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Newton County begins recount of 54,000 votes for president
Election workers in the county elections office in Covington perform a recount of ballots cast for president in the Nov. 3 General Election. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County election officials joined most of their counterparts statewide today in beginning a public hand recount of the votes cast for presidential candidates in the Nov. 3 General Election.

Election officials said the recount of the votes cast for presidential candidates in Newton County is open to the public at the Board of Elections and Registration office inside the county administration building at 1113 Usher St. in Covington.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ordered the audit of all votes cast for president in Georgia — meaning all 159 Georgia counties will be required to hand recount to verify the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election, county officials said.

Newton County election workers were set to do the recount until 7 p.m. today. They will resume the recount Saturday, Nov. 14, and continue daily through at least Tuesday, Nov. 17. 

If needed, workers will continue on Wednesday, Nov. 18, from 8:30 a.m. until the count is completed. 

"The only race being recounted is the presidential race. We must complete the process by midnight on Wednesday, Nov. 18," said elections board Chairman Phil Johnson.

State law requires the Georgia Secretary of State's office to certify the results from all 159 Georgia counties by Nov. 20, officials said.

Johnson said he asked the Newton County Democratic and Newton County Republican parties to provide two monitors each nominated either by the local parties or state executive committees. 

Observers also will be allowed to watch from a designated area.

"This process will be totally transparent," Johnson said. "We do require that the observers not speak to the audit panel members or interrupt the process."

Teams of audit panels — with the Republican and Democratic monitors observing their work — are carrying out the actual ballot canvassing. 

They are to look at each ballot, determine which candidate was selected and make separate piles for each candidate. They also make separate piles for ballots which were over-voted (more selections made than allowed), under-voted or left blank (no selection made); and write-in, duplicated and undecided ballots.  

A Vote Review Panel receives the write-in, duplicated and undecided ballots. It is charged with resolving such issues as the voter's preference on undecided ballots, or whether a vote is for a certified write-in candidate. 

The Panel includes one member from each county political party and a county Board of Elections member.

Raffensperger ordered the recount as a part of the state's mandated risk-limiting audit process. 

It normally would have involved auditors reviewing a random, statistically significant sample of ballots to make sure machines accurately counted and properly scanned ballots.

However, Raffensperger said he wanted a hand recount because of the significance of Georgia's results to the overall vote count. 

The schedule for the Newton County recount is:

• Friday, Nov. 13, 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• Saturday, Nov. 14, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Sunday, Nov. 15, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

• Monday, Nov. 16, 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• Tuesday, Nov. 17, 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• Wednesday, Nov. 18, 8:30 a.m. until complete (if needed).