unearth a smoking gun have continued, first in Arizona and now in Georgia. But between the two, there are key differences. Here's a breakdown:

Audit vs. Inspection

First, there's the matter of what these are in a practical sense, and what their goals are.

In Arizona, they are recounting by hand all 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County, the state's largest and home to Phoenix. The idea is to determine if the results were somehow incorrect.

In Georgia, it's a very different case. The state conducted its own hand-count audit immediately after results were first certified, and then re-counted by machine a third time at the request of the Trump campaign, which it was legally entitled to do by state law because of how close the results were.

What's happening in Georgia is that a group of voters and election observers are contending that fraudulent absentee ballots were inserted into the votes of Fulton County, the state's largest and home to Atlanta.

They will be inspecting the county's 145,000 ballots and taking digital images of the ballots to be "distributed to experts for forensic inspection" because they believe they will prove that some of these ballots were not legitimate.

Who authorized this?

Another major difference between the Arizona and Georgia reviews is who authorized them.

In Arizona, the audit was authorized by the Republican-controlled state Senate, which chose the company performing the recount and what parameters they would operate under.

In Georgia, Judge Brian Amero (a Henry County judge serving as a designated Fulton County judge) has authorized it after hearing arguments in a lawsuit first lodged in December by the group of voters and election observers. That suit cited Georgia's open records request laws in petitioning to unseal the ballots.

What do they hope to gain?

President Joe Biden has already taken office and he would have even without the 27 electoral votes between Georgia and Arizona.

Nonetheless, 11Alive's sister station in Phoenix, 12News, described the hopes of the effort there to produce a "'first domino' that could fall in a far-fetched scheme to return Trump to office."

In Georgia, the goal is both more concrete and limited. The lawsuit filed in December asks the court to declare the respondents - who are the members of the Fulton County Board of Elections and Elections Director Richard Barron - "violated the state equal protection clause" and "violated the state due process clause" in how they ran the 2020 election.

It's not clear what kind of legal consequences such a ruling would have if Judge Amero were to issue it, but whatever they were would be confined to the members of the board and Barron.