Senate runoffs decided, but one Georgia county plans a recount anyway

SAVANNAH, GA - NOVEMBER 14, 2020: Chatham County Board of Elections officials post signs in the public viewing area during the statewide audit of ballots from the 2020 election. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
SAVANNAH, GA - NOVEMBER 14, 2020: Chatham County Board of Elections officials post signs in the public viewing area during the statewide audit of ballots from the 2020 election. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs weren’t as close as the contentious presidential election, but one county is planning a full audit of every ballot to verify the results.

Bartow County Elections Supervisor Joseph Kirk announced Friday that election workers will manually recount the county’s 43,000 ballots cast in the runoffs, checking the accuracy of machine counts.

“The whole reason we have these paper ballots is to confirm that we counted properly,” Kirk said. “This is a key step in promoting public confidence. Whether the results are close or not, we should always be working toward that.”

There’s no reason to doubt that the Dominion Voting Systems election equipment, which uses touchscreens to print out paper ballots, counted votes accurately, Kirk said. But a human review will provide another check on the process.

Unlike after the presidential election, a statewide audit of every ballot isn’t planned by the secretary of state’s office. Hand recounts and machine counts in November both confirmed that Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump by about 12,000 votes in Georgia, a 0.24% margin.

In the Senate runoffs, as of Friday, Democrat Jon Ossoff led Republican David Perdue by nearly 1%, and Democrat Raphael Warnock was ahead of Republican Kelly Loeffler by almost 2%.

Official results are unlikely to be certified until near a Jan. 22 deadline, but national media outlets have called the races for Ossoff and Warnock. Losing candidates are entitled to a recount in Georgia only if their races are within half a percentage point.

The runoffs in Bartow County, located 50 miles northwest of Atlanta, weren’t as close. Both Perdue and Loeffler received about 75% of the vote.

Loeffler and Perdue have each conceded.

The Bartow audit will be conducted in the same way as the statewide audit and recount in November, when election workers sorted paper ballots into piles for each candidate and counted them. Kirk said he will audit one of the two Senate races, but he hasn’t decided which one.

The audit will take place Tuesday and Wednesday and be open to public observation. It will be conducted by about 20 to 25 workers. Kirk didn’t have an estimate for its cost.

In Other News