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Up to 60k absentee Georgia votes not counted due to burst pipe

A burst pipe halted the count of absentee ballots in Georgia Tuesday with up to 60,000 votes not counted on Election Night. 

The incident happened in a room at State Farm Arena where Fulton County absentee ballots were being counted, registration chief Ralph Jones told the county elections board during a video meeting Tuesday evening. 

That caused processing to stop for several hours, but no ballots or equipment were damaged, county officials said. Ballot counters were sent home at 10:30pm and set to return 8:30am Wednesday. 

Between 40,000 to 60,000 ballots in the county, which includes Atlanta, will now not be counted on Election night. 

Donald Trump and Joe Biden were locked in tight races across the country Tuesday night and into the early hours of Wednesday morning. 

The race was too early to call in fiercely contested Georgia where an estimated 91 per cent of the vote had been reported by the early hours of Wednesday. 

A worker at the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections works to process absentee ballots at the State Farm Arena Monday. A burst pipe halted the count of absentee ballots in Georgia Tuesday with up to 60,000 votes not counted on Election Night

Fulton county said it never anticipated having all absentee ballots processed on Election Day, and the rest of them will be processed in the coming days. 

Fulton County elections director Richard Barron told 11Alive: ‘It was anticipated to some extent due to COVID. It’s not considered a delay or due to any malfunction. The county just received a lot of them.’

In the early hours of Wednesday, votes still remained to be counted in Fulton and other populous metro Atlanta counties.    

A statement from Fulton County read: ‘At approximately 6:07 a.m., the staff at State Farm Arena notified Fulton County Registration and Elections of a water leak affecting the room where absentee ballots were being tabulated.

‘The State Farm Arena team acted swiftly to remediate the issue. Within 2 hours, repairs were complete.’

They added: ‘Tonight, Fulton County will report results for approximately 86,000 absentee ballots, as well as Election Day and Early Voting results. These represent the vast majority of ballots cast within Fulton County.

‘As planned, Fulton County will continue to tabulate the remainder of absentee ballots over the next two days. Absentee ballot processing requires that each ballot is opened, signatures verified, and ballots scanned. 

‘This is a labor-intensive process that takes longer to tabulate than other forms of voting. Fulton County did not anticipate having all absentee ballots processed on Election Day.’  

Workers for the Detroit Department of Elections count absentee ballots and early voting ballots in the 2020 presidential election. Ballot Counting in Detroit, Michigan

Workers for the Detroit Department of Elections count absentee ballots and early voting ballots in the 2020 presidential election. Ballot Counting in Detroit, Michigan

Poll workers Angela and Zach Achten check-in a box of absentee ballots in the gym at Sun Prairie High School on November 3 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin

Poll workers Angela and Zach Achten check-in a box of absentee ballots in the gym at Sun Prairie High School on November 3 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin

The president won Florida, the nation’s most prized battleground state, as well as the battlegrounds of Ohio, Iowa and Texas while his Democratic rival won Minnesota and New Hampshire, two modest prizes the president had hoped to take.

But races were too early to call in some of other fiercely contested and critical states on the map, including North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. Early results were in flux as election officials processed a historically large number of mail-in votes.     

Amid the wait Biden, briefly appearing in front of supporters in Delaware, urged patience, saying the election ‘ain’t over until every vote is counted, every ballot is counted.’

‘It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare who’s won this election,’ Biden said. ‘That’s the decision of the American people.’ 

There’s never been a presidential race in history in which all votes are counted on election night. It’s just not physically possible to instantly count that many ballots — possibly as many as 150 million on the night of November 3.  

Millions of voters braved their worries about the virus — and some long lines — to turn out in person, joining 102 million fellow Americans who voted days or weeks earlier, a record number that represented 73 per cent of the total vote in the 2016 presidential election. 

Democrats typically outperform Republicans in mail voting, while the GOP looks to make up ground in Election Day turnout. That means the early margins between the candidates could be influenced by which type of votes — early or Election Day — were being reported by the states.

A worker at the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections works to process absentee ballots at the State Farm Arena Monday. The burst pipe incident happened in a room at State Farm Arena where Fulton County absentee ballots were being counted, registration chief Ralph Jones told the county elections board during a video meeting Tuesday evening

A worker at the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections works to process absentee ballots at the State Farm Arena Monday. The burst pipe incident happened in a room at State Farm Arena where Fulton County absentee ballots were being counted, registration chief Ralph Jones told the county elections board during a video meeting Tuesday evening

 As the results began to come in, the nation braced for what was to come — and an outcome that might not be known for days.

 The record-setting early vote — and legal skirmishing over how it would be counted — drew unsupported allegations of fraud from Trump, who had repeatedly refused to guarantee he would honor the election’s result.

Some states also do not begin to count early votes until after polling stations close, and some allow ballots that arrive after Election Day to be included as long as they are postmarked by November 3.           

‘I think it’s terrible that we can’t know the results of an election the night of the election,’ Trump said on Sunday. ‘I think it’s a terrible thing when states are allowed to tabulate ballots for a long period of time after the election is over.’

It’s unclear what the president thinks is a long period. But it’s standard practice to continue tabulating votes after Election Day.

There are three important battlegrounds with restrictions on when the mail vote can be processed — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

In those states, Republican-controlled legislatures have resisted pleas from election officials to update the laws to allow for a speedier count. (The Michigan legislature did allow processing to begin 24 hours before Election Day in cities, but election officials say that’s not enough of a head start.) Instead, they will initially report in-person votes — expected to heavily favor Trump — and gradually update with the more Democratic-leaning mail ballots later. 

The record-setting early vote — and legal skirmishing over how it would be counted — drew unsupported allegations of fraud from Trump, who had repeatedly refused to guarantee he would honor the election's result

The record-setting early vote — and legal skirmishing over how it would be counted — drew unsupported allegations of fraud from Trump, who had repeatedly refused to guarantee he would honor the election’s result

Not all battleground states are slow-counting states.

Florida allowed its election offices to process mail ballots 22 days before the election. 

Two other Southern battlegrounds — North Carolina and Georgia — also began processing mail ballots early.

Two Midwestern states — Iowa and Ohio — also allow for early processing of mail ballots.     

States have until December 8, known as the ‘safe harbor’ deadline under federal law, to resolve any disputes over their vote totals and certify the winner. 

If a state fails to finalize its vote count by then, Congress is no longer required to accept its results under the Electoral College system. 


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