Georgia’s exhausting election recount reaffirms Biden’s track to electoral win

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger plans to move forward with certification of Georgia's election results on Friday, Nov. 20, which narrowly awarded the state's 16 electoral votes to President-elect Joe Biden over President Donald Trump. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder (Nov. 4)

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger plans to certify the presidential election Friday after a recount of Georgia’s 5 million votes confirmed that President-elect Joe Biden narrowly edged out President Donald Trump.

The painstaking ballot hand count to audit the presidential election showed Biden received nearly 13,000 more votes than Trump in their contest for Georgia’s 16 electoral votes, prompting the Associated Press to call the state for Biden late Thursday. Lawsuits and recounts are still likely in Georgia and other states where the vote is close, but challenges so far are not reversing a presumed Biden victory.

While the audit results won’t be the official tally, the state’s election chief said it shows that Georgia’s 159 counties’ initial results for the Nov. 3 general election are accurate enough that the outcome won’t change.

Raffensperger ordered the full hand recount of the presidential race after the initial machine count of ballots showed Biden won by about 14,000 votes.

Recounting during the audit of the presidential race turned up nearly 6,000 ballots in several counties, which brought Trump 1,400 votes closer to Biden. Raffensperger said that the audit’s discrepancies are well below the expected difference between a hand count and machine count, which typically is less than 1.5%. 

And the vast majority of Georgia’s counties showed either no change or differed by fewer than 10 votes from their original tally. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is supposed to sign off on Biden’s Georgia electors by 5 p.m. Saturday, according to state law.

“Georgia’s historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state’s new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results,” Raffensperger said. “This is a credit to the hard work of our county and local elections officials who moved quickly to undertake and complete such a momentous task in a short period of time.”

State law requires an audit after a Georgia election, but because of the close race between Biden and Trump, Raffensperger also ordered a hand count of every vote cast in the presidential election. 

Thursday night Raffensperger said the results of the massive recount in all 159 Georgia counties show that the state’s new $104 million voting system is working as designed. The Republican spent the last week fielding death threats, fending off allegations of fraud from his own party and demands from Georgia’s GOP U.S. Senators that he resign.

Still, the full-blown recount did little to tamp down unsubstantiated claims from many Trump supporters and his legal team pushing conspiracy theories that voting fraud was widespread in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan, swing states that helped propel Biden to victory.

Trump is expected to request Georgia counties to add up the ballots a third time, since Biden won by less than .5%, a process that requires running paper ballots through high-speed scanners. The deadline to request the recount is two business days after the election is certified.

The president appears poised to continue to press his case to remain in office through the courts as well. 

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, said Thursday during an hour and a half press conference framed as an opening argument for the campaign’s multi-state legal challenge that the “recount being done in Georgia will tell us nothing because these fraudulent ballots will just be counted again,” referring to absentee paper ballots. 

Giuliani said the Trump campaign planned to file a “major lawsuit” in Georgia Friday just as state elections officials are set to certify the election results. He said the lawsuit would raise complaints filed in other states, including the access of GOP observers to see absentee ballot processing up close and a re-verifying of signatures. A record 1.3 million Georgians voted absentee during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Georgia Recorder Deputy Editor Jill Nolin contributed to this report. The Recorder is an affiliate of the Florida Phoenix.