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Gwinnett starts ballot adjudication; expected to run into weekend

By Amanda C. Coyne, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Gwinnett County is going through tens of thousands of ballots to ensure those flagged for errors have been properly counted. The process is expected to last into the weekend, a county spokesman said.

As Georgia’s presidential race remains too close to call, Gwinnett’s votes could help determine who receives the state’s 16 electoral votes.

Elections workers and volunteers huddled around screens in the county elections office starting at 9 a.m. Thursday, going ballot by ballot to resolve issues. The county’s ballot adjudication process will have these workers and volunteers poring through 3,200 batches of ballots in which at least one had been flagged for an error. That represents somewhere between 80,000 and 160,000 votes, spokesman Joe Sorenson said. The total number of votes among them that have not been counted is likely much fewer.

Errors on those ballots could include a voter using a check mark instead of filling in an oval, or selecting two candidates in an election that requires a single choice. Trios made up of one elections worker, one Republican volunteer and one Democrat volunteer are working together to determine “voter intent” on these ballots; if the selection on the ballot can be discerned, it will be added to the count, Royston said.

No updates in the county’s vote totals will be given until the process is complete. Sorenson estimated that could be Saturday or Sunday. After the adjudication is finished, the county will count about 4,400 absentee ballots and 463 votes from a corrupted voter card that was used during in-person early voting. The county is waiting until after the end of ballot adjudication to count those votes because if they chose to count them first, all of the ballots subject to adjudication would have to be removed from the county’s totals, which could cause confusion, Sorenson said.

The outstanding votes in Gwinnett could play an important part in a few key races. While most county races have clear results, the answer to Gwinnett’s transit referendum is separated by 1,749 votes, with “No” leading. The statewide presidential race is separated by about 18,500 votes with at least 50,000 left to count statewide as of Thursday morning, with President Donald Trump ahead. The U.S. Senate race between Sen. David Perdue and challenger Jon Ossoff is separated by 115,531 votes, but if Perdue’s share of votes falls below 50%, the race will be forced to go to a January runoff. Perdue had 50.03% of the vote as of 9 a.m.

Gwinnett’s incomplete total as of 1:21 a.m. Wednesday, when the count was last updated, has Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden with an 18 percentage point lead and Ossoff, also a Democrat, with a lead of nearly 16 points. Voter turnout is more than 70%, with at least 408,268 ballots cast.