Warnock’s US Senate victory audited by Georgia election officials

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Optional audit will show whether hand counts match computer tallies

The U.S. Senate runoff was being audited Wednesday and Thursday in most Georgia counties, where election workers will count paper ballots by hand so they can be compared to the results from the computer tally on election night.

Election officials said Tuesday the audit will show voters whether results were accurate when Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican Herschel Walker by over 99,000 votes, or 2.8 percentage points.

Because the audit isn’t required by state law, not every county chose to participate, making it impossible to double-check that statewide results were correct. Of Georgia’s 159 counties, 138 opted to join the audit, including all of metro Atlanta except Douglas County.

“The big reason why we audit is we want to improve confidence in the results of the election,” said State Elections Director Blake Evans. “We want people to see that their county election officials are going the extra mile to be able to hand-count the batches of ballots that are selected, and those hand counts will be compared against the machine results.”

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

To launch the audit, employees from the secretary of state’s office and the public rolled dice in the state Capitol on Tuesday to create a 20-digit number that was fed into a computer to select a randomized sample ballot batches that will be reviewed. Each county will hand count at least 2% of ballots in the runoff, for a total of nearly 164,000 ballots of 3.5 million cast.

The audit, which was planned before election day last week, is optional because state law only requires a review of one race after a general election every two years.

Last month, an audit of the secretary of state’s general election race counted 21 more votes for Republican Brad Raffensperger and 18 fewer for Democrat Bee Nguyen out of a sample of 231,000 ballots audited.

In the full count on Election Day, Raffensperger won the race by more than 360,000 votes out of 3.9 million ballots cast.

The results of the runoff audit will be reported on the secretary of state’s website. Tiny discrepancies based on human counting errors aren’t unusual, Evans said, but larger differences would be investigated.

Then Raffensperger will certify the election by Dec. 23.