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Deadline comes for counties to finish election audit, state hopes to release report Thursday

The deadline was set for Wednesday night at 11:59.

ATLANTA — This is an archive of our Nov. 18 blog

The unprecedented hand-count retallying process in Georgia was expected to largely wrap up Wednesday as counties faced a midnight deadline to certify their results.

The hard deadline for the state to certify its full results is Friday. The process of counting the state’s ballots cast in the general election on Nov. 3 has produced the largest audit in the country’s history to be conducted by hand. 

The main issues uncovered through the process came in Floyd County, where a box of about 2,600 uncounted ballots was discovered, and in Fayette County, where 2,700 ballots that had been scanned but were not uploaded into the total were found on a memory card. A smaller issue similar to Fayette's was also found in Walton County.

The net result has been about 1,400 more votes in President Trump's favor, leaving Joe Biden with a still-considerable lead of more than 12,000.

The audit is not an official recount, which can still happen after the state certifies their election results at the request of a candidate within a .5% margin. That’s why it’s being called a retally or hand count.

The official recount - using the vote tabulation machines - could begin next week. Campaigns will have until Tuesday to make their requests.

Here is more information on the process.

Tuesday's blog: Another county uncovers more than 2,700 votes during Georgia election audit

Monday's blog: 2,600 uncounted ballots discovered in Floyd County during election audit

Throughout the day, we’ll update this blog with new information from the counties as they continue the tally along with other election updates.

11:59 p.m. | The deadline for counties to finish their election audit for the presidential race has come. Earlier in the day, Election official Gabriel Sterling said the state expected to release the audit report on Thursday afternoon. 

10:59 p.m. | Counties have one hour to finish up their audits.

9:15 p.m. | Earlier today, 11Alive's Brendan Keefe gave a quick recap on Twitter what to expect tonight in the audit.

4:50 p.m. | - The Douglas County Board of Elections and Registration issued a statement about the audit and how they discovered nearly 300 votes that hadn't been counted. 

"The Douglas County Board of Elections and Registration (BOER) has been working with the state vendor, Dominion Voting Solution, to audit our Election results. It was discovered during this audit that an Election Day tabular failed to upload results to Georgia’s Secretary of State. That technical glitch resulted in 293 votes not being counted. After communicating with the Secretary of State’s office, the Election Board held an emergency meeting on Wednesday, November 18, 2020. Following the meeting, the BOER office then transmitted the updated results to the Secretary of State’s Office and recertified the results of the November 3rd, Douglas County General election."

4:46 p.m. | The state still expects to certify the votes on Friday, Gabriel Sterling said of the Secretary of State's Office.

4:30 p.m. |  Gabriel Sterling of the Secretary of State's Office said audit shows margin in the presidential race is now just over 12,700 votes with Biden leading. 

4:22 p.m. | Gabriel Sterling of the Secretary of State's Office said they have not been officially asked by the Trump campaign or the Georgia Republican Party for a recount.

"I am hoping that the hand audit will show that the machines counted correctly," he said.

4:12 p.m. | Gabriel Sterling of the Secretary of State's Office said some of the bigger counties, such as Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Cobb, are included in the number of 21 counties that are still in progress. 

4:08 p.m. | Gabriel Sterling of the Secretary of State's Office said counties look to be good shape to finish up by tonight's deadline for the audit. 

"We have crossed the 5 million threshold of hand tallying," Sterling said.

He said about 21 counties are still in progress, with many of them being close to finished. They hope to have an audit report out by noon, Thursday. 

3:46 p.m. | The Secretary of State's Office is expected to provide another update at 4 p.m. You can watch it below.


3:20 p.m. | A lawyer for the Biden campaign is saying the hand count audit is complete (though he might be a bit confused - there are 159 counties in Georgia).

3:15 p.m. | To revisit that DeKalb County issue raised by Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer, here's 11Alive's Brendan Keefe with the affidavit. 

Basically, it appears the hand-counters in one instance badly misreported the total they had just counted on a box - by more than 9,600 votes in favor of Joe Biden. 

A Republican observer noticed a sticker on the box, however, saying the scanner total was 1,105 votes. That observer insisted they recount again and, sure enough, there were, well, almost 1,105 votes in the box. There were 1,103.

So, what happened, is humans doing the counting messed up in some way, but the original (correct) machine count was not off by 9,000-some votes.

2:30 p.m. | One last good quote from Jeff Hullinger's interview with Sec. Raffensperger:

"We understand peoples' concerns. I'm disappointed, I'm a conservative Republican, I wanted President Trump to win. But if you don’t have the votes you don’t have the votes.

"Now if he's got votes in some other states, then he can go bark up those trees. But in Georgia we run a pretty tight ship and with our audit, the counties that didn’t get it exactly tight, they got found out and that's a good thing and so we're gonna take them to task also."

2:10 p.m. | Here's another interesting bit from Jeff's interview with Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger, on President Trump's performance in Georgia:

"Over 24,000 Republicans voted absentee in the June primary - in the fall those same Republican voters did not vote absentee, did not vote early and did not vote in person. That’s 24,000 people that left the battlefield and just didn’t participate. And his margin is 12,000 now, so he would’ve won by 12,000. Now it would be Joe Biden that would be whining and crying about the results."

Raffensperger added that in metro Atlanta, Sen. David Perdue outperformed the president by more than 14,000 votes.

"If he would've just done as good as Sen. Perdue in the metro region, he also would've won the state of Georgia. And that goes back to his campaign and the decisions that they made."

2:00 p.m. | 11Alive Anchor Jeff Hullinger spoke to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger today - an interview we'll be airing in this evening's broadcast and uploading in full online - and he had this interesting thing to say about Rep. Doug Collins, President Trump's top advocate on the election in Georgia and now also a leading critic of the secretary's:

"The real issue is when we hit a lot of these headwinds that we've faced in Georgia, they've been federal lawsuits, (it's) due to federal laws, and when we (Republicans) had the Senate, we had President Trump and we had the Congress for those two years, Doug Collins - he was a congressman - he had not a single bill on election improvement or election reform, and now he's out here talking. But he never did anything when he was a congressman, and people need to hold him accountable for that. I know he's not running again, he lost that Senate race, but how come he didn’t do anything for the two years they had the power to do something?

"The truth is staring him in the face and he just wants to spread misinformation and disinformation, and so if he doesn’t wanna stand up and really stand on truth what am I supposed to do about that?"

1:15 p.m. | Another Biden campaign lawyer, Pat Moore, said the Georgia audit process had been "consistent with our expectations."

"The outcome following this hand recount will be the same outcome as the initial results indicated: That President-elect Biden has won the state of Georgia," he said. "As we've expected, there have been some minor shifts in the vote totals, that happens in every post-election process, and it has happened here. Nothing surprising, and in fact a demonstration that the process is working the way that it should."

He also added that, referring to county elections directors and workers, "The thing that is remarkable is the attacks on these well-meaning servants executing their duties - they deserve appreciation and not criticism."

1:10 p.m. | In that Biden press call that just went down (it was embargoed until it ended), campaign lawyer Marc Elias had this to say about the lawsuit that appears to be the one major piece of litigation trying to stop Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger from certifying Georgia's election results:

'He called it "frivolous" ("I rarely use this word," he said) and said "I'd expect that we will prevail on that."

The focus of the lawsuit is the "consent decree" the president has frequently tweeted about, which was an agreement between Sec. Raffensperger and Democratic organizations earlier this year over how signature matching would be done in Georgia.

"This was a bipartisan agreement, this was an agreement struck between my clients - you see my name on the agreement, but you also see the general counsel of the Republican Party of Georgia, who was representing the republican Secretary of State. You see the signature of the Attorney General's Office of Georgia, who are Republicans.

"There was nothing secretive about this. There was nothing rushed about this. This was done in the ordinary course - it was filed and put on the docket of a federal District Court judge and has sat there ever since.

"We have had several elections in Georgia under that agreement since, including the primary elections, and there have not been any objections lodged by any Republican candidate, by any Republican Party committee, by any Republican Party voter, until we were past the election when supporters of the defeated candidate went hunting for whatever they could find to try and throw up some dust.

"This is very little dust, but it is the dust they seem to have found."

12:25 p.m. | A look back at the basic state of things:

12:20 p.m. | We're expect Joe Biden to speak to press in a conference call in about 10 minutes. There's also going to be another press conference at 4 p.m. with the Secretary of State's Office.

12:10 p.m. | Here's what happened in Douglas County, the fourth county to report a substantive discrepancy discovered through the hand count audit:

Sterling said Douglas realized through hand counting that they had more ballots than votes they'd put into the system - like Fayette and Walton counties, they'd apparently undercounted.

Those votes were on a memory card from the Lutheran 739 voting precinct, Sterling said, and broke down to 156 for Biden, 128 for Trump and 7 for Jo Jorgense, the Libertarian candidate.

12:05 p.m. | Important point Gabriel Sterling has raised on President Trump's associating "fraudulent" votes with the Georgia audit:

11:55 a.m. | It's not clear what President Trump thinks is happening in a video he tweeted out, but Sterling said "there aren't multiple boxes" of undiscovered ballots in Floyd County. One box was found, he's explained, because there was a batch of ballots that had never been scanned in the first place because they'd been taken to the election office after an issue at an early-voting precinct in late October and, essentially, forgotten about until the audit. 

A bad human error, he said, found because of the audit process. If there were any more examples of that, "we would have found them through the audit process."

11:25 a.m. | Sterling just addressed a viral claim by Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer made on Twitter today that there was a 9,000+ vote error in DeKalb County.

He framed it as a human mistake with the hand-count process - not the original count itself - that was discovered and corrected on Sunday. It was caught by a Republican monitor, but Sterling said it would have also been caught through existing quality controls.

Sterling called it a  "non-event non-issue thing."

11:20 a.m. | Gabriel Sterling explains that in the four counties where there have been more noteworthy issues reported - Floyd, Fayette, Walton and Douglas - three of them were caused by them not doing reconciliation (the double-checking process) correctly before certifying their votes. Then the audit discovered they were off by some, which is how they were able to trace discrepancies back to memory cards that had not been uploaded.

In the case of Floyd County, there were ballots that had never been scanned in the first place because they'd been taken to the election office after an issue at an early-voting precinct in late October and, essentially, forgotten about until the audit.

11:10 a.m. | This is the breakdown currently:

10:55 a.m. | Expecting the Secretary of State's Office news conference to start in about five minutes.

10:40 a.m. | Here's an interesting look at how Atlanta's suburbs influenced the 2020 Election.

10:05 a.m. | And if you saw this tweet by President Trump's son, please note the 3.5% figure of rejected ballots in 2018 was total ballots rejected. The number of ballots specifically rejected for a signature that didn't match was 0.15% in 2018, and 0.15% in 2020. 

10:00 a.m. | The president's tweet also referenced signature matching: Here's why it's impossible to go back to that process in any way.

9:45 a.m. | The president is tweeting about Georgia again. If you're interested in what the consent decree is, you can read an explainer here.

It's important to note that there has been no report of "thousands of fraudulent votes" in Georgia. 

There have been reports of a few thousands votes being found - primarily in Floyd and Fayette counties - through the auditing process. And those overwhelmingly helped President Trump.

9:20 a.m. | Another programming note! We'll be hearing from the Secretary of State's Office again with another virtual press conference at 11 a.m.

9:00 a.m. | Little programming note: Mayor Bottoms will be holding her first virtual briefing since the election this morning at 10 a.m. There's speculation she's under consideration for a Biden cabinet position (Housing and Urban Development is most frequently mentioned), but she has to this point declined to acknowledge those rumors.

8:05 a.m. | Cobb County said this morning that it was done with its audit:

7:50 a.m. | If you're interested where things stand: The Floyd County ballots found in a box produced a gain of 1,643 for President Trump, the Fayette County ballots on a memory card that had not been uploaded provided 449 additional votes for the president, and the Walton County memory card votes produced a gain of 176, according to the Walton Tribune.

So far, from Georgia's 159 counties, those are the only three that have reported significant discrepancies from their original results. According to the Secretary of State's Office, they will be able to re-certify their results with the updated figures.