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New election integrity fears: Georgia county ballot machines off by thousands when hand counted

The first place candidate dropped to third place after the hand count

Published: June 2, 2022 6:08pm

Updated: June 2, 2022 6:38pm

The Democratic primary for a Georgia county has been called into question after a hand count revealed the voting machines were off by thousands of ballots.

Marshall Orson, a Democratic DeKalb County school board member running for the county commission, asked the local elections board on Thursday to not certify the results as scheduled on Friday due to "numerous issues" with the race.

Orson asked for an "independent review" and a formal recount of the election in his letter to the board, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

"There is no rational basis for believing that there are not continuing issues with the results and the results should not be certified with the continuing existence of multiple substantive issues and concerns," Orson wrote. "Doing so would pose a substantial risk not only to the confidence the public will have in the overall election results from this race but could extend to the entire primary as well as the general election."

The initial Democratic primary results showed Orson winning for commission District 2 with Lauren Alexander in second place and Michelle Long Spears in third. This would have put Orson against Alexander in a runoff election.

However, Spears noticed that the results showed she received zero votes at most election precincts. 

The secretary of state's office admitted late last month to making several programing mistakes in the ballot equipment that affected the final tally. 

There was an attempted re-scan of the ballots in District 2, but ultimately a hand count was conducted, concluding around midnight on Memorial Day.

On Wednesday evening, the results of the hand count were released, showing former last-place candidate Spears now in first place and headed to a June 21 runoff against Alexander. Former first place candidate Orson was pushed to third place.

Spears gained about 2,600 votes from the original tally, while Alexander gained a few hundred, the Journal-Constitution reported. Orson lost about 1,600 votes from the original results.

The Dekalb County elections board is scheduled to certify the election results Friday afternoon. 

Georgia has been the site of numerous election controversies following the 2020 presidential election.

For example, a complaint filed in April to the Georgia State Election Board claims that more than 300,000 ballots in the 2020 election were unreliably recorded in state's largest county of Fulton.

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