Georgia State Law outlines three main tasks that each County Election Superintendent must oversee during an election – Voting, Canvasing, and Certification. This article looks at the act of certification.

Elections in Georgia are run by the counties, and Georgia election law (O.C.G.A. § 21-2-xxx) identifies two major players in any election. The Supervisor, sometimes called the Director, and the Superintendent. In smaller counties, the Superintendent may be the judge of the probate court, but in larger counties, the role of Superintendent is performed by an appointed Board of Registrations and Elections (BOE).

Since the beginning of election law, the process of certification by each county was largely a ministerial act – the Supervisor presented the election results to the board and the board voted to certify. But a new group of board members, appointed in the aftermath of the 2020 election and to further transparency in , has started to question the process of simply rubber-stamping the results. This has provoked the ire of the GA State Democratic Party, who have made a hobby out of writing threatening letters to any board member who asks to verify some of the processes before certifying. You can read one of their letters by clicking HERE.

While almost every term is defined in the Georgia code, the word ‘certify’ is not. Therefore some board members have turned to the simple dictionary definition, “To confirm formally as true, accurate, or genuine,” and have asked to see certain documents before they vote to certify.

What documents should be inspected before certification?

While a small forest worth of paper is generated during an election in a large county, a few documents are of particular interest to the person who wants to try and verify that the election procedure was carried out faithfully. The beauty of the documents in the list below is twofold. 1) Almost all of these documents are completed on election night, so no work is required by staff to produce them, and 2) All of these documents may be inspected and copied by any elector (see O.C.G.A. § 21-2-72) – access is not limited to election officials. The form names below are specific to Gwinnett County, but similar forms will be available all across the state. When checking forms, make sure that all required signatures are present and all fields are filled in.

Poll Manager Check-In Sheet – This is a great place to start. As election material from each precinct is returned on election night, the county will probably have a form filled out by a staff member to ensure that the manager closed the poll in accordance with state law. The answers to such questions as “Were the ballots always in the custody of two poll workers,” “Were the memory cards returned,” “Were the ballot bags sealed,” “Did two poll workers sign the forms” and many more can only be found on this high-level worksheet.

Chain of custody forms for all Advanced In Person (AIP) and Election Day ballots – This is a big one. “Ballots shall be in the custody of at least two poll officers at all times” (O.C.G.A. § 21-2-413). This includes ballots removed from a drop box as well as those removed from the scanner. Where poll workers tend to fail on this is to have only one person return the ballots to the Superintendent. As always, check to make sure all signatures are present. There should be a chain of custody forms for ballots and memory cards.

Ballot Recap Sheet, one per precinct – This sheet has the number of ballots issued and printed on each BMD, the number of ballots cast on each scanner, and the total number of issued ballots, cast ballots, and poll pad check-ins

Poll Pad Recap Sheet, one per precinct, returned on election night. This sheet has the opening and closing seal numbers, wait times during the day, and the total number of poll pad check-ins (the number of voters who signed in to vote).

Poll open (zero) and close tapes from scanners for both Advance and Election Day voting. The closing tapes will also show the actual vote counts for each race from the precinct. The closing tapes were also posted outside each polling location after the polls closed.

Statement of Votes Cast (SOVC). This may be more difficult to get because it can be very long (thousands of pages) but if you can snag an electronic copy it will tell you the total number of ballots cast (based on the memory cards) at every precinct. Compare this to the Poll Pad numbers and you can verify that the number of voters who checked in is (very close to) the number of ballots received by the elections office.

Not as productive, but still interesting if you have extra time

  • Proof of oaths for all poll workers (O.C.G.A. § 21-2-584)
  • Spoiled and Unaccompanied Ballot Recap Sheet
  • Did any poll open late or stay open late? If so, why?
  • Were emergency ballots used? Why?
  • Log Sheets for anything done with a manager’s override (ABM cancellations, changing a voter’s check-in, changing a voter’s status, etc.)
  • The record of assisted voters – O.C.G.A. § 21-2-592
  • Proof of training for all poll workers

Records you will NOT be able to examine

Some of the election records are sealed and will require a court order to inspect. Unfortunately, the physical ballots fall into that class. You will not even be allowed to view the actual ballots. You may also have trouble getting some information from the scanners because the scanner serial numbers are required to be redacted. And they will probably not release any information about the poll workers.

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