Photo: Officials work on ballots Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, at the Gwinnett County Voter Registration and Elections Headquarters in Lawrenceville, Ga.
Photo Credit: John Bazemore / AP
The Center Square [By Johnny Nyamekye Daniel]-
Georgia is on track to complete its hand recount of the ballots cast in the presidential election by Wednesday night, but a top elections official said the audit will not change the election results.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s voting system implementation manager Gabriel Sterling told reporters Tuesday that state law will not allow them to change the election’s certified results, which are submitted by precincts.
“It’s a little bit different now because we were looking at the law, trying to understand the best way to follow the law, and make sure that we got the results in that would be there and follow the law,” Sterling said.
The margin between presumptive president-elect Joe Biden and President Donald Trump stands at 13,378 votes, with Biden carrying the state over Trump. Trump closed the gap after officials discovered a batch of more than 2,600 uncounted early voting ballots in Floyd County that contributed to the new margin.
Floyd County will have to rescan all of its early voting ballots for certification. The newly discovered ballots will not change the U.S. Senate races heading to a runoff in January. However, there still is inconsistency with the county’s provisional ballots, Sterling said.
“It looks like they had two batches, and they scanned three batches, which means that they have a third more provisional ballots in the election reporting than they should,” Sterling said. “We don’t know the outcomes of those, but those will also be rescanned.”
Sterling said Floyd County election officials reported an issue with a scanner, and the uncounted batch of early votes was set aside in a sealed box with a number on them to be rescanned once the equipment was replaced. He blamed the oversight on election management. The county also faulted on backup ballot rules during the August primary. Raffensperger has asked the Floyd County elections director, Robert Brady, to step down.
Brady, who is reportedly in isolation because of exposure to COVID-19, has not responded to the secretary of state’s office’s calls for about two days, Sterling said.
“So we’re kind of left to kind of figure it out and have our people on the ground work with his county elections board to get this resolved,” Sterling said.
With 4.7 million of the nearly 5 million votes counted as of Tuesday, Sterling expects the hand recount to be completed by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. If all goes well then, Raffensperger would be able to meet the Nov. 20 deadline for certification Thursday.
Trump called Georgia’s recount meaningless Monday, citing a legal agreement Raffensperger’s office settled with Georgia Democrats over ballot rejection for signatures. Attorney Lin Wood has sued Raffensperger and the election board to stop the certification process.
Raffensperger said Monday that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, asked him whether he could toss out the entire tally from counties with higher rates of signature issues with absentee ballots. Graham has denied the claim. Sterling, who said he was on the call briefly, confirmed Graham asked “process questions” but could not speak about Graham’s intent.
The secretary of state’s office is investigating reported cases where monitors were asked to leave or were not present when votes were counted in Fulton County. Investigators also are reviewing votes cast by former felons to verify whether the state legally restored the voter’s rights.
“We know that in every single election in the history of mankind, there will be illegal votes cast,” Sterling said. “We have not seen any evidence of 13,378 of those casts. We know there are some double voters. We dug into some of that and realize that it was entry errors by counties where they tag people the wrong way.”