Tuesday night, Athens-Clarke County finished recounting absentee ballots and uploaded its official election results to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. The uploading finished around 6 p.m. Nov. 13, about an hour after the deadline mandated by Georgia law.
Additionally, 25 fewer ballots were counted for eight precincts that were recounted. In each of the eight precincts, at least one fewer ballot was counted in the recount than in the unofficial totals as of Nov. 12. Precinct 3A was the largest difference, with 10 fewer “cards cast,” according to election summary reports.
Below are the number of ballots counted in each precinct before and after the recount:
After the results were uploaded, the board met to discuss the next step — certifying the physical results before they are delivered in person to the Secretary of State’s Office in Atlanta today, Nov. 14. Both the electronic upload and the physical delivery are required by the state.
Board chairman Charles Knapper along with member Alison McCullick, who had left during the afternoon but returned shortly after 6 p.m., both signed a document certifying the results. The only other member present — Cedar Shoals High School teacher Jesse Evans — refused.
Evans cited “a series of events that unfolded” throughout the day that made him lose confidence in the vote counting process, including his view that the recount was not conducted carefully enough and potential discrepancies between the unofficial numbers and the recount numbers were not made available for other precincts.
The board and its staff members had conducted a recount of all mail-in absentee paper ballots, not just the eight precincts that petitioners had requested to be recounted at a meeting on Nov. 12.
ACC attorney William Berryman expressed concerns about recounting the votes before the deadline at the BOE meeting on Nov. 12.
Charlotte Sosebee, director of elections and voter registration for the BOE, mentioned the possibility of having to go before the State Election Board if the deadline was missed, which Berryman reiterated to Evans.
“You will bear the responsibility of not signing,” Berryman said to Evans, later adding if the Secretary of State’s Office asks why the document only has two signatures, “We will ask you to go to Atlanta and explain.”
Evans felt he had been singled out and made "the bad guy" for questioning the recount process.
"We're looking at numbers on a page — that represents the votes of people in our community," Evans said after the Board adjourned. "I've got the county attorney coming after me in [the Nov. 12] meeting and [the Nov. 13] meeting."
It was unclear why 25 fewer ballots were counted in the recount, although board members and staff said it may have had something to do with optical scanners misreading or incorrectly counting the paper ballots.
This morning, the BOE “recanvassed,” or recounted, the votes from eight precincts after petitions were presented last night, Nov. 12, that legally required them to do so.
The BOE had set a self-imposed deadline of 2 p.m. to certify the recounted results.
The 2 p.m. deadline was to ensure the board signed to certify the results, so they could be uploaded to the Secretary of State’s office by 5 p.m., as required by law. This deadline was not met.
A quorum of three out of five board members is required to certify ballots. Chairman Charles Knapper and board member Jesse Evans were able to be present all day, but a third member, Alison McCullick, was only available from 10:45 a.m.-2 p.m., hence the self-imposed deadline.
Another board member, secretary E. Walter Wilson, was out of town, while the fifth, vice chairwoman Michele Simpson, was with her husband who had a medical procedure today in Atlanta.
Charlotte Sosebee, director of elections and voter registration for the BOE, said breaking the law by failing to submit the results by 5 p.m. would result in the Board having to go before the State Election Board and could expose ACC to fines.
“This is what happens when you rush,” Sosebee said. “You’ve got to take your time.”
Additionally, the certified results must be delivered in person to the Secretary of State’s Office in Atlanta tomorrow, Nov. 14. If the Board delivers them to the Georgia State Patrol Office by 9 a.m., GSP will transport them there. Otherwise Sosebee will have to drive them herself.
Shortly after 2 p.m., the Board officially met to certify the recounted results from those eight precincts. Evans expressed concern when it was revealed that there might be a one-vote discrepancy between last night’s totals and the recounted totals today. It remains unclear if a discrepancy exists, as Evans and BOE staff have given conflicting reports.
The three Board members voted unanimously to use today’s recount results, as advised by ACC attorney William Berryman, who said the recount results should be considered the official ones.
But Evans did not sign the paperwork certifying that the attached results were official and true, concerned by the discrepancy. Knapper and McCullick signed the document, although there were no results attached, before McCullick left. Once McCullick left, there was no longer a quorum, meaning the BOE could not vote on any new motions.
The document with attached certified results is what needs to be delivered tomorrow.
Due to the possible discrepancy, BOE staff recounted the paper mail-in ballots for the other 16 precincts that had not been recounted this morning, throwing a wrench in the plan to upload the official results by 5 p.m.
As for the document that was signed off by two members, it is unclear whether it would be legal to attach the final certified results to it after the fact. Another possible solution is for the three members to meet again tonight or tomorrow morning before they are taken to Atlanta. Evans has not signed the document, and said shortly after the deadline passed that he was not comfortable doing so.
“I’m the only board member saying … Wait, let’s make sure we’re doing this right,” Evans said.
A ruling from a federal judge this morning said the Secretary of State’s Office could not certify results statewide until Friday, Nov. 16, instead of tomorrow, Nov. 14, but counties are still beholden to the 5 p.m. deadline today.
Forty-three provisional ballots had originally been accepted on Friday, Nov. 9, with two pending confirmation with an ID. Those two voters never came in to verify, Sosebee said. In fact, she said no voters who cast provisional ballots came in to the BOE to verify their information, on Friday or Monday or otherwise.
Missing the deadline was the concern expressed by Berryman at the BOE meeting last night, when concerned Athens residents were calling for the recount.
“We gave the people what they wanted,” Sosebee said. “We’re taking the bullet.”
Clarification: A previous version of this article stated the Board of Elections decided to recount paper ballots for the 16 precincts that petitions had not been presented for. Board members did not collectively decide to conduct this recount or vote on a motion to do so. This has since been clarified.