Chatham Co. uploads majority of remaining absentee ballots

Absentee ballot processing in Chatham County.
Absentee ballot processing in Chatham County.(WTOC)
Updated: Nov. 5, 2020 at 7:38 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - UPDATE: Around 17,000 absentee ballots were upload from Chatham County to the Secretary of State’s website at about 6:51 p.m. on Thursday.

According to a board of elections member, this was the county’s last large amount of ballots remaining.

The update in Chatham County cut President Donald Trump’s lead in the state of Georgia to just over 3,500 votes.

The updated count also pushed the lead in the county commission’s chairman race and the district attorney race.

Poll workers and those with the Elections Office spent hours processing, counting and adjudicating ballots. What was abnormal about the process this year was the number of absentee ballots to count. 41,735 people voted absentee by mail in the county.

What’s also interesting about Chatham County is that we are the only county in the state that elects members to a Board of Elections and appoints a chairman.

Our Board of Elections and Registrars also operate as two separate entities. The Board of Registrars handles early voting and absentee ballots. The Board of Elections handles Election Day and counts absentee ballots from the Board of Registrars.

A Secretary of State agent came at the request of the board of elections supervisor to add a layer of accountability after some questioned the process. Board Member Antwan Lang says there’s an advantage to having both groups because it allows for checks and balances. It also makes sure this process isn’t rushed and every vote is counted.

“We did everything according to the law and we made sure every vote that was cast and appropriately processed was absolutely tallied. Although it was a little slower today the purpose of it being slower was to make sure that we did everything right,” Lang said.

A few people showed up to the Board of Elections Office after it was closed to voice their concerns over absentee ballots.

Chatham County had almost 67 percent voter turnout this election cycle. The Board of Elections says the only ballots left to count tomorrow will be military ballots and cured ballots.

PREVIOUS STORY: Chatham County is the county in Georgia with the most outstanding ballots.

Processing continued Thursday at the Board of Elections annex. We know the county had 25,000 ballots and 9,425 were tabulated Wednesday.

We are expecting to see new numbers by the close of business Thursday. But officials with the board of elections say they do not have a timeline of completion. Officials say it’s taking time because of the labor intensive process.

The vice chair of the Chatham County Board of Elections says they cannot predict a finish time as they have ballots to be cured, adjudicated and still coming from military.

While all eyes are on Chatham County, Malinda Hodges says voters here can be confident in their process.

“We are counting your votes. We are being diligent and being compliant with what is being required of us at the Secretary of State’s office. We are allowing the process to be transparent as it should. Our citizens are welcome to observe this process. We have poll watchers who are observing this part of the process. It’s a transparent process and its democracy at its finest. This is what we do and we want your vote to count. We want to count your vote and that’s what we’re here doing," Hodges said.

“It is a labor intensive process. You are dealing with hand, handled, hand processed paper ballots. The only part of the process that is electronic is to actually scan the ballots in order to tabulate them you’re having to duplicate some ballots because a lot of times citizens don’t realize they do things to compromise their ballot or they may over vote a ballot, they may write notes on a ballot or not mark in the way that is acceptable so all of these things affect the process and that’s a whole another animal called adjudication," Hodges said.

Hodges says a Secretary of State agent came at the request of the board of elections supervisor to add a layer of accountability after some questioned the process. The supervisor at the annex says they did process 3,000 ballots so far Thursday. Which we are still waiting to see tabulated.

According to a representative of the Secretary of State’s Office, this is a normal part of the election process. What’s abnormal is the number of absentee ballots to count compared to previous elections.

The deadline that matters in Georgia is the County Board of Elections certification deadline, which is Friday, Nov. 13.

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