What You Need to Know About the Georgia Recount

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The deadline for the Georgia recount is 11:59 p.m. EST on Wednesday. What is happening with the recount, is there a threat of voter fraud, and how is that being addressed?

Additionally, former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has begun a voting rights organization, Fair Fight. What are the big players in the state’s politics and elections? 

Jason Snead, executive director of the Honest Elections Project, joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss.

We also cover these stories:  

  • Massachusetts biotech company Moderna says its coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective. 
  • Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, is firing back against President Donald Trump’s claims of a lack of voter integrity in Georgia.
  • Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin say they are going to continue investigating Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden. 

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Rachel del Guidice: I’m joined today on “The Daily Signal Podcast” by Jason Snead, executive director of the Honest Elections Project. Jason, thank you so much for being with us again on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”

Jason Snead: Well, it’s great to be back.

Del Guidice: Think about the Georgia recount. The deadline for this recount is 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday. Can you just start off by talking about the recount and what all is going on here?

Snead: Sure. This is a hand retallying of all of the votes that were cast in Georgia for the presidential election.

Georgia law actually requires that there be an audit conducted in at least one race, I understand it, following an election. And Georgia Secretary of State [Brad] Raffensperger selected, as we all might expect, the most contentious and high-profile race, which happens to be the race for president.

So, as the vote count stands, the unofficial results place [former Vice President Joe] Biden just about 14,000 votes ahead of [President Donald] Trump in the state. The retallying is going back and … hand-checking to ensure that the vote count is accurate, essentially.

It’s not technically a recount, it’s not technically an audit, it’s in-between a little bit. That’s going on right now. As you said, it’s due to wrap-up midnight Wednesday, at which point we’ll know how many votes were flipped or affected as a result of this recount.

Del Guidice: Can we talk a little bit more about the recount, how it practically works and what are the practices the poll workers go through to conduct this recount?

Snead: Sure. … I’ll back up here. So, this year, Georgia rolled out some new voting equipment in the state. It’s a new system that uses a touchscreen. So voters check in, they could [be] given a card, they put that card into the machine, out pops their ballot. Then they use a touchscreen device to actually input their votes.

That’s when the machine will print out what amounts for their ballot, essentially. They can look at it, review to make sure that everything was properly collected and tallied. So if they voted for Trump, it says “Trump,” or if they voted for Biden, it says “Biden.” Then they run it through a Scantron machine scanner, and that scanner will actually record the vote.

So what you get in terms of the initial count for ballots that are cast using that equipment, you will get the machine count. This is the scanning equipment that either takes the in-person votes or absentee ballots and tallies that up.

The purpose of the audit is to go back by hand and ensure that those results are accurately presented. So they’re actually going through and they’re retallying the votes, making sure that the initial outcome that was reported by the machines is in fact accurate.

Del Guidice: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution pointed out that this is the first statewide manual recount of paper ballots in Georgia to validate the accuracy of an election that showed Joe Biden with that 14,000 vote lead over Donald Trump. Why do you think, Jason, that Georgia went blue or appears to have gone blue?

Snead: Well, I’m not sure exactly what the particular political thinking is on the ground down there. It certainly seems like this was a high turnout and very animated election. There was a lot of ground game activity from both sides. And obviously, the president is a polarizing figure.

I think that all of those issues certainly affected both the turnout and potentially the outcome here. I guess that now the question is, is this outcome a valid one? And that’s something that this retallying is designed, and I think wisely being implemented, to help assure people that it is.

And of course it will also help to detect any potential irregularities, run those to ground. And then also put to bed any rumors that there might’ve been something untoward that happened in the results. So it works from both sides, if you will, to build confidence that the official result, whatever it happens to be, is an accurate one.

Del Guidice: Well, there’s been a lot of outside attention on Georgia in recent years, with the media speculating that the state could turn blue and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has also begun a voting rights organization, Fair Fight. What are the big players, Jason, in the state’s politics and elections?

Snead: You hit the nail on the head in terms of the big players on the political left. Stacey Abrams and her group have raised tens of millions of dollars to try to shift Georgia’s politics. They’ve engaged in all sorts of activities from voter registration drives to turnout drives.

Stacey Abrams, of course, is famous for having lost her gubernatorial race in 2018 to the current governor, Brian Kemp, and still refusing to concede that race.

And in fact is, has largely built her career on this argument that essentially the race was stolen from her through voter suppression and other sort of unsavory tactics—which there is no evidence to back up that assertion, but nevertheless, it still lingers there. And so that’s really the big push.

I think that you certainly see on the left that the politicos on the left think that Georgia is poised to turn blue. There’s demographic shifts. There’s lots of people moving into the state, ironically enough, often from the higher tax, higher regulation blue states into Georgia, where it’s a little bit of a friendlier climate, but then the state’s politics sort of shift, too.

But nevertheless, I think that what you also saw, if you look at the results in the Senate race, is that there is still a fairly sizeable and significant conservative voter population in the state of Georgia right now. …

Del Guidice: Well, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has addressed President Trump’s claims that election officials weren’t letting the Trump campaign observers into counting rooms and Raffensperger said in a Facebook post, “The state of Georgia placed the responsibility of recruitment of monitors solely on both parties. Don’t have credentials. Call your state party and demand monitor credentials.”

Jason, what’s your perspective on Raffensperger’s response?

Snead: I think that Secretary Raffensperger has been a real leader in the state in terms of ensuring the integrity of Georgia’s elections. I don’t doubt his commitment to that. He has led a number of excellent reforms, including banning ballot harvesting and other provisions that are absolute no-brainers to anyone who works in this space and takes the issue of ballot integrity seriously.

I also think that it was a wise move on his part to order the recount and retally that we were talking about earlier, because that process will help, again, to build confidence that the results that were reported and that will eventually be certified in state are the accurate results for the election. And that they actually show the will of voters in the state of Georgia. I think that that is all a good thing.

And I think that now the focus really ought to be at this point resolving these outstanding challenges. Making sure that we’re fully investigating any accusations or allegations of election fraud or misconduct that are credible, and doing a full investigation to get to the bottom of what did, or did not, happen there.

And then looking to the runoff elections, where I think that you’re going to have folks who are obviously keen to see one side or the other prevail. And you’ve got folks like myself, our group is a nonpartisan C3 entity, that want to make sure that the process has integrity.

Del Guidice: Given that Georgia has a Republican secretary of state and governor, both of whom have spoken out against voter fraud, does it seem unlikely to you that voter fraud could slip through here in Georgia?

Snead: I think that Georgia has better safeguards than many states. I’ll say that at the outset.

That being said, there’s always the possibility that fraud can impact an election. And in fact, in pretty much every election cycle, there is some degree of fraud. I think that’s something that we have to take as a given. The question is, how much fraud actually could have occurred and what are you doing to try to detect it, to try to deter it?

And that’s where, to circle back to what I said at the outset here, the fact that Georgia has a signature verification, voter identification, engages in voter roll maintenance to make sure that their voter registration records are accurate and reliable, and that they take these issues seriously.

All of that puts Georgia a leg up over a number of other states that drag their feet on these issues, that pretend that voter fraud is not a serious concern, and really don’t take the integrity of elections to heart, but instead are always painting works of protections and safeguards as voter suppression. I think that’s entirely the wrong way to go it. So in that sense, I think Georgia is much better positioned.

Del Guidice: What is your perspective, Jason, on the recount itself? And are you hearing anything from Georgians about what they’re thinking about what’s been happening in their state?

Snead: I think that the final results for the recount will be reported when the recount is completed.

I haven’t seen anything yet in terms of hard figures. I have, however, heard and seen in several media reports that the number of vote flips is not significant enough to affect the outcome in any major way.

So that does not lead me to believe that President Trump is going to be able to claw back a lead based on the recount or the retallying alone. And that certainly seems to indicate, at least at this initial stage, that that initial count was probably an accurate one.

But as I said, there are still ongoing challenges. There are still ongoing concerns. We need to run that to ground. In terms of what Georgians themselves are thinking about, what I’ve heard certainly seems to indicate that Georgians across the political spectrum want an election that has integrity, that they can have confidence in, that they can trust.

And I think that we all want to let this process play out so we know what happened, what didn’t happen, and then we can move forward accordingly.

Del Guidice: What are you hearing, Jason, about poll watchers having access to this recount? Are enough poll watchers being able to be part of this or has there been some dissension or differences of opinion on how fairly people think that this is being handled?

Snead: Well, I’m not sure if poll watchers are basically involved in all of the recount process that’s going on, if they’re deployed everywhere or not. That’s really going to be up to the respective political parties to determine that and to come up with that strategy and plan.

What I will say is that when we’re doing these sorts of election administration type procedures, whether it’s counting ballots in the early voting period, whether it is working on Election Day, whether it is doing this sort of recount, the way that this typically works is you have bipartisan teams.

So even if you have a situation where there is only a Democrat, or only a Republican poll watcher, there are generally supposed to be teams of people from both parties actually working in the process. So that’s an extra layer of safeguard that sometimes gets lost in the way that this is covered, because we’re very focused right now.

And a lot of this is because of the litigation on the poll watchers, and they play a very important role in the transparency of the process. But there are other safeguards in place as well. And I think that’s something that is a good thing for the election system.

Del Guidice: Well, something that’s been discussed is [signature] verifications in this whole situation on the recount and what’s at stake with those. How would you say that situation should be addressed?

Snead: Signature verification is an important part of the absentee ballot process. And signature verification is something that is done at the outset.

So what we’re talking about right now with the retally is primarily to make sure that the votes that were ultimately officially voted, which means that they passed all of the requirements, including signature verification under state law, and they were allowed to be cast, to make sure that those were tallied appropriately.

So this isn’t, far as I understand at least, going back and actually double-checking all of the signatures, but those signatures were required to be verified under Georgia law.

And again, that’s something that not every state does, which I think it’s laudable that Georgia does that and takes that issue seriously. Because one of the most difficult aspects of absentee ballots is the fact that you don’t know for sure who has handled that ballot, who has cast that ballot. That’s why you have to have some sort of a voter identification component.

Some states do signature matching. Some states have witness signature requirements, so you have to have your ballot witness. Both of these are not only acceptable, but I think desirable safeguards to ensure that only the correct, lawful voters are casting ballots.

Del Guidice: And lastly, Jason, there’s still a lot of ongoing litigation in Georgia that’s going on in the midst of this recount. What is the update on the state of play on that and where do you foresee it going?

Snead: In terms of litigation in Georgia, I think that there are still a couple of cases and there may still be some more.

I would suspect that right now, folks are waiting to see the results of this retallying. And then once the state’s official results are certified, then the Trump folks could request a recount under state law, but it’s not an automatic trigger. But if it’s within 1%, the losing party can request a recount.

So I guess that the question will be then do they request a formal, full recount after the state certifies the election results? That would really be the next, I think, direction for this to be going.

And then of course, the other question is what other allegations are going to be surfaced in Georgia in terms of potential either impropriety or mismanagement.

We really need to be investigating those as well to make sure that we can tell voters with certainty, again, either something did happen here and we’re going to bring the people responsible to justice or something did not. And we’re going to be able to tell the voters exactly what we did to prove that this was in fact just a rumor.

Del Guidice: Well, Jason, thank you so much for joining us again on “The Daily Signal Podcast.” It’s always great to have you.

Snead: Thank you.

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