The review showed there were 66 votes for Cartersville Mayor Matthew Santini and 12 votes for challenger Nicole Butler, a result that confirmed Santini's victory on Election Day with 85% of ballots cast, said Mark Lindeman of Verified Voting, a national election integrity organization that helped with the audit. The probability that Santini didn't actually win based on the audit sample is about 1 in 1 billion. The audit also confirmed the outcome of the alcohol sales question.
“It doesn’t take a statistics degree to figure out there was a preponderance of votes for Santini,” said Lindeman, Verified Voting’s director of science and technology policy. “There was strong evidence that the reported outcomes were correct based on the ballots.”
Election workers also conducted a full hand recount of all 480 paper ballots in the Cartersville East precinct. That count showed a one-vote difference from the electronic tally, likely because of human error during the audit, Lindeman said.
Rhonda Martin, an election integrity advocate from Fulton County, said audits of computer-printed ballots fail to confirm election results because many voters don’t check their ballots for accuracy. She wants Georgia to use hand-marked paper ballots, which would create a voter-verified source document for audits and recounts.
"It shakes the foundation of doing an audit when it's based on these documents," said Martin, a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit seeking paper ballots filled out by hand. "We really care about the intent of the voter, and that's not part of that process."
Martin said the public should have been able to observe the audit, but many people weren’t able to because the secretary of state’s office didn’t announce it until minutes before it began Tuesday.
Audits of paper ballots will be required throughout Georgia starting with the November 2020 election, according to a state law passed this year. The State Election Board is considering standards for conducting audits and recounts.