by Robin Kemp
On Friday, November 27, the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration appeared to have finished counting all paper marked ballots from precinct machines and began scanning in absentee/advance ballots.
Observers from both Democratic and Republican parties have expressed frustration that elections officials are not answering their questions about the process. Georgia law forbids elections officials from discussing the count with observers.
However, The Clayton Crescent also has observed the process and can report this basic account of the recount workflow:
- An election worker brings either a blue steel ballot box or a plastic tote, sealed with green plastic tags, into the counting room from a locked storage room. The steel box contains smaller cardboard boxes, each of which is marked with precinct numbers and sealed with tamper-proof stickers. Inside each cardboard box is a stack of paper ballots–the sheet of paper each voter prints out after casting a touchscreen ballot, examines, and inserts into the large black bin at the precinct. The scanner records the QR code on two removable CF cards and stores the paper in case a recount is required.
- The worker reads off the numbers on the green seals as another worker writes those numbers on a blue sheet of paper. This appears to be a check-in system.
- The worker who brought in the ballot box or tote takes it to one of three scanning stations. The scanners are special, top-of-the-line, high-speed scanners that can process two to three ballots per second. Another worker at the scanning station checks the numbers, breaks the green plastic seal, removes the cardboard box, and cuts the tamper-proof seals with a letter opener, then removes the stack of ballots and puts them in the scanner tray.
- The scanner reads the ballots and feeds that information to a computer terminal at the scanning station. The worker removes the stack of ballots, writes something down on a green sheet of paper that appears to be a tally sheet, and rubber-bands a red sheet of paper on top of the stack, signaling that the recount of that stack is complete. The stack goes back in the cardboard box, which goes back into the steel ballot box.
- The green sheet of paper is passed to a worker at the end of the row who appears to enter the information from the green sheet into a computer.
- Next to that person is another person who has many large brown envelopes with labels on them. At one point on Friday, there appeared to be an issue with a single ballot at station 3. Two elections workers discussed the ballot, then placed it into an envelope. It was not clear whether the ballot had been physically damaged or was a ballot that required adjudication.
- Once all the ballots have been returned to the steel box, workers place two red seals with serial numbers on it. The worker who brought in the ballot box returns to the first table, where a different worker than the one who checked in the box checks it out by writing down the serial numbers on the red seals. The worker who brought the box in carries it back out to a locked storage area.
- The Clayton Crescent has not been able to see whether the ballots coming out of tote boxes are also sealed inside cardboard boxes but we will try to get a good look on Saturday.
- Data from the counting room is apparently transmitted to another room with two computers. One computer seems to batch the data or receive batches of data; the other shows what appear to be batches listed by red, yellow, or green status. Periodically, an elections employee comes in and checks these computers.
Dominion Voting Systems, the company that provides the election counting system to the State of Georgia, says its results are “100% auditable” and has posted rebuttals to claims that the machines or system have somehow been manipulated to prevent President Donald Trump from being reelected. Dominion says the claims are false. The Trump campaign has repeatedly claimed in court filings that the election was “rigged” in President-Elect Joe Biden’s favor, yet has not provided any evidence to date that would support its claims, and judges around the country have noted this when throwing out those cases.
Far fewer observers have shown up for the recount than for the original count. Each party is allowed three floor observers, who can walk the floor right up to the workers’ tables. The designated public observation area is larger because the work area is smaller for the recount. On Friday, only two representatives of each party were present.