Georgia to Hand Recount All 4.9 Million Votes in Presidential Race

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, in Atlanta. Georgia election officials have announced an audit of presidential election results that will trigger a full hand recount.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, in Atlanta. Georgia election officials have announced an audit of presidential election results that will trigger a full hand recount. AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

 

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The state’s Republican secretary of state says the recount is not being driven by requests from the Trump campaign, but rather the narrow outcome in the contest. The current count shows Democrat President-elect Joe Biden leading.

With President-elect Joe Biden leading President Trump by only about 14,000 votes in Georgia, the state’s top election official said on Wednesday that counties in the state will conduct a full recount, by hand, of the roughly five million ballots cast in the race.

The move comes as Trump has refused to acknowledge that he lost last week’s presidential election and as he continues to push unfounded claims that widespread voter fraud tipped the contest in Biden’s favor. Election officials from both parties across the country have said that there are no signs that illicit voting or other irregularities affected the election outcome.

Biden won enough states that the outcome in Georgia doesn’t decide the election, as he has already exceeded the necessary 270 electoral votes needed to win. But the state’s 16 electoral votes, along with 11 from Arizona (which Biden is also expected to win), would push his total to 306 to Trump’s 232 when the president is declared the winner of North Carolina as is currently predicted.   

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, said the state was not conducting the recount at the behest of the Trump campaign. “We're doing this because it is really what makes the most sense with the national significance of this race and the closeness of this race,” he said. “This will help build confidence,” he added. “It will be an audit, a recount and a re-canvas all at once.”

Raffensperger also said his office will continue to investigate any suspected cases of illegal voting that come to its attention. "Every legal vote will count,” he said. 

If the margin between Biden and Trump were wider, the secretary of state said, it might be possible to recount just a portion of the votes in order to audit and verify the current computer tally. But given the slim gap in votes, he said, the full recount of all ballots will be necessary.

The state has a Nov. 20 deadline to certify official election results and Raffensperger said the plan is to submit the numbers from the hand recount at that time. It will take a heavy lift by counties and election workers to complete the recount by the upcoming deadline, he added, with staff likely putting in long hours and racking up overtime pay.

Georgia also has a high stakes runoff election for two U.S. Senate seats scheduled for Jan. 5, less than two months after the recount in the presidential race is set to be finished. The outcome in those races will decide whether Democrats or Republicans control the Senate.

Both of Georgia's Republican Senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who are competing in the upcoming runoffs, have blasted Raffensperger, complaining that he’d mishandled the election and calling for him to resign. Raffensperger has defended the election process and said earlier this week that him stepping down is something that’s “not going to happen.”

Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

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