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Second Georgia county finds previously uncounted votes

Kate Brumback
Associated Press

Atlanta – A second Georgia county has uncovered a trove of votes not previously included in election results, but the additional votes won’t change the overall outcome of the presidential race, the secretary of state’s office said Tuesday.

A memory card that hadn’t been uploaded in Fayette County, just south of Atlanta, was discovered during a hand tally of the votes in the presidential race that stems from part of a legally mandated audit to ensure the new election machines counted the votes accurately, said Gabriel Sterling, a top official in the secretary of state’s office.

The memory card’s 2,755 votes are not enough to flip the lead in the state from Democrat Joe Biden to Republican President Donald Trump. The breakdown of the uncounted ballots was 1,577 for Trump, 1,128 for Biden, 43 for Libertarian Jo Jorgensen and seven write-ins, Sterling said.

Election officials on Monday said Floyd County, in north Georgia, had found more than 2,500 ballots that hadn’t been previously scanned.

Both counties will have to recertify their results, and the margin between Trump and Biden will be about 13,000 votes when those previously uncounted votes are accounted for, Sterling said.

County elections workers have been working on the hand tally since Friday. State law leaves it up to the secretary of state to choose which race to audit. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger selected the presidential race and said the tight margin meant the audit would require a full hand recount.

The counties have until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday to complete the hand count. The secretary of state’s office originally said the results of the hand tally would be certified. But Sterling said Tuesday that the state would instead certify the results certified by the counties.

Once the results are certified, if the margin between the candidates remains within 0.5%, the losing campaign can request a recount. That would be done using scanners that read and tally the votes and would be paid for by the state, Raffensperger has said.

State election officials have consistently defended the integrity of Georgia’s vote count and have said the audit is expected to affirm the results. They have conceded that there may be wrongdoing – people who vote twice or people who vote despite not being eligible – and have pledged to investigate any cases.

“We have not seen widespread voter fraud,” Sterling said. “We do know there’s going to be illegal voting, but it’s going to be down in the low hundreds, not in the 12,929 range.”

The Associated Press has not declared a winner in Georgia, where Biden leads Trump by 0.3 percentage points. There is no mandatory recount law in Georgia, but state law provides that option to a trailing candidate if the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points. It is AP’s practice not to call a race that is – or is likely to become – subject to a recount.

Also on Tuesday, Raffensperger announced that a random audit of a sample of Georgia’s new voting machines found no evidence of hacking or tampering.

Raffensperger last week asked Pro V&V, an Alabama-based testing laboratory, to do the audit, his office said in a news release. The company “found no evidence of the machines being tampered.”

“We are glad but not surprised that the audit of the state’s voting machines was an unqualified success,” Raffensperger said in the release.

The new election system the state bought last year from Dominion Voting Systems for more than $100 million includes touchscreen voting machines that print paper ballots that are read and tabulated by scanners.

The audit was done on a random sample of voting machines from Cobb, Douglas, Floyd, Morgan, Paulding and Spalding counties. The equipment tested included the touchscreen voting machines, precinct scanners and absentee ballot scanners.

The company took the software and firmware out of the equipment to check that the only software and firmware present was that certified for use by the secretary of state’s office, the release says.

Pro V&V is a voting system test laboratory that is certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which sets voluntary guidelines for election management and certification.

Raffensperger said Monday that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham asked him whether he had the power to reject certain absentee ballots, a question he interpreted as a suggestion to toss out legally cast votes.

Raffensperger made the comments to The Washington Post, saying he’s faced rising pressure from fellow Republicans who want to see Democrat Joe Biden’s narrow lead in the state reversed. Nearly 5 million votes were cast in the presidential election in Georgia, and Biden was leading President Donald Trump by about 14,000 votes.

Raffensperger’s comments came as election officials across the state were working to complete a hand recount of votes in the presidential race.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., arrives for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020.

When Georgia voters return an absentee ballot, they have to sign an oath on an outer envelope. County election office workers are required to ensure the signature matches the one on the absentee ballot application and the one in the voter registration system, Raffensperger said in a statement over the weekend.

Graham asked him whether political bias might have caused elections workers to accept ballots with nonmatching signatures and whether Raffensperger could throw out all absentee ballots in counties with higher rates of nonmatching signatures, the secretary of state told the newspaper.

When asked about the conversation with Raffensperger, Graham said Monday that he was “trying to find out how the signature stuff worked.” He said Raffensperger “did a good job of explaining to me how they verify signatures.”

Asked about Raffensperger’s interpretation that he was suggesting that legally cast ballots should be thrown out, Graham said, “That’s ridiculous.”