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Georgia hand audit complete, Secretary of State's Office says

The deadline for counties to certify their results passed at midnight last night.

ATLANTA — Below is an archive of our blog from Nov. 19

The deadline for counties to finish their part of the unprecedented hand-count retallying process passed midnight last night, and the state is expected to announce results as soon as possibly noon today.

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.

Wednesday's blog: Deadline comes for counties to finish election audit, state hopes to release report Thursday

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

9:30 p.m. | The Trump campaign has issued a statement after a hand audit of the state's vote was completed. In it, the campaign pointed out that the vote count has not yet been certified, which is true. The deadline for that to happen is tomorrow, Nov. 20.

"We intend to pursue all legal options," the campaign's statement said, in part.

8:10 p.m. | In a statement from Biden's team in Georgia, Jaclyn Rothenberg said: "The recount process simply reaffirmed what we already knew: Georgia voters selected Joe Biden to be their next president. We are grateful to the election officials, volunteers and workers for working overtime and under unprecedented circumstances to complete this recount, as the utmost form of public service."

11Alive has reached out to the Trump campaign for a comment on the results.

8:00 p.m. | More than two weeks after election day, the Associated Press has called the race in Georgia, with Joe Biden winning the state's 16 electors.

7:55 p.m. | A federal judge, appointed just last year by President Trump, has rejected the president's campaign efforts to block the certification of Georgia's election, according to reporting by NBC News.

Judge Steven Grimberg he was unwilling to block the certification of millions of votes, finding that it “would breed confusion and potential disenfranchisement.”

7:15 p.m. | The Secretary of State's Office says a hand tally of the presidential race in Georgia is complete, and the results affirm Democrat Joe Biden’s lead over Republican President Donald Trump. The final vote margin between the two was 12,284 votes.

The hand recount of nearly 5 million votes stemmed from an audit required by a new state law and wasn’t in response to any suspected problems with the state’s results or an official recount request. 

The state has until Friday to certify the results that have been certified and submitted by the counties. Once the results are certified, the losing campaign can request a recount.

FULL STORY >> Georgia Secretary of State's office says hand audit of election complete

7:10 p.m. | The DeKalb Board of Registration and Elections said it will hold a special-called meeting on Friday, Nov. 20 at 8:30 a.m. for the purpose of considering re-certification of the results of the election.

4:45 p.m. | Still no indication the results are anywhere in sight. Could be this evening, could be something they get to the point where they decide they're just going to release them tomorrow.

Remember, the state's deadline to certify the results and finally make things official is end of day tomorrow.

4:10 p.m. | We've now been able to confirm that the Floyd County chief elections clerk, Robert Brady, was terminated in a vote by the Floyd County Board of Elections today.

Floyd County made what's been characterized by the Secretary of State's Office as the worst human mistake discovered through the hand-count audit - which is that a box of ballots brought to the county's headquarters for scanning after a scanner failure at an early-voting precinct site in late October was, essentially, forgotten about.

That batch was discovered during the audit and added to the county's total, which swung about 800 votes toward President Trump.

4:00 p.m. | Secretary of State's Office says quality control measures are still being conducted, 11Alive's Brendan Keefe reports:

3:10 p.m. | Still no word on when we should expect the results from the Secretary of State's Office.

2:10 p.m. | Okay, let's try to address this one, without getting too into the weeds:

What's Rudy Giuliani talking about with an overseas server? In short, there's a conspiracy theory that Dominion, the company that makes the voting machines for Georgia and a number of other states, outsources its data storage to a company based in Spain called Scytl, and that its servers are in Germany. Giuliani seems to be implying that Georgia's election data is being stored (and possibly manipulated) in Europe.

The companies have said they do not have ties, Scytl has said it doesn't even have offices or servers anywhere in Germany, and we don't really need to go further, because none of this actually matters.

We know Georgia's count hasn't been manipulated with by shadowy European companies with secret servers, because... we just counted all the votes, by hand, here in Georgia.

The Dominion system created paper records of every vote cast on machines by in-person voters at a polling place, and obviously the absentee mail-in ballots were already done on paper.

County workers across Georgia over the last week counted those pieces of paper. That's how we know there's no secret different result on a server in Germany. 

1:00 p.m. | Rudy Giuliani says President's Trump team will launch a lawsuit in Georgia. There have not been any suggestions of significant instances of double or out of state voting.

12:30 p.m. | Meanwhile, we've gotten a few questions at times about who bears the cost for all this - the short answer is the counties. They have to pay people to do the hand count audit, and, once an official recount is requested after results are certified, they'll have to pay for that too.

These costs vary by county, but in at least one example we've been able to confirm, Clayton County said the audit process will cost them about $70,000 for the four days of work they did to complete their hand count.

12:20 p.m. | We've heard from Walton County that they've re-certified their results. They were one of the counties that had material changes based on finding votes on a memory that had not yet been uploaded into their total.

12:10 p.m. | Noon has come and gone, and we're still waiting to see when the Secretary of State's Office will release results.

10:40 a.m. | We had been expecting a press conference with the Secretary of State's Office today at 11:00 a.m., but we just got word from them there isn't anything scheduled at this point. 

There's probably some loose ends to be tied up with getting counties finished and certified from the audit, so it may be a matter now of we'll see the results when we see the results. That should still be today at some time.

10:12 a.m. | Two other takeaways from Sterling's Fox News interview: He said Cobb County had found a batch of votes last night - but he clarified that to suggest they had already been counted but still needed to be re-counted to complete the audit.

He also referenced the one lawsuit Georgia still faces on the signature matching issue, and he said he believes a hearing in that case is scheduled for 3 p.m. today.

10:10 a.m. | Gabriel Sterling in the Secretary of State's Office was on Fox News this morning. He didn't want to say President Trump will lose in Georgia, because the process is not yet complete, but that "everything we're tracking on looks like it's going that way."

"There's confusion and we understand there's people out there who are upset, who can't possibly believe this has happened but our job is to follow the law and follow the process."

9:08 a.m. | Here's Ari Schaffer in the Secretary of State's Office confirming what we wrote below:

9:05 a.m. | The president also tweeted about the ballot rejection rate. Again, he's fundamentally misunderstanding basic Georgia election processes.

As the Georgia Secretary of State's Office noted multiple times this week, the nearly 4% ballot rejection rate in 2018 was for all ballots rejected. The vast majority of those rejected were for being late.

The number of ballots rejected because signatures didn't match in 2018 and 2020 was completely consistent, at 0.15%.

8:55 am. | President Trump tweeted again this morning about signature matching in Georgia, saying that when it "takes place, the state will flip Republican."

This has had to be explained a number of times this week now, but the president severely misunderstands how signature matching in Georgia works.

First, the process was already performed twice - once, when ballots were requested, and again when ballots were received. 

Second, because of how the Georgia constitution requires elections be done with a secret ballot, signature matching cannot be done again. Not just as a legal thing, as a physically impossible thing.

You see, when workers counting the ballots open them up from their envelope, they separate them. There is no possible way to re-connect them once they've been sorted apart, and the envelope is the only thing with a signature on it.

There is no possible way to tie votes back to signatures now.

You could, in theory, take the envelopes (which are kept for records purposes) and look at them again, and see how many of them don't match. But you'd have no possible way of knowing who those people voted for.

8:40 a.m. | Amid trying times for Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as he takes heat from a number of members of his own party, at least one Georgia Republican is giving him some credit.

Rep. Buddy Carter was on C-SPAN this morning and said "certainly we all need to have confidence in the process."

"I certainly appreciate Secretary of State Raffensperger going along and granting the request of the Trump campaign and of the Georgia GOP for a recount. I appreciate him doing the hand count, I think that's very important... we in (Georgia's) House delegation sent him a letter encouraging to do that and we're pleased he's doing that.

"It's important that people have faith in the process, it's important that we have honest and fair and transparent elections."

8:15 a.m. | President Trump says his lawyers will be holding a press conference at noon today to lay out a "very clear and viable path to victory." 

It's not clear if his lawyers will seek actions in Georgia. Currently, only one suit by a private lawyer is being lodged on behalf of the president here. 

The state's election officials have repeatedly said they don't see any reason to expect either the hand count audit or an official recount to show a large enough discrepancy that could possibly flip the current result in the Georgia.

7:30 a.m. | Here are the times to look out for this morning as we expect updates from the Secretary of State's Office: Yesterday, Gabriel Sterling told reporters there will be another 11 a.m. press conference, and the state is hoping to release its results at noon. 

That's hoping, though, there's no word yet on if there were any last-minute hiccups that might delay that.