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Newton hand recount of presidential votes to begin Friday morning
Election chairman asks for monitors from both political parties to observe canvassing of more than 54,000 ballots
Advance voting 1
In this file photo, voters stand in a line that circled the Newton County Administration Building Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, on the first day of the 16-day advance voting period before the Nov. 3, 2020, General Election. - photo by Taylor Beck

Election officials plan to begin work Friday morning on a public hand recount of the more than 54,000 votes cast in Newton County for presidential candidates in the Nov. 3 General Election.

County officials announced the recount will be open to the public and is set to begin Friday, Nov. 13, at 8:30 a.m. and run through 7 p.m. in the Newton County Board of Elections and Registration office in downtown Covington.

Workers then are set to resume the recount Saturday, Nov. 14, through Tuesday, Nov. 17, for a total of 43-1/2 hours. 

If needed, workers will continue on Wednesday 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.

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

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ordered a Risk Limiting Audit (RLA) for 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.

Johnson said teams of Audit Boards — with a monitor observing their work — will carry out the actual ballot canvassing.

He 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. 

"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."

He also asked for one member from each party to serve with a member of the Board of Elections on a Vote Review Panel, Johnson said.

The Newton County Board of Elections and Registration office is inside the county administration building at 1113 Usher St., Suite 103, in Covington. 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).

On a related issue, the Newton County government released a statement saying media reports of someone illegally using the identification of a dead Covington resident to vote in the Nov. 3 election in Newton County were inaccurate.

"James E. Blalock Jr. passed away in 2006 and was purged from the Secretary of State database that year. His widow, Mrs. James E. Blalock Jr. has always voted under that name and continued to do so through this year’s election. 

"The Secretary of State’s database does not pick up the prefix of Mrs., and a check in her profile shows she is a female. Her signature on the records reflects that her voter registration was signed as Mrs. James E. Blalock Jr. and that is exactly how she signed her name when she voted in the Nov. 3 General Election.

"Newton County conducts its elections and voter registration efforts with transparency and attention to detail and hopes that any reporting on this or any other election to be done the same level of fact-checking and accurate information."