It’s a long, time-consuming process.
More than 18,000 ballots cast by voters in Baldwin County during the Nov. 3 race for president of the United States are being recounted.
And it’s all being done by hand.
Each one of the presidential ballots, whether they favored Pres. Donald Trump, Joe Biden, the Libertarian candidate, a write-in candidate, or character such as Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck, must be recounted.
The process is underway throughout Georgia’s other 158 counties, too.
The hand recount began Friday morning in Baldwin and all of the other counties that make up the Peach State.
The race between Trump and Biden showed Biden with a substantial double-digit lead of more than 14,000 votes on Friday over Trump, who was seeking a second four-year term.
The Associated Press has not declared a winner in Georgia as of press time Friday, where Biden led Trump by 0.28 percentage points. There is no mandatory recount law in Georgia, but state law provides that option to a trailing candidate if the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points.
Last week’s general election marked the first time since 1992 that more Georgians voted for a Democratic candidate as opposed to a Republican candidate in the presidential race. Former two-term Pres. Bill Clinton was the last Democratic candidate to claim the state’s largest percentage of votes.
Seven days ago, Biden, who served as vice president under former Pres. Barack Obama during his terms as chief commander, was declared the overall winner of the presidential race by The Associated Press after he had amassed the necessary 270 electoral college votes to become president-elect.
At the time, Georgia, like a handful of other states was too close to call, but since then Biden has emerged the victor over Trump in states, like Pennsylvania, which has traditionally voted Republican for many years.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Wednesday that election workers would conduct a by-hand recount of the state’s presidential ballots as part of its audit process.
Under Georgia law, the secretary of state’s office must conduct what is known as a risk-limiting audit.
A sampling audit was planned for Thursday, but it didn’t take place because Raffensperger opted instead to call for a 100 percent manual recount, according to Baldwin County Elections Superintendent Todd Blackwell.
“There would be no need to do a sampling audit when a 100 percent manual recount was ordered, which will take the place of the audit,” Blackwell said.
Those involved in the recount effort will count each one of the paper ballots printed off Georgia’s new electronic voting machines, Blackwell told The Union-Recorder during a Thursday afternoon interview.
The recount is underway on the second floor of the new county government complex, off North Columbia Street.
“The public can come and watch or observe to see what we’re doing,” Blackwell said.
The process of recounting each of the ballots by hand began at 9 a.m. Friday.
Blackwell said his goal was to assemble seven, two-person teams and place each of those teams at separate tables to recount each of the presidential ballots.
The recount effort began with five such teams Friday morning.
“They will all have the same responsibility,” Blackwell said. “Team members will each look at the ballot and place it in the right stack as far as which candidate received the vote. So, I would look at that ballot, make a determination of whether it was a Trump vote, a Biden vote or a Libertarian vote.”
He explained that in last week’s election, similar to previous general elections, some voters did not choose a presidential candidate.
“For whatever reason, there will be a handful of people that didn’t vote in that race,” Blackwell said. “And there will be people who voted in that race and voted for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. It’s their choice as to whether they voted in the race or who they write-in as a candidate, if anybody.”
In Baldwin County, 18,353 ballots have to be hand-counted, he pointed out.
“This is the first time that we’ve ever had to do a manual recount, so we don’t know how long it’s going to take until we get started,” Blackwell said.
He predicted that local election officials would be recounting all day Friday and that it would go into today (Saturday).
“I intend to have this finished by Monday or Tuesday,” Blackwell said, noting the recount has to be completed across the state by Wednesday morning.
From Baldwin County’s perspective, Blackwell said he certified the vote totals a week ago and that he remains confident in those numbers.
“I’m not concerned that our audit is going to show anything different than we are 100 percent certified with vote totals,” Blackwell said. “Having said that, it is quite a lengthy process. We have to put our eyes on each ballot and hand-tally them.”
Blackwell said he felt confident that the manual hand vote recount would confirm what the voting machines counted.
“It’s going to confirm that the voting machines counted correctly,” Blackwell said. “In my opinion, that’s what we’ll learn from this in Baldwin County is that voting machines tallied correctly.”
The goal is to count the presidential ballots as soon as possible, so that local election officials began the process of preparing for a special runoff election on Jan. 5.
Blackwell said he would and members of his staff would be overseeing the hand recount of all presidential ballots.