A Stack of 10,000 Ballots Should Be Hard to Miss -- but Not for DeKalb County, Georgia Election Workers

AP Photo/Ben Gray

On November 16, 2020, a credentialed statewide poll watcher in Georgia was present and observing the recount taking place in DeKalb County, Georgia.  DeKalb is a suburb of Atlanta; it was one of the counties that reported its election tally hours after most of the rest of Georgia counties had reported, and the vote total as reported was 83.1% to 15.7% in favor of Joe Biden — 308,000 to 58,000 votes.

The poll watcher has signed an affidavit under penalty of perjury with regard to what he observed, and conversations he had with county election workers during the course of the recount that he observed.

He states in his affidavit that the viewing area he was allowed to occupy was situated such that he was not able to read entries on a computer screen being made by the workers as they engaged in the recount process.  But he was able to read the writing on the sheets attached to the boxes which listed the ballots/votes in each box for the two candidates, Biden and Trump.

He began taking notes of the counts reflected on the sheets attached to the boxes and noticed one particular count that stood out to him.

After recording the totals from nine different boxes, he could see a pattern in the totals reflected in each box in terms of the total number of ballots — but his affidavit doesn’t say what that pattern/expectation was.

But it became meaningful when he noted a total written on a sheet that was far out of line with what he had been seeking — one box had a sheet on it where the numbers written by an election worker were that the box contained 10,707 ballots for Biden and 13 ballots for Trump — a difference in that one box of 9,694 votes.

The affidavit states that the two election workers at the table where the box was relocated spoke briefly with each other but he could not overhear what they said.  One of them then called over a more senior election worker to speak with them.  The more senior official then took the paper with the figures to another table near where the boxes containing ballots were being held and spoke with two officials at that table.  The poll watcher was able to get close enough to hear the officials discuss whether they could determine what the worker who wrote the figures meant to write, speculating that the comma was in the wrong place on the number.  The poll watcher overheard them mention making a change, but not specifically what was said.

The election worker who had carried the sheet to that table then took the sheet and went looking for yet another more senior election supervisor.  Eventually, the person with the sheet took it to another table with two other workers and left it with them.  As she was being followed by the poll watcher she turned towards him and told him to quit following her as she no longer had anything with her.

The poll watcher then reported what he had observed to the Election Director for DeKalb County, who was at first hostile and skeptical.  After explaining what he had observed, the Election Director met with another County Election official and they both walked to the table where the sheet with the numbers had been left.  After a few moments, he returned to the poll watcher and told him that the box would be recounted.  He made the observation that the box did not contain 10,000 ballots so there was clearly a problem that needed to be resolved.  He invited the poll watcher and a Democrat counter-part to observe the recount of that box, which was going to happen when a new shift of workers started shortly thereafter.

Prior to starting, the Pollwatcher learned the ballots were “early votes” — in-person votes prior to election day, which had previously been scanned by an optical scanner, with “1,105” written on the box.

The recount of the box showed that it contained 1,081 for Biden and 13 for Trump — a difference of 1068, not 9,694 as the worker conducting the recount had originally written.  The total number of ballots in the box was 1,103 — third party votes and no votes in the race being the difference.

Two practical issues are revealed by this anecdote.  First, the original reference to “10,707” for Biden is disconnected from any fact — it’s not a transposition of numbers or a mistakenly located comma.  Two workers who had been counting boxes of ballots, where the poll watcher said there was a pattern to the totals that each box seemed to contain, suddenly had a ballot total that was exponentially different from other boxes.

More practically, consider the thickness of a standard package of copy paper which contains 500 sheets.  A stack of 10,000 ballots — if the same thickness of copy paper — would be 20 such packages stacked on top of each other — maybe 3 feet tall?    Yet two poll workers sitting at the table counting ballots could not recognize the physical impossibility of what they were writing down as the OFFICIAL recount tally for that box of ballots?

This mistake was caught by an observant poll watcher based on the only thing he could observe — the written numbers attached to the boxes by the election workers after they were done counting a box.

The Secretary of State determined that one poll watcher for every 10 recount tables was reasonable and sufficient in terms of neutral observers.

How many “mistakes” are workers making in this recount process that are not getting caught?