Fulton County election workers sort absentee ballots during a pilot audit after the June 9 primary.
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Fulton County election workers sort absentee ballots during a pilot audit after the June 9 primary.
Credit: Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Over the next six days, thousands of election workers across Georgia's 159 counties will count the presidential race by hand as part of a risk-limiting audit with the eyes of the nation upon them.

Teams of two will receive containers of ballots, tally the number of votes for each candidate and verify every step of the process on multiple forms and security procedures, working around the clock until every choice is accounted for.

"Ballot security is going to be very important to the process," Georgia State Election Director Chris Harvey told county elections officials during a training call Thursday. "We're talking about security before the audit begins. We're talking about security during breaks. We're talking about security in the evenings, or when nobody's there. You can't forget; that's the currency of the election."

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A sample demonstration of what Georgia's hand count risk-limiting audit will look like.

There will be inventory sheets to track which batch of ballots were counted when, audit board sheets that identify vote totals for each batch and the people that audited them and even a sign in sheet for monitors that can closely watch the process. The publican, partisan observers and the press will all be allowed to track the process.

Georgia is partnering with VotingWorks, a nonprofit group with expertise in designing and implementing risk-limiting audits to conduct the next week's tally. 

During a 90-minute training session with election supervisors, VotingWorks employees walked through the ins and outs of what comes next, from setting up a public viewing area (and encouraging livestreams) to how the actual counting process will occur.

One of the core pieces of this process is transparency with the process, elections officials say, and VotingWorks is publishing their training materials online for people to read as well.

The task will take hours for Georgia's smaller counties with just a few thousand of the 4.9 million ballots cast, and days for the large metro Atlanta counties.

Fulton officials say about 300 people working from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday through Wednesday will make it through about 528,000 ballots. For now, costs of this audit will be borne by counties.