‘Majority of work done’ in Chatham County election audit

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Election officials say, at first, the idea was daunting. A full audit of the presidential election had never before been done.

In Chatham County, there were nearly 135,000 ballots to recount when staff at Board of Election Annex started the effort at 9 a.m. on Friday.

With one day to plan, election officials relied on their experience with a previous recount, coordination between local and state agencies, a team of 125 people, and monitors from both major parties and independent agencies.

After four days, Chatham County Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges says his team has the “majority of work done.”

On Monday morning, workers focused their time on counting remaining batches of ballots and recounting others with discrepancies. Bridges says it is hard to say exactly how many ballots still need to be counted.

By mid-afternoon, analyzing “undetermined ballots” was the biggest task left. Undetermined ballots are sent to a voter review panel when an audit review board — the team responsible for hand counting each ballot — cannot determine a voter’s intent.

A voter review panel is made up of a Democrat and Republican who both decide on who the voter cast their ballot for. If they cannot agree, a trained member of the Board of Elections breaks the tie.

At around 2:30 p.m. Monday, panels were expecting to go through 40-50 stacks of undetermined ballots.

Bridges expects the hand count to be completed by Monday night or by Tuesday. After that, they will enter more ballot totals into a tool from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. That office will address any discrepancies and/or issues with local officials.

In an evening press conference Monday, Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting implementation manager, said the office had not heard of any issues in Chatham County.

Bridges says it is “safe to say” his office will complete the risk-limiting audit by the deadline, which is Wednesday at midnight.

“To know that we had 134,000, almost 135,000 ballots that we were going to have to …count having never done this, in this way, in this process, it’s a little daunting,” he said.

“I really want to salute the work of the heroes that are in there right now,” said Savannah Mayor Van Johnson of the workers inside the Chatham County Board of Election Annex. “They have been dealt a very strong hand, and yet they’ve risen to the challenge.”

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