Hand-count audit of ballots to begin Friday morning in Ga.

ByBlair Caldwell|November 12, 2020 at 12:51 PM EST - Updated November 13 at 12:32 PM

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - An official with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office says the hand-count audit of the presidential race will begin for all 159 counties in the state on Friday at 9 a.m.

The deadline for the hand-count to be completed is midnight on Wednesday, Nov. 18, which is less than a week away.

Election workers in Georgia will have to hand-count the nearly five million votes in the presidential race. As of noon Thursday, Joe Biden led President Donald Trump by 14,000 votes.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says the risk-limiting audit is being done to make sure Georgians can trust the results.

“This will help build confidence, it will be an audit, a recount and a recanvas all at once. It will be a heavy lift, but we will work with the counties to get this done in time for our state certification,” Secretary Raffensperger said.

Through this process, Secretary Reffensperger says every single legal ballot cast will be looked at and tallied by hand. He said each county will handle their recount.

Chatham County election workers will be counting and reviewing 134,000 ballots by hand ahead, but it’s something the board of elections director says Chatham County has done before.

“Chatham County is the only county that has had experience under the new system with a hand recount and so it took us several days to complete a hand recount in that smaller race. There was only, it was a primary, there was only 5, 337 total votes. W’ve got 20 times that number of votes in the presidential race. We’ve got some experience here in Chatham County by having done it, so I feel better that we will be prepared, but I also feel it will take more than a few days,” Chatham County Board of Elections Chairman Tom Mahoney said.

The Secretary of State says observers from both parties will be allowed to view the process.

Well we are still waiting for the certification of the November 3 election. But Thursday was spent really learning more about this risk limiting audit that triggered the hand tally.

Officials spent their day on training calls and then training staff too.

Here’s what we know of the process, there will be audit teams of two people going through ballots and placing them in stacks to be counted for the presidential race.

Chatham’s election supervisor says they will do this aloud so both people can acknowledge the vote. Estimates say one team can get through 1,000 ballots a day.

That means Chatham County would need 28 audit teams of two working for five days to complete the count.

The audit will also have vote review panels made up of six republicans and 6 democrats.

The Board of Elections is looking to have at least 70 people per day and already have 60 signed up to work Friday.

While this is a tight deadline and a lot of work, officials say they are confident.

Officials say they have text trees, made dozens of phone calls to be sure they have the staff to begin this audit with as many hands as possible.

While all of this is happening the board of elections still is working to certify the election results from November 3.

They wanted to Thursday but say the hang up was spending today learning about the audit process and training. Leaders say they should finish no problem Friday.

“With all of the other issue that we have had with recount, risk limiting audit and all that we’ve had to stretch our resources in several directions so at this point we’ve got a team working on finishing the ballot balancing process and knew that with this today planning for the audit to start tomorrow we just had to defer finishing the balancing process til tomorrow," said Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges.

While the Board of Elections annex was much slower Thursday than it has been in the past, they were busy making calls to workers who will help them in the hand tally.

Leaders say as they have already done so much, they will be ready to go again Friday.

“We are ready to keep going. We’ve been working several weeks now a little bit longer than we thought, but as this comes up we’re preparing ourselves to today for the number of workers that we need for the count and it just gives you a little bit more vigor and vitality thinking about getting going again, but we haven’t slowed down very much we thought we were, but this came about and we’re ready to roll with some things that we have to prepare for," said Assistant Supervisor at the Board of Elections over absentee ballots, Lynn Trabue.

With several long days of counting ahead, we asked leaders how this will impact the budget and they say estimates put them at $60,000 and while they have some cushion they are working with the county to address it, but again the audit begins officially Friday at 9:00 a.m.

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Photo: Getty Images

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