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(UPDATE) After failed attempt for machine count of District 2 race, county begins hand count

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(UPDATE) After failed attempt for machine count of District 2 race, county begins hand count

DeKalb Elections workers run test ballots through voting machines during the DeKalb County Commission District 2 recount on Saturday, May 28, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Update as of 6 p.m. May 29: 

The hand count concluded at 6 p.m. without finishing. According to an observer, the county completed counting 12 out of 40 precincts. Counting will resume tomorrow at 9 a.m. Elections officials are hoping 10 additional teams will show up to help with the count. Decaturish will publish additional updates tomorrow, May 30.

Here is our earlier story…

DeKalb County, GA — The saga of the disputed District 2 County Commission race continues.

A day after the county tried – and failed – to do a machine count of the election to settle the matter, the county on Sunday announced a plan to do a hand count of the District 2 commission race that will begin at 12:30 p.m. The recount will be held at the county Voter Registration and Elections Office on Memorial Drive.

Viviane Ernstes, an attorney for the county, made the announcement around 11:30 a.m. Sunday, about an hour and a half after the county planned to resume the machine count.

“The path forward for today is to allow and have a hand count tabulation for the votes, for the District 2 commission race,” Ernstes said. “That hand count and tabulation is to be used to determine the results of the race.”

The hand count will likely stretch into tomorrow, Memorial Day, if needed.

DeKalb VRE staff was in the process of recounting ballots from all 40 precincts in county commission District 2 on Saturday, May 28.

The process was set to begin at 9 a.m on Saturday. As of about noon, the recount had not officially started. The staff was scanning a sample of test ballots to test the machines throughout the day.

Elections staffers were moving forward with the recount based on what seemed to be a successful result from the test ballots.

But as of about 5:20 p.m. Saturday, the recount was suspended.

The decision to move a head with a hand count on Sunday indicates a problem arose with the logic and accuracy testing that occurred on Saturday.  DeKalb County attorney Shelley Momo on Saturday implied that something was not right with the logic and accuracy tests, but she nor the VRE staff elaborated on what the issue was.

Observers agreed with the need for a hand count, but questioned what laws and rules govern the hand count process. A number of issues have caused the creation of new databases for the May 24 election. The databases map out ballot styles and precincts for voters.

Before testing and recounting began, DeKalb Elections Board Chair Dele Lowman Smith explained that there was a technical glitch that did not completely remove a candidate from the reporting system, so votes were misaligned to the candidates when they were reported.

In the report, it appeared that DeKalb County Commissioner District 2 candidate Michelle Long Spears had received zero votes.

Four candidates initially qualified for the District 2 seat. Marshall Orson, Lauren Alexander and Spears are still in the race.

Don Broussard dropped out of the race for DeKalb Commissioner District 2. That withdrawal caused a mistake in the programming of the precinct scanner and led to inaccurate vote counts for two candidates.

The SOS office also said there the text of one Republican Party question was not properly appearing during early voting, and five precincts in DeKalb were redistricted into the county commission District 2 race, but those precincts had not been updated to reflect that change.

It is not clear if the county Voter Registration and Elections Department conducted logic and accuracy testing after each new database was created. VRE officials also could not immediately answer whether the creation of new databases after voting had started could potentially affect other races in the county.

Marilyn Marks, with the Coalition for Good Governance, showed up for the machine recount on Sunday, May 29. She said databases aren’t supposed to change after an election starts.

“I’ve never in 15 years seen anybody change the database in the middle of an election,” she said.

As of noon, candidates were being notified about the planned hand count at 12:30 p.m. Decaturish will update this story when more information is available.

Reporter Zoe Seiler contributed to this story. 

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