President-elect Joe Biden’s razor-thin lead in Georgia was affirmed Thursday with the completion of a statewide audit of the presidential race. Thirty minutes later, the Associated Press called the race for the Democrat.
The secretary of state’s office says the hand count as part of the statewide audit put Biden ahead by 12,284 votes. The original machine count of the ballots had Biden 12,780 votes ahead of President Donald Trump.
“Georgia’s historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state’s new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “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.”
Counties spent days – and thousands of dollars — conducting the hand count of ballots as part of the audit, a process meant to verify the accuracy of Georgia’s new $100 million voting system.
Biden’s lead, which was at just over 14,000 before the audit process, dipped slightly as more than 5,000 previously unreported ballots were discovered in four counties – Floyd, Fayette, Douglas and Walton. Those ballots were scanned again, becoming part of the machine count.
The majority of Georgia’s 159 counties saw little or no change in their vote totals from the original machine count.
“The recount process simply reaffirmed what we already knew: Georgia voters selected Joe Biden to be their next president,” said Jaclyn Rothenberg with the Biden campaign. “We are grateful to the election officials, volunteers and workers for working overtime and under unprecedented circumstances to complete this recount, as the utmost form of public service.”
The state faces a Friday deadline to certify elections. After that, state law allows the losing candidate to request a recount of races decided by 0.5% or less. Trump must request this within two business days of certification and the recount will be done by scanner, barring a court order or if the scanners do not pass an accuracy test.
With the Associated Press’ call, Biden will officially become the first Democrat since 1992 to win Georgia’s 16 electoral college votes. The AP projected Biden and running mate Kamala Harris as the winners of the nationwide vote on Nov. 7.
More than 1.3 million Georgians voted by mail in the November election, a new record for the state. Biden outperformed Trump by a 2-to-1 margin in absentee balloting. This helped him close a 300,000-vote gap in the days following Nov. 3 as counties, especially large ones, continued counting absentee ballots that arrived before the state-mandated 7 p.m. Election Day deadline.
This shift led Trump and his allies to claim, without evidence, that absentee-by-mail voting in Georgia was fraught with widespread fraud. The Georgia secretary of state’s office has said it has seen no evidence of this happening, but did vow to investigate any complaints of fraud or irregularities.