The presidential votes in Georgia — which were certified Friday — will be counted one more time, as the re-election campaign of President Donald J. Trump on Saturday exercised its right to request a recount.
More than 5 million ballots will be fed through scanners — the method used to count them on and after Nov. 3 — a process that may take a week. Georgia election laws do not include automatic recounts but allows candidates to request recounts in races with a margin of 0.5 percent of less. The request must be made within two business days of certification, which would have been by the close of business Tuesday.
Legal challenges to Georgia’s vote by attorneys representing the Trump campaign thus far have been rejected by federal judges.
In a statement Saturday, Trump’s campaign called for re-matching the signatures on absentee ballots with signatures on absentee ballot applications. Signatures are checked at the county level before ballots are counted. However, the ballots are then removed from the signed outer envelope to protect ballot secrecy, a right enshrined in the state’s constitution.
The vote totals certified Friday by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans, came after completion of a post-election “risk limiting audit” hand count required by Georgia election law. Raffensperger could have selected any statewide race, but his office said, “Understanding the importance of clear and reliable results for such an important contest,” he chose the presidential race for the 159-county audit.
Raffensperger’s office said that, “Understanding the importance of clear and reliable results for such an important contest,” he chose the presidential race for the 159-county audit.
According to those results, Democratic former vice president Joe Biden defeated Republican incumbent Trump by 12,284 votes, a margin of 0.24 percent. Biden received 2,475,141 votes (49.49 percent); Trump 2,462,857 (49.25 percent), and Libertarian Jo Jorgensen 62,587 (1.25 percent), out of 5,000,585 total votes.
Nationwide, the totals available Nov. 21 gave Biden nearly 79.8 million votes and Trump more than 73.7 million.
Biden is the first Democrat to claim Georgia’s Electoral College votes since Bill Clinton in 1992. Georgia’s 16 Electoral College votes will be cast for Biden when each state’s electors gather Dec. 14. Nationally, Biden is projected to receive 306 electoral votes to 232 for Trump; 270 being required to win the election. Biden’s total would be the same as Trump’s in his 2016 victory against Democrat Hillary Clinton. Congress is scheduled to certify the Electoral College vote Jan. 6. Biden then would be sworn in Jan. 20 as the 46th president of the United States of America.
In a statement issued Friday, Raffensperger said, “Georgia’s historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state’s new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results. 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.”
In televised remarks that followed Raffensperger’s statement, Kemp said, “State law now requires the governor’s office to formalize the certification, which paves the way for the Trump campaign to pursue other legal options in a separate recount if they choose.”
Looking ahead to the Jan. 5 statewide runoffs for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats and a seat on Georgia’s Public Service Commission, Kemp said, ”We demand complete explanations for all the discrepancies identified so that our citizens will have complete confidence in our elections. In the runoff election, we cannot have lost memory cards or stacks of uncounted ballots. We must have full transparency in all monitoring and counting. Every legal vote must be counted, and the security of the ballot box must be protected.” The audit found more than 3,300 votes stored on memory cards that three counties failed to upload to the state’s computers and 2,600 ballots in another that had not been scanned.
Kemp said that “the vast majority of local election workers did their jobs well under unprecedented circumstances,” notably the more than 1.3 million absentee ballots cast, many by Georgians wishing to avoid possible exposure to the COVID-19 coronavirus. “However, it’s quite honestly hard to believe that during the audit thousands of uncounted ballots were found weeks after a razor-thin outcome in a presidential election. This is simply unacceptable. I have heard directly from countless Georgians. They expect better, and they deserve better.”
Kemp said that he would work with the legislature to address issues raised in recent weeks, including the issue of matching signatures on absentee ballots with signatures on applications. The governor also suggested that consideration be given to requiring the use of photo identification in casting absentee ballots, as is required when voters cast their ballots in person.