The Cherokee County Board of Elections voted this week not to conduct a hand-counted audit of Election Day ballots from the May 24 primary requested by the local Republican Party.
At their monthly meeting Monday, board members voted 4-1 to not conduct a hand count audit of ballots cast on Election Day for the May 24 Republican primary for governor and secretary of state, with Republican Mike Byrd being the lone vote for the audit.
The board had asked a judge to unseal the ballots after receiving a request from the Cherokee County Republican Party for the audit, said Alan Shinall, chairman of the elections board.
“First and foremost, the judge had not unsealed the ballots as of the time of the meeting, so we couldn’t vote to hold the audit as (we) had no ballots to audit,” Shinall told the Tribune.
The judge’s response to the request, which board members did not receive until after the meeting, said the process would involve a case hearing and reasoning for doing an audit, Shinall said.
“We didn’t know there was going to be a delay in getting approval from a judge,” he said.
Cherokee County Republican Party Chair James Dvorak told the Tribune he requested the audit to increase faith in the elections process and in response to requests from party members.
“We hoped the audit would reveal that the primary election results were correct. If the audit had revealed discrepancies between the actual vote totals and the results, however, we would have been relieved the error had been caught and corrected,” Dvorak said.
The Dominion voting machines Georgia uses and electronic ballots have been a point of concern for some voters, who say they are not secure.
The vote comes after the elections board initiated an audit that included May 24 primary ballots, which showed an overall margin of error of 1.69%.
In July, poll workers conducted a hand count audit over two days of all the races on the May 24 advance voting ballots at the Oak Grove early voting precinct, including governor and secretary of state, to confirm the results. This audit, initiated by the elections board, was conducted with a judge automatically unsealing the ballots, Shinall said. Workers also hand counted June 21 Election Day ballots for the lieutenant governor’s Democratic runoff and the two Cherokee County school board Republican runoff races from four randomly selected polling locations.
“The July 6 audit showed consistent results between the machine and hand counts on the governor and secretary of state races,” Shinall said. “Since there were no concerns specific to the Cherokee County machines on Election Day, there was no reason to conduct another audit in light of the legal risks — we took an oath to follow the law. Judges sometimes don’t like to give the authority to open the ballots twice and basically we’d be auditing the same races as before.”
Shinall said there is “no law regarding conducting an audit of this magnitude” and “given the lack of guidance there was concern about whether there could be future disciplinary action by the state election board.” He added that “the judge never unsealed the ballots and wanted to permit people who oppose the audit to present their arguments.”
In a statement sent to party members and contacts Tuesday, Dvorak said the Cherokee GOP was “very disappointed.”
“Though this is not the outcome we were hoping for, I want to personally thank the more than 150 individuals from both inside and outside Cherokee County who volunteered to assist with this endeavor. I am humbled and deeply grateful for your overwhelming support and commitment to our Republic,” he said.
“It is important to keep in mind that while we are very disappointed with this result, the BOE was never required to do an audit, nor did the five voting-members of the BOE ever commit to the audit,” Dvorak said in the statement. “To my knowledge, (Monday) was the first and only vote on this matter. While it is unfortunate that the BOE voted as it did, we need to consider this matter closed and instead turn our focus to November. Further agonizing over this issue will not be constructive.”
Board member Mike Byrd said, “there were enough people that wanted to see what the outcome was that had concerns with the voting machines — I don’t think there’s an issue but I thought the best way to clarify that would be to have a count.”
“At the moment we’re not doing it, but I’m not sure it’s over until it’s over though,” Byrd said.