(a) In primaries and elections in which optical scanners are used, the ballots shall be counted at the precinct or tabulating center under the direction of the superintendent. All persons who perform any duties at the tabulating center shall be deputized by the superintendent, and only persons so deputized shall touch any ballot, container, paper, or machine utilized in the conduct of the count or be permitted to be inside the area designated for officers deputized to conduct the count.
(b) All proceedings at the tabulating center and precincts shall be open to the view of the public, but no person except one employed and designated for the purpose by the superintendent or the superintendent's authorized deputy shall touch any ballot or ballot container.
(c) At the tabulating center, the seal on each container of ballots shall be inspected, and it shall be certified that the seal has not been broken before the container is opened. The ballots and other contents of the container shall then be removed, and the ballots shall be prepared for processing by the tabulating machines. The ballots of each polling place shall be plainly identified and cannot be commingled with the ballots of other polling places.
(d) Upon completion of tabulation of the votes, the superintendent shall cause to be completed and signed a ballot recap form, in sufficient counterparts, showing:
(1) The number of valid ballots, including any that are damaged;
(2) The number of spoiled and invalid ballots; and
(3) The number of unused ballots.
The superintendent shall cause to be placed one copy of the recap form and the defective, spoiled, and invalid ballots, each enclosed in an envelope, in the ballot supply container.
(e) For any election for which there is a qualified write-in candidate, the feature on precinct count and central count tabulators allowing separation of write-in votes shall be utilized. If any vote cast on the write-in ballot in combination with the vote cast for the same office on the ballot exceeds the allowed number for the office, the vote cast for that office only shall not be counted. In the discretion of the superintendent, either a duplicate ballot shall be made on which any invalid vote shall be omitted or the write-in ballot and the ballot shall be counted in such manner as may be prescribed by State Election Board rules, omitting the invalid vote.
(f) If it appears that a ballot is so torn, bent, or otherwise defective that it cannot be processed by the tabulating machine, the superintendent, in his or her discretion, may order the proper election official at the tabulating center or precinct to prepare a true duplicate copy for processing with the ballots of the same polling place, which shall be verified in the presence of a witness. All duplicate ballots shall be clearly labeled by the word “duplicate,” shall bear the designation of the polling place, and shall be given the same serial number as the defective ballot. The defective ballot shall be retained.
(g)(1) The central tabulator shall be programmed to reject any ballot, including absentee ballots, on which an overvote is detected and any ballot so rejected shall be manually reviewed by the vote review panel described in this Code section to determine the voter's intent as described in subsection (c) of Code Section 21-2-438 .
(2)(A) In a partisan election, the vote review panel shall be composed of the election superintendent or designee thereof and one person appointed by the county executive committee of each political party and body having candidates whose names appear on the ballot for such election, provided that, if there is no organized county executive committee for a political party or body, the person shall be appointed by the state executive committee of the political party or body. In a nonpartisan election, the panel shall be composed of the election superintendent or designee thereof and two electors of the county, in the case of a county election, or the municipality, in the case of a municipal election, appointed by the chief judge of the superior court of the county in which the election is held or, in the case of a municipality which is located in more than one county, of the county in which the city hall of the municipality is located. The panel shall manually review all ballots rejected by the tabulator under paragraph (1) of this subsection and shall determine by majority vote whether the elector's intent can be determined as described in subsection (c) of Code Section 21-2-438 and, if so, said vote shall be counted as the elector intended. In the event of a tie vote by the vote review panel, the vote of the election superintendent or designee thereof shall control.
(B) The election superintendent may create multiple vote review panels in accordance with subparagraph (A) of this paragraph to handle the processing of such ballots more efficiently. Upon the creation of such panels, the election superintendent shall designate one of the panels as the chief vote review panel. In the event of a disagreement on such additional panels, the ballots in question shall be reviewed by the chief vote review panel and decided in accordance with the procedures contained in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph.
(h) The official returns of the votes cast on ballots at each polling place shall be printed by the tabulating machine. The returns thus prepared shall be certified and promptly posted. The ballots, spoiled, defective, and invalid ballots, and returns shall be filed and retained as provided by law.
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