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Hall County done with hand recount of ballots in presidential race. What lies ahead
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Auditors at the Hall County Elections office begin sorting ballots Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, as part of the state's hand recount in the presidential race. - photo by Shannon Casas

Update, Nov. 15: All of Hall County's ballots have been sorted and recounted by hand, Hall spokeswoman Katie Crumley said Sunday, Nov. 15.

Final election results by candidate have not been tallied yet, she said.

Officials are "awaiting further instruction from the (Georgia) secretary of state," Crumley said.

Also, 150 ballots will go to an adjudication panel later this week "for a decision to be made, by majority vote, on voter's intent," she added.

Update, Nov. 14: Election workers finished Saturday, Nov. 14, with 40,000 ballots recounted so far, Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said.

Some 24,000 were counted Saturday alone, with no issues so far, she said.

"We're hoping for four to six teams in each of two shifts" on Sunday, Nov. 15, Crumley said.

Update, Nov. 14: Another 18,000 ballots had been recounted as of Saturday afternoon, for a total so far of 34,000, or more than one-third the total number of ballots.

"No major issues to report," said Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley on Nov. 14.

Previous article: Hall County began its hand recount of the presidential race Friday morning, with 91,035 ballots in the county due to be sorted and counted by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18. 

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Wednesday announced a statewide audit of presidential election results that he said will trigger a full hand recount. All 159 of Georgia’s counties are participating. 

Several news outlets called Georgia for Joe Biden on Friday, but the Associated Press has not called the state due to the recount. 

The batches of ballots begin in sealed boxes, which are taken to count teams of one Republican and one Democrat. Ballots are divided into piles for each candidate, and workers then count the piles by hand. Machines are not involved in the process. 

Hall began the hand recount Friday morning, starting with the absentee by mail ballots cast in the county. 

“We’re separating the votes for president, and we’re putting them in the Trump stack, the Biden stack and the Jorgensen stack,” Craig Lutz, a county elections board member, said Friday afternoon. “You’ll see a couple other stacks for overvote, which means they voted for two people or more on the presidential ballot, and undervote meant they didn’t vote for president.” 

Another stack was for ballots that had to be duplicated because they were torn, while a final stack was for ballots that needed to be adjudicated, Lutz said. 

Lutz said the county expected to be at least halfway done sorting the absentee by mail ballots Friday.  

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Hall County Elections Director Lori Wurtz counts the number of auditors who would soon after begin sorting Hall County ballots Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, as part of the state's hand recount in the presidential race. - photo by Shannon Casas

On Friday, monitors representing both major parties, as well as elections board members and elections office staff, were walking through the counting area, checking in on the tables and observing the process. The Carter Center, a nonprofit founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, also had a monitor in the room Friday. The Center was accredited by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office to monitor the audit, according to a statement from the Center. 

Members of the public are allowed to observe the process from a designated area, with the counting done behind a glass wall in the Hall County Government Center. Monitors are allowed to go in the room to see the sorting up-close.  

The process will continue through the weekend. Lori Wurtz, Hall County’s elections director, said teams were expected to count from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, although if teams are in the middle of a batch during the break, they will continue working. Although a state rule book the county had been reviewing stated that recount teams would have three people, in a meeting with the state the guidance was adjusted, allowing for two people on a team and monitors observing, Wurtz said.  

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Auditors at the Hall County Elections office begin sorting ballots Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, as part of the state's hand recount in the presidential race. - photo by Shannon Casas

Ballots are batched in groups of 25 or 50. Wurtz said the county was on track to meet the state deadline of 11:59 p.m. Nov. 18.  

“Once all the sorting has happened, then the count will be taken and recorded. It won’t be a tally. It will be a numerical count,” Wurtz said Thursday. “Then, once that batch has finished and the box has been completely counted, then it will be returned to the box. The box will be sealed and placed on a cart in full view of the public, and it will remain there until the end of the recount. At that time, we will secure it back and away in our retention area.”  

The county keeps ballots on hand for two years after an election, Wurtz said. She said teams were able to sort through about 16,000 ballots Friday and were expected to finish the day at about 5 p.m. Hall had seven teams of two working on Friday, but that number could grow to about 10 teams in coming days, Wurtz said. 

The final numbers in the audit count will likely differ from the numbers previously reported by the counties but the overall outcome should remain the same, said Gabriel Sterling, who managed the implementation of the state's new voting system for the secretary of state's office. 

The results will not be released piecemeal as the counties finish counting but instead will be announced once the full tally is complete, Sterling said. The results of the new count from the audit will then be certified. 

The audit is a new requirement that was included in a 2019 law that provided guidelines used to purchase a new $100 million election system from Dominion Voting Systems. It was up to the secretary of state to choose the race, and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the presidential race made the most sense because of its tight margin and national significance. 

Georgia does not have a mandatory or automatic recount law, but state law allows a candidate to request a recount if the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points. 

Once the results from the audit are certified, the losing campaign can request that recount, which will be done using scanners that read and tally the votes, Raffensperger said. 

The state deadline to certify results is Nov. 20. 

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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