Friday, November 13, 2020

Oconee County Elections Officials Begin Manual Count Of Presidential Votes On Friday

***Using Paper Tally Sheets***

Oconee County Elections officials will begin at 9 a.m. on Friday at the Board of Elections and Registration Office at 10 Court Street in Watksinville what is being called a Risk Limiting Audit of the 25,399 votes cast in the county in the Nov. 3 election.

Cameras will record the work of the elections teams in the room where the audit is being conducted, according to Jennifer Stone, assistant director of Elections and Registration for the county.

Citizens can sit in the lobby of the Elections and Registration Office and watch the work of the auditors as it progresses.

A designated monitor sent by the state Executive Committees of each political party can be present, Stone said.

The count is completely manual, without use of scanning equipment, and is to be completed no later than midnight of Wednesday, Nov. 18, according to materials provided to the local office on Thursday from the Secretary of State Office.

The Audit was ordered by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Wednesday, after pressure from President Donald Trump and other Republicans, and will focus exclusively on votes for president.

The Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration on Tuesday–before the announcement of the audit--had voted to certify the county’s results, which recorded 16,595 votes for Trump (65.9 percent) , 8,162 votes for Joseph Biden (32.4 percent), and 411 votes for Libertarian Jo Jorgensen (1.6 percent).

Across the state, Biden leads Trump by 14,072 votes, according to data on the web site of the Secretary of State on Thursday afternoon.

Board Of Elections And Registration Meeting

At the meeting of the Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration on Tuesday, Fran Leathers, Board chair and county director of Elections and Registration, presented to the Board what were then final figures for the county vote.

Leathers With Board 11/10/2020

At the end of tally on election day itself, the county had recorded 25,388 ballots cast.

Leathers told the Board on Tuesday that the five provisional ballots that had been received but not counted had been verified and were included in the final count of 25,399 ballots, as well as six ballots cast by military or overseas voters and received by the end of the day on Nov. 6.

Leathers said at that time she was anticipating that a sample of ballots would be drawn based on procedures specified by the Secretary of State Office and then rescanned to audit the outcome.

Instructions On Thursday

Leathers told me early on Thursday that she was receiving instructions from the Secretary of State Office that morning on details of the audit.

Stone subsequently sent me copies of slides used in a webinar that the local staff joined on Thursday.

Those slides specify that each county is to conduct a “full manual tally of all ballots” by midnight on Nov. 18.

The slides also specified that designated monitors must sign in and take an oath, must wear name tags, must not interfere, cannot take photos or record the tallying, and “cannot touch the ballots.”

Each county must provide “a room or facility where ballots can be kept secure at all times,” according to the slides.

Actual Tallies

An Audit Board or Team made up of two “sworn designees” selected by Leathers will review each ballot. The two individuals do not have to be staff, but they have to be under Leather’s control.

From Slide Presentation
(Click To Enlarge)

The Board or Team (both terms are used in the documents from the Secretary of State) will review the ballots in batches and record the votes on an Audit Board Batch Sheet.

The sheet will contain the number of votes for Trump, Biden, and Jorgensen as well as the number of overvotes (more than one candidate marked) and undervotes (no vote for president).

Although 25,399 voters cast a ballot in the county on Nov. 3, only 25,168 cast a ballot in the presidential race, so the 231 vote difference could be overvotes or undervotes.

A vote review panel consisting of Leathers and a representative of the Democratic and Republican Party shall review any ballots that the Team does not agree on once it is reviewed.

Documents provided to Leathers state that “the vote counts according to the manual tally shall replace the vote previously reported vote counts and each county shall re-certify the new counts for the audited race, if necessary, prior to November 20, 2020.”

Dec. 1 Election

Raffensperger moved the runoff for Public Service Commissioner to Jan. 5, when the runoff elections for the two U.S. Senate seats will take place.

The Special Election Runoff between James Chafin and Deborah Gonzalez for District Attorney of the Western Judicial Circuit, consisting of Oconee and Clarke counties, still will take place on Dec. 1.

At the Board of Elections and Registration meeting on Tuesday, Leathers reported that early voting for the Dec. 1 runoff will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 23, 24, and 25 at the Oconee County Civic Center, 2661 Hog Mountain Road, west of Butler’s Crossing.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Leathers had said that eligible voters who had requested an absentee ballot for the entire year would automatically receive an absentee ballot for the Dec. 1 election, but that situation has now changed because the local special election is being separated from the statewide Public Service Commission runoff.

Stone said in an email message on Thursday that a separate application for an absentee ballot is required for the Dec. 1 District Attorney runoff.

A form is available HERE.

The form should be returned to Leathers at Board of Elections and Registration, P.O. Box 958 Watkinsville, GA 30677.


The video below is of the meeting of the Board of Elections and Registration on Nov. 10.

Stone livestreamed the meeting but also recorded this video as a backup.


Jim Gaither said...

Lee, will the county or the state bear the expense of the hand-audit? The amount could be a substantial sum in bigger counties and a strain in counties not as affluent as Oconee.

Lee Becker said...

In the short term, the county is going to have to bear the costs. I don't know if the SOS will make any reimbursements. This was not discussed at the recent meeting, since there was no audit at that time. I will report what I can learn on this.

Unknown said...

Hi Lee,
I called the Elections office on Monday and they told me that I would receive an absentee ballot for both runoffs (Dec and Jan) automatically after they checked my voting status. I am over 65 so perhaps this is why? I hope this is still correct. Thanks for your great coverage. I think people are really going to be confused now, as I heard from a friend today that they understood that all runoffs would be on Jan 5th. This sounds like a misinterpretation of what the SOS said.

Jeanne Barsanti

Lee Becker said...


What you were told on Monday was true on Monday. But when Raffensperger moved statewide runoffs, he moved the authorization for those of us who had requested it for the year to that election, leaving behind the local runoffs. I checked this after Raffensperger's announcement and after checking My Voter Page. Jennifer told me that MPV is wrong and is being fixed. And that I needed to complete another form to get an absentee ballot for the Dec. 1 election. That is why I put the link in the post.

Yes, this really is quite a mess. And the staff is swamped with the audit. And the local staff will have to process the absentee ballot application and get it mailed out. All of this before Dec. 1, with a holiday in there as well.