ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — The clock is ticking on the federal deadline for Georgia to certify the votes from the November 3, 2020 election. The Secretary of State’s office announced they will start a risk-limiting audit on Friday and all counties will start counting the more than five million ballots by hand.

Statewide Voting System Implementation Manager Gabriel Sterling says it will be the largest hand re-tallying in the history of the country, and he says it will be open to the public. “We’re working with the counties to make sure they have the manpower in place. We feel very confident we can get them in by the 20th, but we’re aiming for the 18th.”

In legal terms, the office explained the process is technically not a recount, which would involve rescanning all of the ballots. Instead, they consider it as re-tallying the paper ballots by hand.

“If there is a ballot they’re looking at and they cannot discern the voter’s intent, it will be handed to an adjudication team,” said Sterling, adding a Democratic and Republican team will work to determine what the voter’s intent was.

Officials repeated their stance that voters can trust the electronic voting machines used during the election. “We stand by that statement, because it is the truth. We anticipate this audit will bear that out,” said Sterling.

As of Thursday afternoon, the margin of votes between projected winner Joe Biden and President Donald Trump was just over 14,000. Sterling says human error could slightly change that margin, but not enough to affect the outcome of the election. He rejected accusations that the audit is catering to the Trump Campaign. “The point of the audit is to show the machines counted the ballots fairly,” he said. “If it was 14,000 votes the other way, we would be doing the exact same thing.”

He also addressed what the office says called misinformation and accusations of the Dominion software leaning to the left. “It’s not happening, and it’s the reason for the audit to begin with,” Sterling said.

The office doesn’t plan to release any results during the audit and counting process. Officials hope to complete the process by November 18.