DeKalb certifies election results, plans to start recount Saturday

November 4, 2020 Decatur - Workers scan and tabulate absentee ballots at DeKalb Voter Registration & Elections building in Decatur on Wednesday, November 4, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
November 4, 2020 Decatur - Workers scan and tabulate absentee ballots at DeKalb Voter Registration & Elections building in Decatur on Wednesday, November 4, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

DeKalb County plans to begin its manual recount of the presidential election at 7 a.m. Saturday, officials said.

DeKalb elections director Erica Hamilton said the county plans to conduct its part of the risk-limiting audit — a labor-intensive task mandated across Georgia by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — at the former Sam’s Club building off Turner Hill Road in Stonecrest. The site was used as an advance voting location for last week’s election and provides more space for social distancing and other operations than would be afforded at DeKalb’s elections headquarters, Hamilton said.

Raffensperger had said counties should begin their work by 9 a.m. Friday. But Hamilton said during a Thursday afternoon elections board meeting that more time is needed to get things in order and begin the actual counting.

“There’s a lot of coordination which has to occur,” county attorney Viviane Ernstes said, referencing public safety measures and “the sanctity of moving those boxes” of ballots.

ExploreLIVE UPDATES: Georgia recount of presidential race set to begin

Hamilton said the plan is for the recount to take place from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day until the work is complete. The plan is to utilize two shifts of 150 poll workers, who will work in pairs to complete the separating and counting of ballots.

Plans are for the facility to be sanitized between each shift. Ernstes said the DeKalb health department will have a presence in the building throughout the process.

“That will, I think, be very helpful to ensuring that both the folks who are observing and the folks that are working practice the necessary measures and cautions,” Ernstes said.

The DeKalb elections board certified results from last week’s election around 2:40 p.m. Thursday. It was originally scheduled to certify on Friday but moved the meeting up so staff could more quickly turn their attention to the recount, a herculean feat that involves human review of all 5 million or so ballots that Georgians cast in the race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

It must be finished statewide by Nov. 20.

Hamilton said she hopes DeKalb can finish reviewing its 370,000 or so ballots by the end of the day Wednesday.

The potential cost of the recount in DeKalb -- or anywhere else -- remains unclear.

DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson wants the Secretary of State’s office to chip in.

“I think as a goodwill gesture they should throw some funds to the counties to assist with this process,” Johnson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

While DeKalb handles the recount, it will also be conducting a separate election -- and preparing for the high-stakes Senate runoffs that are coming in January.

Early voting started Monday in a runoff in the special election for the 5th Congressional District, the seat of late U.S. Rep. John Lewis. The winner of that Dec. 1 contest between former Morehouse College president Robert Franklin and former Atlanta city councilman Kwanza Hall will serve only a few weeks before the next full-term 5th District representative — Nikema Williams — is sworn in.

Doraville residents will also be deciding a city council runoff election on Dec. 1.

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