Observers from in and out of state lay eyes on Georgia ballot count

ATLANTA — Around 2 p.m. Tuesday, the last dozen or so Enterprise rental trucks lined English Street in northwest Atlanta. The trucks, headed to Fulton County’s election preparation warehouse, were coming from State Farm Arena. They held the last of Fulton County’s 142,000 absentee ballots.

Some observers that declined to speak to Channel 2 told county workers they’d come in from Florida. They were there to watch the ballots unload and run through a finalization process. The observers walked in and out of the loading dock and warehouse, and they came from both parties.

“The doors are open. There’s nothing to hide here,” said LeWanna Heard-Tucker, an observer and chair of the Fulton County Democratic Committee.

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“If they feel like they’re being told one thing by the media that hey, there’s issues of improprieties you can come down here,” she continued. “Come on down to English Street if you feel you need to see what the process looks like.”

Anyone can watch the ballot count process in Georgia, and Channel 2 watched legal advisors and party leaders step in and out of State Farm Arena and the Fulton County warehouse from Election Day through Thursday.

In some cases, the ballots were adjudicated once they arrived to the warehouse. That process begins when a scan catches something obscure on the absentee ballot — maybe a check mark instead of a filled bubble. Then a bipartisan review panel one Democrat and one Republican confirm the voter’s intent on the ballot. Adjudication does not result in the ballot being thrown out; rather it’s a process to confirm ballot markings when necessary.

Once adjudicated, the tabulation begins. Fulton County finished processing the absentee ballots just before 5 p.m. Thursday.

Channel 2 Action News will have live streaming election coverage starting at 7 p.m. as results come in. Download the WSB Now app on your Roku, Amazon Fire or Apple TV to watch LIVE.

On election night, Republicans expressed concern about observers being asked to leave State Farm Arena shortly after 10 p.m. That’s when most of the election workers packed up for the evening.

On Wednesday, Fulton County election director Rick Barron told county commissioners he didn’t know about the dismissal and brought back five scanners to work between 10:30 p.m. election night and 1 a.m. Wednesday.

“Whether it was orchestrated or not — hopefully not,” said Fulton GOP Chairman Trey Kelly on Thursday. “But the fact that it continued is very concerning.”

Channel 2 confirmed with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office that it had an observer present during the extended scanning hours. That observer was there as a result of a legal decree ordered last week, and the decree is tied to the Fulton County’s infamous June primary where technical issues and long lines made national headlines.

The state office is led by a Republican.

Ballot counting work does not end in Fulton County’s warehouse. A county election worker confirmed provisional ballots would be finalized there beginning at 2 p.m. Friday. The state estimates Fulton County has about 4000 provisional ballots to process.

The staff is also preparing for the start of early voting Monday. That voting period is tied to a Dec. 1 runoff in state and local races.

GEORGIA VOTER GUIDE:

INTERACTIVE MAP: Where can I drop off my absentee ballot in metro Atlanta?

What To Know About Voting in Person in Georgia

Amendments and resolutions on Georgia ballot: What do they mean?

Georgia Voters: What’s on my ballot for the November 2020 election?

Electoral College: How does it work; what happens if there is a tie?