The counties of Georgia conduct an examination of the secretary of state’s race

Georgia’s 159 counties are conducting a risk-limiting audit of the Secretary of State election, which involves hand-counting random ballots to verify incumbent Brad Raffensperger’s victory and the proper functioning of voting equipment.

The scrutiny required by law differs from the post-2020 election scrutiny, in which workers spent days hand-counting all 5 million ballots cast in that race, one of three separate counts of that contest in which President Joe Biden killed former President Donald narrowly defeated Trump.

On Wednesday, Gabriel Sterling of the Secretary of State’s office initiated the testing by having staffers roll 20 10-sided dice to create a random seed number, which was then entered into the state’s testing system along with a list of all batches of medium-term ballots cast .

From there, the software uses statistics to identify enough random lots of ballots to be counted so the state can have confidence that the scanners were working properly and the correct winner won. In this case, the state increased the number of tickets to be counted to allow each electoral office to participate.

“Each county will review at least one batch that is from Election Day or advanced voting and another batch that is from either absentee voting or preliminary voting,” said Blake Evans, Georgia director of elections. “The reason for this is that we wanted to make sure that each district tested a batch [ballot-marking device] Ballots and a stack of handwritten paper ballots.”

As of this morning, county audit teams have been busy working in pairs to count the number of ballots in those piles and then the number of votes for Raffensperger, Democrat Bee Nguyen and Libertarian Ted Metz.

The “risk limit” aspect of risk-limiting testing is the greatest chance that an incorrect election result will not be corrected by the testing process. The margin in the 2020 presidential election was so narrow that the state opted to hand-count each ballot to ensure the result was correct, but since the secretary of state’s race had a much larger margin, fewer ballots need to be checked.

“Since the margin in the contest we’re reviewing is just over 9% this year, based on the initial calculations, all we have to do is review what is likely to account for about 5% to 7% of the ballots nationwide to meet the risk limit,” Evans said, “That’s a lot lower than what the law actually requires: we set it at 5%.”

In Fulton County, about two dozen teams got to work just after 9 a.m. when interim election director Nadine Williams surveyed the convention hall, pondering the general election.

“We have a very strong staff and we’re very proud of our department, we’ve done a great job,” she said. “We still know the runoff is coming up and we’re doing this RLA today, so we’re doing two things at once. But we will be able to go ahead and make sure everything is efficient. everything works.”

It is important to note that the hand count of the piles may show slightly different totals than the machine count of the ballot, but this is not evidence of impropriety.

“That’s to be expected because humans are really bad at counting things that computers can’t,” Sterling said. “So for all the conspiracy theorists out there, if these don’t agree exactly, that’s expected. That doesn’t show cheating. That shows nothing. Just understand that on the front end.”

Georgia’s post-certification exam is also not designed to change the specific margins or results of the elections, and is the final step before the state certifies the results of the midterm elections. The results of the exam, including copies of the ballots, are due to be online next week.