DeKalb preps for presidential recount, January runoffs

Dekalb election workers sort presidential ballots in Stonecrest Saturday, November 14, 2020..  STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Dekalb election workers sort presidential ballots in Stonecrest Saturday, November 14, 2020.. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

It’s Thanksgiving week, but the folks over at the DeKalb County elections office won’t be getting much of a break — now or in the foreseeable future.

DeKalb elections director Erica Hamilton said Monday morning that she and her staff were awaiting word from Georgia’s Secretary of State about when the machine recount requested over the weekend by President Donald Trump will start.

But Hamilton said preparations were already well underway at the former Sam’s Club store in Stonecrest, the same spacious site where DeKalb conducted the recent hand audit of roughly 370,000 presidential ballots cast in the Nov. 3 election.

Hamilton said the county, which plans to use about 50 electronic scanners for the new recount, will be ready when the state is.

“The only day we’ll have off this week is Thursday,” she said.

DeKalb officials have estimated that the machine recount could take “at least eight days to complete, depending on finalized staffing levels and times of operations.” They could finish sooner, but the projected timeline is significantly longer than that of the hand audit, which was completed in just two days using some 300 poll workers.

The new recount, of course, won’t be the only thing DeKalb has going on.

The county is conducting another election as we speak — a Dec. 1 runoff to serve the last few weeks of late U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ final term — while also preparing for January’s statewide Senate runoffs.

The Jan. 5 runoffs, which pit Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively, will decide the balance of the United States Senate and are expected to shatter fundraising records.

Hamilton said that DeKalb had already received about 76,000 requests for absentee ballots for the January contests. The county planned to mail absentee ballot applications to all registered voters on Tuesday.

DeKalb plans to utilize the same 12 early voting locations and 32 absentee ballot dropboxes that it did for the presidential election. DeKalb has not finalized its schedule but early voting is expected to start Dec. 14 and be available on at least one weekend.

Chief operating officer Zack Williams said Monday that DeKalb also plans to apply for a new grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life ahead of the runoffs. A $4.8 million grant that the county received from the same organization prior to the presidential election helped pay for things like staffing increases, additional equipment and COVID-19 related preparations.