Recount process in Ga. faces objections from Trump, GOP

11/11/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announces the start of a hand recount of the November 3 presidential election during a briefing outside of the Georgia State Capitol building in downtown Atlanta, Wednesday, November 11, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/11/2020 — Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announces the start of a hand recount of the November 3 presidential election during a briefing outside of the Georgia State Capitol building in downtown Atlanta, Wednesday, November 11, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

The hand recount of the nearly 5 million ballots cast in Georgia’s presidential race must start in every county by Friday morning and finish by Wednesday at midnight, state election officials said Thursday.

The recount aims to verify election results reported so far in Georgia, where 16 electoral votes are at stake. Joe Biden held a 14,000-vote lead over Donald Trump as of Thursday morning.

Elections workers across the state are expected to work through the weekend to finish the labor-intensive task before the deadline.

Here’s what you need to know:

Follow Georgia recount live updates for Friday, Nov. 13 here

Here are the updates for Thursday, Nov. 12

6:53 p.m.

Trump, Republicans complain about recount procedures

President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Georgia Republican Party raised objections Thursday to the state’s recount process, saying it doesn’t satisfy their demands for a hand count.

They wrote in a letter to their fellow Republican, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, that they have “serious concerns regarding the training and directives” for how the hand count will be conducted.

The letter seeks a re-review of absentee ballot signatures because the number of ballot rejections reported so far is lower than in the 2018 election. Ballot rejections declined in part because Georgia law changed to eliminate the requirement for voters to write in their birth years or addresses on ballot envelopes, instead only mandating their signatures.

In addition, the Republicans sought greater access for partisan monitors, more public notice before the recount begins Friday and strengthened ballot security protocols.

The secretary of state’s office gave no indication it plans to change recount procedures.

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system manager, said Thursday that the process will be safe.

“This office spends a heck of a lot of time on making sure that the equipment involved is secure,” Sterling said. “The decentralized nature of votes in Georgia is a security measure in and of itself. It’s 159 counties. There’s not a single target.”

Explore5 million ballots from 159 counties: How the Georgia recount will be done

5:38 p.m.

Fulton set to start recount Saturday morning

The county with the most votes in Georgia will begin its state-ordered recount on Saturday.

Fulton County will count by hand its 528,000 presidential ballots, which accounts for about 10.5% of the state’s entire tally.

The county sent a news release early Thursday evening saying the count will start Saturday at 7 a.m. and “continue daily” from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Wednesday.

The audit will be conducted “within public view” of the public, press and assigned party monitors, according to the news release. The tallying with be livestreamed, and the county is calling upon about 300 people to count ballots.

Read more about Fulton’s plans here.

3:10 p.m.

Gwinnett to begin recount Friday morning

Gwinnett County is still finalizing the details for its manual recount, but elections officials have set the start time for 9 a.m. Friday, in part because they have to set up tables and equipment to accommodate the count.

Gwinnett has more than 416,000 votes to count by hand over the course of six days. The process will occur in the county elections warehouse, said county spokesman Joe Sorenson.

The county isn’t yet sure how many people it’ll need to complete the recount by the Wednesday midnight deadline, or how long officials will have to work each day, Sorenson said. Elections department employees and poll workers are expected to conduct the count, and local political parties can appoint official observers to watch the process.

Read more about Gwinnett’s plans here.

2:55 p.m.

DeKalb plans to start recount Saturday, Fulton details TBD

Our colleague Tyler Estep reports that DeKalb County plans to begin its manual recount of the presidential election at 7 a.m. Saturday.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had said counties should begin their work by 9 a.m. Friday. But DeKalb elections director Erica Hamilton said during a Thursday afternoon elections board meeting that more time is needed to get things in order.

“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.

Hamilton said the plan is for the recount to take place from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day at the former Sam’s Club building off Turner Hill Road in Stonecrest 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.

Meanwhile, few details were available about the recount in Fulton County, the state’s largest trove of voters. A Fulton spokeswoman said the county was creating its plan and expected to release details later Thursday.

2:35 p.m.

Helpful primer on Georgia’s recount system

In case you have any lingering questions about how Georgia’s recount process will work, here’s a really digestible (and cute) primer the Secretary of State’s office showed county elections officials this morning:

The video was made by the organization VotingWorks, an election audit software company working with the state.

2:13 p.m.

Recount process explained

Many metro Atlanta counties are still determining when they’ll begin manually recounting hundreds of thousands of votes. They must do so by 9 a.m. Friday, the state’s mandatory start time.

Cobb County will begin the process at 9 a.m. Friday at the Jim Miller Park Event Center in Marietta. Gwinnett County expects to start at 9 a.m. in its elections warehouse. But Clayton, DeKalb and Fulton counties had not announced their timelines by 1 p.m. Thursday.

The count will involve dozens of elections department workers and poll officials, and it will likely last through the weekend and into next week.

Votes will be recounted in batches of 100 or less, with a two-person audit board handling each batch. Most counties will have multiple audit boards running at once to expedite the process. The state will recommend how many each should have in order to finish the count by the Wednesday midnight deadline.

“I want you to be very deliberate in your counting,” Vander Roest said. “Take your time.”

Each audit board will work at its own table, where staffers will stack the ballots by candidate. There will be separate stacks for votes for President Donald Trump, President-elect Joe Biden, Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen, write-in candidates and ballots with no presidential vote or an “overvote” — when a voter selects more than one candidate in a race requiring a single choice. Both members of the audit team should be counting together to verify the accuracy of their count, said Ginny Vander Roest, an election implementation manager with election audit software company VotingWorks.

Once each batch is complete, vote totals will be logged and ballots will be moved to secure containers for safekeeping.

“These ballots are the currency of the election,” Chris Harvey, the state’s elections director, said in a Thursday training webinar. “They need to be protected at all times.”

Monica Childers, a product manager with VotingWorks, recommended counties start with absentee ballots first before moving on to votes cast in person during early voting and on Election Day. Absentee ballots are filled out by hand, while early and Election Day votes are cast using machines. That means absentee ballots will likely be less uniform and may need closer scrutiny if a voter’s choice is not obvious. A superintendent will be designated to break ties if the members of an audit board disagree about a ballot.

Audit boards are only checking for presidential vote selection; they are not counting any down-ballot races or verifying signatures.

1:51 p.m.

Secretary of state self-quarantining

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is self-quarantining after his wife tested positive for COVID-19, Channel 2 Action News reported.

Raffensperger, 65, will get tested himself this afternoon. His exposure comes as the state is beginning a manual recount of more than 5 million presidential ballots. Counties were able to begin the process Thursday afternoon, and must start by Friday at 9 a.m. The recount must be finished Wednesday at midnight. Raffensperger will likely still be quarantining by then, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a 14-day quarantine period for anyone who has had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

11/11/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks with Georgia county elections directors without a face mask following a press briefing outside of the Georgia State Capitol building in downtown Atlanta, Wednesday, November 11, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/11/2020 — Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks with Georgia county elections directors without a face mask following a press briefing outside of the Georgia State Capitol building in downtown Atlanta, Wednesday, November 11, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

1:02 p.m.

Georgia prepares for hand recount

The large, statewide hand recount of the nearly 5 million ballots cast in Georgia’s presidential race must start in every county by Friday morning and finish by Wednesday at midnight, state election officials said Thursday.

The recount aims to verify election results reported so far in Georgia. Joe Biden held a 14,000-vote lead over Donald Trump as of Thursday morning.

“The sooner you can get this started, the easier this will go,” said Monica Childers, a product manager with election audit software company VotingWorks, on a Thursday training call.

Elections workers across the state are expected to work through the weekend in order finish before the deadline.

“Frankly, I don’t see how many people cannot work on the weekends to get this done,” said Elections Director Chris Harvey.

Teams of election workers will check voters choices for each candidate and report results.

The recount will require human review of nearly 5 million ballots, stacked into piles sorted for each candidate and then tallied in each county.

Georgia has never conducted a statewide recount of paper ballots before, and it wasn’t possible before this year when the state added paper ballots to the process. Previous recounts were conducted by recalculating vote counts stored on computers.

The recount is certain to be a labor-intensive process starting just eight days before the Nov. 20 deadline for Georgia’s final results to be certified by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. At stake are Georgia’s 16 votes in the Electoral College, which is scheduled to meet to cast votes for president Dec. 14.

ExploreHand recount moves ahead under interpretation of Georgia election rules

Raffensperger announced the recount Wednesday following demands from Trump’s defenders and calls for his resignation from his fellow Republicans, Georgia Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

Details of how the recount will be conducted were expected to be announced Thursday morning. Then county election officials can begin.

Observers from the Republican and Democratic parties will be present to oversee the process.

The recount will be conducted under Georgia’s new audit rules, which require election workers to review the printed text or filled-in bubbles on each ballot. Ballots won’t be rescanned by computers.

Please return to AJC.com for updates.

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