- The Floyd County Board of Elections will meet on Thursday, Nov. 19, at noon in the Community Room at the Floyd County Administration Building at 12 E. Fourth Ave., Rome. “The purpose of this meeting is to go into executive session to discuss personnel matters. The meetings are open to the public. Everyone in attendance is asked to wear a mask and to practice social distancing.”
In context: Floyd County became the epicenter of the presidential election controversy on Monday as it was announced 2,524 uncounted ballots from Nov. 3 had been found during the audit/recount on Saturday. The real impact? Says Gabriel Sterling, the vocal deputy administrator in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, called it an “amazing blunder.” His latest tweet: “Here is the unofficial breakdown of the ballots that weren’t originally uploaded in Floyd. 1,643 votes for President Trump, 865 for former Vice President Biden and 16 for Libertarian Jo Jorgensen. That is +778 for President Trump that will be reflected in the certified result,” which means applied to the state’s final count. Conclusion: It changes nothing as Biden wins Georgia and is president-elect. No other down-ballot races will change, including those in Floyd County. But what it really means: Floyd endures new ridicule and the conspiracy theory advocates have new fertilizer to spread.
The narrative on the 2020 election year: This has been a brutal year for election supervisors and staffers in Georgia.
It started with concerns about new voting machines. Then the pandemic … delayed primaries … fighting over the validity of absentee votes … bitter runoffs … long lines for advance voting…. technical issues followed by techincal issues.
Floyd County wasn’t immune by any means. And while some of that was self-inflicted, it continued to churn away at the elections staff, the elections board, observers from both parties and, in the end, more than 40,000 voters.
And then it got worse. Unknown by most, one of the most familiar and friendliest faces at the elections office was missing. For years, serving at least three elections supervisors, Donna Maldonado was a go-to at the office with longtime partner Vanessa Waddell. She endured the long weeks and seemingly longer election nights.
Except for Nov. 3 when perhaps she was needed the most. Earlier that day, Donna died at home at age 67; her memorial service was held last week. Amid the calamity of one of the “most important election of our life times,” Donna was gone. Weigh that with the emotions associated with a disasterous election season already and you suddenly shrug off late returns or other issues.
And now it gets worse. The smoking guns may have been found in the mystery of 2,524 uncounted ballots (scanner issues, storage accidents, whatever) but consider this: The sudden find during Saturday’s “audit/recount” of the other 38,500 Floyd ballots has fueled new claims from local, state and national voices of voter fraud in Georgia. Those missing votes changed nothing. President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Georgia won’t be reversed. The Perdue-Ossoff runoff is still on. The Floyd County races were blowouts to begin with. But now there’s “evidence” to support weak claims of collusion.
For most on Monday, the election was finally moving toward the Jan. 5 runoffs. But instead, Floyd County instead found itself among the “trending” topics on social media. The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office wants Election Clerk Robert Brady’s head (he’s home in COVID quarantine through all of this). Gabriel Sterling of the secretary of state’s office said as much in a Monday evening media briefing. And you can see why: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — a diehard Republican and Trump backer — has stood by the credibility of his office vs. vicious tweets from Trump and his supporters.
But now there’s a kink in the armour. It is the size of 2,500 or so votes and of 159 counties in Georgia, it is from Floyd. The state has watched the lag in the reporting of results from Floyd for multiple election cycles and just muttered. Now there’s a new concern — and an investigator on the way. This one won’t go away with tomorrow’s headlines.
As if 2020 wasn’t bad enough by itself.
The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office has scheduled a news conference on the post-election audit/hand recount for 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 17 via Zoom. We’ll have details.
WSB TV: Secretary of State’s office wants Floyd Elections Chief Robert Brady to step down. As the investigation begins into the 2,500-vote swing in Floyd County, WSB TV reports that Gabriel Sterling is calling for Robert Brady to step down.
“The secretary, since this was such an amazing blunder and they had issues in August, would like to see that elections director in Floyd county step down from his position,” Sterling said during a news conference Monday evening. He says they now have an investigator looking into what happened and why.
“It is the only county where we’ve had an issue like this,” Sterling said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s not an equipment issue. It’s a person not executing their job properly … This is the kind of situation that requires I think a change at the top of their management.”
What we were afraid of: Floyd County is trending on Twitter: The discovery of 2,500 or more uncounted ballots from election night is now trending on Twitter, meaning it is among the best read items there Monday night. Social media is filled with stories about the discovery, how it won’t change any of the races and how some are using it to refuel protests over President-elect Joe Biden winning the state (he still maintains a 13,000-vote lead).
So what’s the issue: It appears to have been a scanner issue on election night. Ballots had to be rescanned and apparently part of a box of results was missed.
Says Dr. Melanie Conrad, a member of the Floyd County Board of Elections. “I concur with Dr. Tom Rees’ thoughts (election board chair) about the scanner being the issue. The good news is that we have all of the ballots that were cast and we know which ones were cast at the Admin building during early voting. We do know that based on the numbers, this will not change the outcome for any candidates on the ballot.
“We have the capability to rescan all of those ballots to get an accurate count and to ensure that everyone’s vote counts. Now as for what some are characterizing a missing box of votes…We knew as we were hand-counting and tabulating votes on Saturday that we likely had not brought all of the ballots to the audit floor. A county employee returned to our secure storage space and located the box behind the scanners. This box contained ballots from early voting in the Admin building and was placed there early in advance voting.
“As you may know, we have extremely limited storage space for our equipment. When the scanners were returned after Election Day, they put them where ever they would fit not realizing that they were blocking a sealed box of ballots.
Floyd County is about to make national news — and not in a good way.
More than 2,500 additional votes were found during the audit of Floyd County’s presidential election vs. the 38,807 recorded by the computers on Nov. 3. Elections observers say a scanner issue on election night meant voters had to be scanned again; it in the second scan, apparently a box was not tabulated.
The Rome News-Tribune on Monday quotes Board of Elections Chairman Tom Rees as followings:
“We’re looking at tapes and running things, we just don’t know if it was us or the machines or what it is. So far we haven’t had a breakthrough but we’re still looking.”
Rees said the absentee by mail votes have all checked out as has the in-person election day voting and that the difference appears to have stemmed from early voting ballots. The final tally of the hand count may not be available until after the final numbers are transmitted to the Secretary of State’s office in Atlanta.
Even with that number of voters — applied across all races on the Floyd ballot — no outcomes will change. Most of the local races were blowouts.
But the find might explain an earlier gap noted by Hometown Headlines. Of all five counties in the Northwest Georgia market, Floyd County had the lowest turnout: just under 64 percent. Adding another 2,700-plus votes to the total would put turnout at more than 68 percent. The Floyd deficit was odd because voters here also had one of the most contested ballots in the region.
Prior to the recount, the presidential vote broke down as follows:
- Trump: 27,120 votes of 70.28% (slightly better than 2016).
- Biden: 10,972 votes or 28.43%
- Jorgensen: 496 votes or 1.29 percent.
- Total presidential votes: 38,588
As for the genre of the discovered ballots, it apparently won’t change much: Trump dominated advance voting, absentee-by-mail voting and day-of voting in Floyd County.
We have notes and calls to both local party chairs for comments on the vote count.
Ruth Demeter, chair of the Floyd County Democratic Party, said, “It is, to say the least, disappointing to see another flaw in the county’s election system. This points to management problems, not voter fraud — and it’s clearly beyond time for Robert Brady (elections chief) to be replaced.”
Brady has not been at the recount as he is under quarantine following potential COVID exposure.
Georgia U.S. Senate debates set for Dec. 6. Who’s in?
- The Kelly Loeffler-Raphael Warnock U.S. Senate debate is scheduled to air live from 7 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 6 on GPB, according to the Atlanta Press Club.
- Also scheduled for that day is a debate between Republican incumbent David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. But, according to the Atlanta Press Club’s Loudermilk-Young Debate Series, Perdue has decided to not participate in his debate. Ossoff has confirmed his participation, so according to our rules, we will proceed with the debate and Perdue will be represented by an empty podium. That is not our preference. The Atlanta Press Club works hard to provide a platform for all candidates running for public office. We believe it is an essential part of the democratic process for voters to have an opportunity to hear an exchange of ideas from the candidates so they can be better informed when they cast their ballots. In that spirit, we hope Sen. Perdue will change his mind. We will leave the door open for him to participate in our Dec. 6 debate.” It is set for 5 until 6 p.m. that day.
- The runoff is Jan. 5; details on that race below.
From Gordon County recount: She Hicks reports “ending totals are the same but I believe Trump gained 1 vote and Biden lost 1 vote in the totals.”
From Bartow County Elections Office: The Bartow County portion of the statewide audit of the Nov. 3 General Election had been postponed until noon Friday, Nov. 13 at the Beavers Drive Senior Center at 33 Beavers Drive in Cartersville. It will continue from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day until complete. This process will be open to the public, but space will be limited based on the size of the room. We will accommodate as many observers as reasonably possible. Please direct any questions about this process to Joseph Kirk at (770) 387-5098.
From Polk County Board of Elections:
Below please see how many ballots each county will count by hand in Northwest Georgia. Also, the second number indicates the percentage of “current” votes for Trump in each county. Gordon had almost 81% going for Trump; the lowest, Floyd County at 70.28%.
Floyd: 38,588 / 70.28% for Trump.
Bartow: 50,465 / 74.6%
Gordon: 24,033 / 80.7%
Polk: 17,399 / 78.1%
Chattooga: 10,050 / 80.24%.
Total: 140,535 votes to be recounted.
Key dates for Jan. 5 runoff:
- Nov. 18: Earliest date elections officials can make absentee ballots.
- Dec. 7: Deadline to register to vote in runoff.
- Dec. 14: Advance in-person voting begins.
- Jan. 5: Runoff election day.
Latest vote totals: Click here to see the latest updates on the presidential, Senate and Public Service Commission races.