PHOTO CREDITS: BRYNN ANDERSON/AP
Georgia has nearly completed its by-hand recount of millions of ballots cast in the battleground state where President-elect Joe Biden led by more than 14,000 votes after the initial tally.
Despite allegations by President Donald Trump that the state’s count was rigged, no significant problems have been reported in the recount thus far. Elections officers in Fulton County, Georgia’s most populous county, finished recounting votes shortly before 4 PM. Sunday, when DeKalb County was also almost done as well. Gwinnett County expected to cross the finish line Monday, while Cobb County still needed to recount some votes. Counties in other parts of the state also reported progress. Coastal Chatham County had counted all but a few absentee ballots, all but one precinct of Election Day ballots, and had started counting early voting ballots by early Sunday, the Savannah Morning News reported.
The statewide recount ordered last week by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger must be concluded by 11:59 PM Wednesday, 15 days after voting in the tightly contested presidential election ended. Results for all of Georgia’s 159 counties will be released all at once after all counties finish. Results before the recount began late last week showed former Vice President Joe Biden narrowly beat Trump in Georgia by more than 14,000 votes out of about 5 million votes cast, becoming the first Democrat to carry the state since 1992.
Much of the focus in Georgia has been on mail-in ballots, where the process of tallying these mail-in-ballots was called into question by the Trump Campaign. As part of the process voters insert marked absentee ballots into an official envelope, to which they add their signature. Election workers verify the signature against voter-registration records, then remove the ballot and segregate it from the envelope. If the signature does not appear to match, the ballot is set aside, although voters can take steps to prove their identities before the election results are certified. In Gwinnett, 789 mail-in ballots arrived without signatures. Voters were notified and had time to come in and “cure” the ballot by providing evidence that they were the voter behind the ballot. County spokesman Joe Sorenson said 472 of the 789 ballots in question were cured. There were 425 ballots marked as a signature mismatch. Of those, 259 were cured.
“Doing a great job in Georgia. Their recount is a scam, means nothing. Must see fraudulent signatures which is prohibited by stupidly signed & unconstitutional consent decree,” Trump tweeted Sunday. Trump highlighted a legal settlement that Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, made with the Democratic Party of Georgia last spring that tightened procedures for rejecting absentee ballots over the legitimacy of a voter’s signature.
Lawyers for the Biden campaign said Sunday afternoon that the first days of Georgia’s recount have proven that the state’s voting system “accurately” counted the votes. “We continue to agree with the Secretary of State that there is no reason to believe that any widespread irregularities have been found,” Patrick Moore, president of Biden’s legal team, told reporters.
In DeKalb, the elections department moved the table where the ballot tallies were entered into a spreadsheet and shared with the Secretary of State’s office in response to observers demanding a better look at the process. Scott Johnson, a former chair of the Cobb GOP, was observing at Jim Miller Park Sunday. He expressed concern the recount was not verifying the validity of mail-in ballots. “I think the process that’s going on here today is going smoothly and very well. Is it enough to assure a fully free and fair election? I’m not convinced of that,” Johnson said. Gwinnett officials hoped to finish their count Sunday. The county plans to finish the count Monday and share results with the Secretary of State’s office by Tuesday (AJC).
One county in Georgia, during their by-hand recount, discovered some 2,600 ballots which were not originally counted. The ballots were reportedly from the early in-person voting. This county in Georgia was being won by Trump at about a 70% to 28.4% margin, but the votes were not expected to be enough to flip the state from a Joe Biden win, a report said Monday.
The votes were left uncounted because election workers didn’t upload the votes from a memory card into a ballot-scanning machine, according to the report. The chairman of the Floyd County Republican Party, Luke Martin, told the newspaper that the issue didn’t appear to be widespread. “It’s very concerning,” Martin said. “But this doesn’t appear to be a widespread issue. I’m glad the audit revealed it, and it’s important that all votes are counted.” Meanwhile, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in an interview with the Washington Post Monday that fellow Republicans are urging him to question the election in an effort to swing the state to President Trump (NY Post).
The county elections office suffered several setbacks, and it seems proper procedures weren’t followed when the results were tabulated by machine, Sterling said. The hand count stems from a state law that calls for one race to be audited to ensure the new election machines counted the votes accurately. It was not the result of any suspected problems with the results or an official recount request. Once the tally is complete and the results are certified, the losing campaign can request a recount, which would be done using scanners that read and tally the votes. It was up to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to select the race to be audited and he said the presidential race made the most sense because of its significance and the tight margin separating the candidates. Because of that small margin, Raffensperger said a full hand recount was necessary.
As the count unfolded around the state, it appeared to go smoothly in most places. Masked workers divided into two-person audit teams sorted paper ballots into piles for each candidate and then counted each pile by hand. Bipartisan panels were on hand to review certain ballots, including those where the auditors couldn’t agree on the voter’s intent and those with write-in candidates. Monitors, appointed by local Democratic and Republican parties, were allowed to circulate among the auditing stations but could not touch ballots or record anything. News media and members of the public were also allowed to observe but were required to do so from a designated area.
Some of the ballots counted Friday would have to be recounted again because workers were sorting the ballots by hand and then running them through counting machines, rather than counting them by hand, she said. Raffensperger’s office has consistently said it’s likely the results will differ slightly from those previously reported by the counties but that the difference is not expected to be enough to change the outcome. The tally resulting from the audit is what will be certified, election officials have said. There is no mandatory recount law in Georgia, but state law provides that option to a trailing candidate if the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points (KTLA).
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE