Georgia’s election audit nears end, small errors unlikely to change result

Georgia's county election offices are working to complete a statewide audit of nearly 5 million votes cast in the presidential election. The deadline to turn over results to the secretary of state's office is by the end of Wednesday. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

Georgia county election offices have reviewed by hand 4.9 million ballots cast in the presidential election as work continues to meet a midnight deadline to complete a statewide audit.

Thousands of ballots are left to count as many election office workers spend the final day verifying the audit’s accuracy in an election that still has Democrat Joe Biden ahead of President Donald Trump by nearly 12,800 votes.

Gabriel Sterling, voting systems implementation manager for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, said some counties with fewer resources continue to work today as well as the more heavily populated Georgia counties of Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett, Bibb and Chatham. 

“They got a lot of their actual physical accounting done early to give us the time to do good quality control to make sure that we have an audit that we can all rely on,” Sterling said. “No one has said to me, ‘I’m sending him a red flare that we’re not going to make it so far.’ Everybody on the team is feeling pretty good we can make the midnight cut.”

The audit uncovered another missing memory card containing votes, this time in Douglas County, giving Biden 156 more votes and adding 128 to Trump’s total. And in Walton County, missing votes that are now being tallied will net Trump about 175 additional votes.  

Since Raffensperger ordered the full audit last week, more than 5,500 votes left out of the first tally have been discovered, prompting the president and his Republican allies to cast doubt on the integrity of Georgia’s election. 

Those missing votes will be part of the official statewide certified totals, and so far, have only trimmed Biden’s lead from about 14,000 reported last Friday to 12,781 by Wednesday morning. 

The controversy continued Wednesday morning when Republican Party Chairman David Shafer posted on Twitter that a GOP poll monitor in DeKalb caught a batch of mislabeled hand-reviewed ballots.

A tally sheet on the batch listed Biden having 10,707 votes to Trump’s 13. The actual count was 1,081 for the former vice-president and 13 for Trump, Shafter posted.

However, Sterling said this mistake doesn’t affect the actual election results that will be certified at the end of the week.

“The error would have been discovered and corrected, even without the monitor there to have pointed it,” he said. “We have quality control measures that our audit consultants go through on each one of these tally sheets to make sure you didn’t transpose a number, you didn’t add a zero.”

Raffensperger is increasingly at odds with fellow Republicans over the integrity of an election he prepared to run for more than a year. In addition to Trump, Georgia GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue last week called for Raffensperger to resign over unspecified election failures.

A forensic audit performed on a sample of voting machines across five counties determined there was no hacking during the election, the secretary of state said. 

Audit results won’t be released until Georgia’s 5 million ballots pass review. Based on the discrepancies so far, the first statewide tally is expected to be close to the final number.

Raffensperger’s office sent high-speed scanners to every county registrar’s office anticipating Trump’s request for a recount once results are certified.

This is a story by the Georgia Record, an affiliate of the nonprofit States Newsroom which includes the Florida Phoenix.

Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap is a reporter at the Georgia Recorder, part of the nonprofit States Newsroom that includes the Florida Phoenix. Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. He is a graduate of the University of Memphis.