Recount period in Georgia to begin Friday morning

ATLANTA — On Friday, counties across Georgia will start to recount ballots from the 2020 presidential race by hand.

The recount period will begin at 9 a.m. Friday and end at midnight on Nov. 18.

All Georgia counties will have to certify their election results before they can start the count, Secretary of State’s Office Voting System Implementation Officer Gabriel Sterling said in a news conference Thursday.

Sterling said that as of Thursday afternoon, 108 of Georgia’s 159 counties have certified their results. The deadline for county certification is Friday.

Stay with Channel 2 Action News as the recount begins in Georgia to decide the presidency

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger made the surprise announcement that he was ordering a hand recount of the presidential race in Georgia. A number of Republicans have demanded a hand recount, not one by machine.

In Thursday’s news conference, Sterling defended the plan to vote by hand, saying that if President Donald Trump had the ballot lead, they would be doing the exact same thing.

“The press has mischaracterized this as caving to Trump and their campaign,” Sterling said. “That can’t be further from the truth. Even before the Trump campaign was talking about the possibility for a recount or recanvassing, we knew there was a specific purpose for an audit in the law.”

Sterling called it the largest hand recount in the nation. Counties will have to recount every one of the 5 million ballots cast across the state.

[Here’s how some metro Atlanta counties are planning to recount ballots by hand]

As of Thursday morning, President-elect Joe Biden was ahead of President Donald Trump by more than 14,000 votes in Georgia.

Raffensperger said because that margin is so slim, it was important to make sure to audit the vote.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Election 2020]

“And when you look at the national significance of the races we had, this is a race that has the most national significance,” Raffensperger said.

Sterling said observers from each party will be at the recounts, and they will be open to the public. Human error is inevitable, according to state officials, but the results should show there is no widespread voter fraud that should lead anyone to question the results.

“And let me be perfectly clear: If this were 14,000 votes the other way, we would be doing the exact same thing,” Sterling said.

Sterling acknowledged that a swath of voters will accuse the machines of cheating or miscounting.

“Understand when you are really emotionally tied to the outcome, anything you see that feeds your belief is believed by you,” Sterling said.

Sterling also addressed a set of theories floating around about how Georgians voted, particularly the 24,000 people who decided to skip the presidential election on their ballots.

“That is not surprising, in fact, that’s a low percent,” Sterling said. “Lower than we anticipated.... In Fulton County, there were 9,000 more votes for Sen. Perdue than there were for the president. So all of these will even out over the state. If you look individually, there’s nothing odd or very ambiguous about that.”

Fair Fight Action tweeted in response to the recount, “Georgia voters decided. Donald Trump cannot overturn the will of Georgia voters.”

COUNTY-BY-COUNTY PLANS:

*This will be updated as more information is released

Counties across the state started training for the recount on Thursday morning.

Each county has a different plan for how they are going to go about their recounts.

DeKalb County will start Saturday morning with two teams of 150 people on a morning and an afternoon shift. Each ballot will be counted twice.

Fulton County election officials also announced Thursday night they will begin counting at 7 a.m. Saturday. In total, 2- to 400 people will count from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday through Wednesday at State Farm Arena.

Channel 2′s Justin Gray talked to Fulton County Commission chairman Robb Pitts, who said they will need a huge workforce to count more than a half million votes cast in Georgia’s most populous county.

“I have no doubt we will be successful,” Pitt said. “I’m comfortable we will be able to do it. It is just still sinking in. It was a surprise when it came down from the Secretary of State.”

Pitts said he is aware that the eyes of the country are on Georgia.

“Not just the country, but also the world,” Pitts said. “We are the center of the universe and Georgia is the focal point.”

All 159 counties need to finish counting by Nov. 20.