Audit of ‘most examined vote in Georgia history’ complete in Chatham County

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – At 3 p.m. Wednesday, a quiet Chatham County Board of Election warehouse seemed to signal that the race to complete a risk-limiting audit was nearly done.

Typically bustling with dozens of staff members and the watching eyes of monitors, the warehouse and it’s typically full parking lot were mostly empty, except for a few members of Chatham County’s cleaning crew.

At the Chatham County Board of Elections, Elections Supervisor Russell Bridges told News 3 the rest of the audit work was in the details: uploading remaining ballot counts and finishing paperwork.

Just before 6 p.m., the task was complete.

Because his staff found no major discrepancies or missing ballots — only a difference of 44 votes for both candidates — they do not have to complete a re-certification of election results. Board of Elections Chairman Tom Mahoney and Board Member Marianne Heimes signed off on the initial certification late Friday afternoon.

“I’m very confident by the end of that day, this will be the most examined, counted and recounted vote …that we’ve had in Georgia. We’ve made a lot of innovations for accuracy and security,” said State Election Board Member Matthew Mashburn.

In an interview with News 3, he explained that voter fraud investigations hinge on if officials detect “anomalies” or “skewed results.” In every major Georgian city — including Savannah — he says there were none.

“These things that are coming up, they’re not evidence that the system is terrible, it’s that the checks and the balances actually work,” he said.

In Chatham County, for example, President Donald Trump received 40.4% of the vote in 2016 and 39.9% of the vote in 2020.

Mashburn says a majority of the changes in margins happened in suburban areas — typically Republican strongholds — where voters favored the president’s Democratic challenger.

Mashburn says the push for mail-in voting was an attempt to appease older voters — a demographic Republicans rely on — who were hesitant to vote in-person on or in the days leading up to Election Day. He says the president’s efforts to cast doubt on the validity of absentee votes resulted in a “self-inflicted wound.”

More specifically, 24,000 voters, according to Mashburn, chose to vote in the primary election but did not in the general election. In a race where the margin between candidates was around 14,000 votes, Mashburn argues that it could have saved the president’s re-election bid in the Peach State.

The Georgia Secretary of State has until Friday to certify county election results. It is expected the president will formally request a recount.

Counties can perform a recount much like the initial count on election night. It can be done with the help of scanners and with automatic uploads from voting precincts.

The Chatham County Board of Registrars will begin printing requested absentee ballots this week for the runoff election in January. A representative for the Secretary of State’s Office says 700,000 voters have requested one.

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