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Newton completes recount of votes for president
Recount ends1
A Republican monitor looks on as two election workers count ballots Monday, Nov. 16, during the hand audit of Newton County’s votes for president in the Nov. 3 General Election at the county administration building in Covington. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — Workers completed the hand recount of Newton County’s General Election votes Monday, Nov. 16, with the total differing by about 10 from the number the elections board certified in the presidential race.

Board of Elections Chairman Phil Johnson said no one presidential candidate gained or lost all 10 votes — which equaled about 0.02% of the more than 54,000 votes cast.

He said the Newton County Board of Elections and Registration transmitted the results to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office Monday as part of the statewide audit of votes cast in all 159 counties in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

“We will let the Secretary of State publish the results but I can report that the audit tally from counting 54,592 votes by hand varied just a very few votes from the results certified by the board,” Johnson said.

The county elections board certified the election Nov. 9 with 54,268 voting in the presidential race and former vice president Joe Biden defeating President Donald Trump in Newton by about 6,000 votes.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Thursday, Nov. 12, ordered the statewide audit requiring hand-counting of all votes in the presidential race. 

The process in all counties must be complete by Friday, Nov. 20, when the Secretary of State must certify the statewide results by Georgia law.

Officials in the Secretary of State’s office have said they will release the final results in one batch rather than as they were completed county by county. 

Workers needed about three and a half days to complete the audit of Newton County votes.

Johnson said the audit results "should provide confidence in the results of the Newton County Nov. 3, 2020, General Election count."

“This was our first year using the Dominion (Voting Systems) system, and the audit confirms the vote tally from the machine count,” he said.

Johnson said he wanted to thank election director Angela Mantle and assistant director Angela Davis, as well as permanent and temporary staff members and Board of Elections members.

He also thanked state and local Republican and Democratic monitors and observers “who spent much of their weekend participating in the audit.”

Scott Jay, chairman of the Newton County Republican Party, said he believed "the audit went fine for what it was."

"There seem to be differences in the way each group counted the ballots at their individual tables but no serious discrepancies were found," he said. 

Jay said he also wanted to confirm the election office met such requirements as all mailed absentee ballots having postmark dates to ensure they had arrived by the Election Day deadline.

Mike Hesterley, first vice chairman of the Newton County Democratic Party, said he believed those doing the audit and election officials participating did "an excellent job."

"I believe, personally, that everything was on the ‘up and up,’" Hesterley said. "I trust the process."

Gabriel Sterling, the Secretary of State’s voting system implementation manager, has said the audit totals likely will be slightly different from the certified results because humans were doing the counting rather than machines.

Under state law, the Trump campaign can request a recount because it lost the Georgia vote by at least 0.5%. Trump lost the statewide vote by about 0.3%. 

Sterling has said if Trump still requests a recount after the audit is complete, it would be done electronically. 

Georgia law does not require an automatic recount.