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DeKalb Elections suspends District 2 recount, will reconvene on Sunday

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DeKalb Elections suspends District 2 recount, will reconvene on Sunday

DeKalb Elections Director Keisha Smith announces the recount will be suspended for the day at around 5:20 p.m. on Saturday, May 28, and will resume on Sunday, May 29. Photo by Dean Hesse.

DeKalb County, GA — The DeKalb County Voter Registration and Elections office has suspended the recount for the county commission District 2 race until Sunday, May 29, at 10 a.m., DeKalb Elections Director Keisha L. Smith said.

The formal request for the recount was submitted by the Democratic Party leader, and the DeKalb Elections Board voted to conduct an internal audit by a hand count of the commission District 2 votes.

A hand count is expected to occur during the process, but may not happen on Sunday as anticipated, according to Smith. The VRE office will send out a public notice before conducting the hand count.

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.

The recount began around 4:20 p.m. as ballots were being rescanned for the five precincts that were impacted by redistricting, Smith said.

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. the recount was suspended.

“At this time we are going to suspend the activities, and we will reconvene in the morning at 10 a.m. here [at the VRE office],” Smith said. “I want to be mindful of everyone’s time. We have a festival that’s going on outside. We have staff that need to refresh, and I know that we’ve lost some observers who probably want to be here as well. Just being mindful of that and wanting to take sure that we are getting the results that we need to get, we should get because of accuracy, and we will be back tomorrow just to do that.”

At each step of the process, the DeKalb Elections office has been in contact with the Secretary of State’s office.

“We’re making sure and intending that we get every result that we need from the [logic and accuracy] testing, and so we want to make sure all those steps are right before we proceed to another step,” Burton said. “We definitely want to do our due diligence, and I think that’s what we’re doing here.”

The VRE staff will continue to do logic and accuracy testing on Sunday. The logic and accuracy tests are run to make sure the ballots are read properly by the ballot scanning machines.

“We are still working on the LNA testing,” DeKalb County attorney Shelley Momo said. “We need to be happy with the results of the LNA test before we begin the recount.”

The work that was done on Saturday will not be part of the recount, and the work that was started will have to be redone on Sunday.

Momo indicated that something was not right with the logic and accuracy tests, but she nor the VRE staff elaborated on what the issue was.

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.

Elections staff reviewed several precincts and confirmed that Spears had received votes, and staff investigated why this error occurred.

“We believe we’ve come to understand what the cause of that error is, but now we want to retabulate those ballots to be clear about who received how many votes,” Lowman Smith said.

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office noted that Broussard was marked as “disabled” in the Election Management Server, Decaturish previously reported. 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.

Here is the full press release from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office:

Due to normal post-election checks and balances prior to certification, a technical error in the precinct scanners that affected the DeKalb County Commission District 2 race was discovered. DeKalb County Commission District 2 is the only race affected by the error. The Secretary of State’s Office and DeKalb County Election and Registration have been in constant contact to remediate this issue once it was discovered and ensure that all votes are properly counted. Through a unique series of events detailed below, a mistake in programming for one candidate’s withdrawal in the precinct scanner led to inaccurate vote counts for two candidates. The multiple layers of checks and balances built into Georgia’s election system and the fact that all votes are recorded on paper ballots that can be recounted allowed this issue to be detected and a resolution identified. The Secretary of State’s office commends the Dekalb County Elections and Registrations team for their diligence in detecting and resolving this issue prior to certification of their results.

Initially, four candidates qualified to run for District 2 Commissioner. After the election project had been built and the equipment had been prepared, one candidate withdrew. That candidate was marked as “disabled” in the Election Management Server, which is proper procedure. Subsequent to that, it was discovered that five precincts in DeKalb were redistricted into County Commission District 2 race, but those precincts had not been updated to reflect that change. To remedy that, a new election project was created so that the County Commission District 2 race properly appeared on the ballots for those precincts. That new election project took into account the withdrawal of the one candidate so that only the remaining three candidates appeared on the ballot marking devices (BMDs) and the scanner expected only those three candidates (the initial project had all four candidates on the ballot marking devices and expected four candidates for this race in the scanner). On the first day of early voting, an issue was discovered on the BMDs that the text of one Republican party question was not properly appearing. To remedy this issue, the Secretary of State’s Center for Election Systems updated the election project so that the text properly appeared. However, that update was built off of the updated election project that had been utilized for the five precincts that did not initially have District 2 on their ballots. In making that update, it caused a discrepancy on Election Day between the BMDs (with the updated project showing three candidates) and the Election Day scanners in the other precincts in the county (that were expecting four candidates in that race). The issue was quickly detected by DeKalb County Elections and Registrations after the election during their normal post-election processes, and the Secretary of State’s office has worked with DeKalb to help resolve the issue. The resolution is to scan the Election Day paper ballots from those precincts on the central scanner, which has the correct information for DeKalb County Commission District 2. Other remedies, such as recounts, are at the discretion of the DeKalb County Board of Elections and Registration as this is a county race.

“DeKalb County’s ability to quickly identify this discrepancy with their election results is evidence that Georgia’s election system works and is secure,” said State Elections Director Blake Evans. “DeKalb’s elections team is setting an example for the rest of the state of how to properly audit and review results before certification. Thanks to our state’s verifiable paper-based system, DeKalb County will ensure that the results they certify are accurate and reflect the will of their voters.”

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