A statewide audit of the presidential race in Georgia upholds President-elect Joe Biden’s victory there, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Thursday evening.
The audit tallied by hand all ballots, which were initially counted by machines. President Donald Trump’s campaign is still entitled to request a recount once the election results are certified. The state certification deadline is on Friday.
“Georgia’s historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state’s new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results,” Raffensperger, a Republican, said in a statement announcing the result. “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.”
The full audit, which is undertaken to check the accuracy of the machine count, found Biden ahead by just under 12,300 votes in the state. During the audit process, four counties — Floyd, Fayette, Douglas and Walton — found ballots that were not initially reported, either because they were never initially counted (which was the case in Floyd) or not uploaded correctly (the latter three counties). Those counties all reuploaded their results, which shrank Biden’s margin by around 1,400 votes, not enough to jeopardize his lead.
Raffensperger has been under withering criticism from members of his own party, who have alleged impropriety without providing any specific evidence. He has faced pressure from both the state’s Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, to step down, while Rep. Doug Collins, a close ally of Trump, has been blistering in his criticism. But Raffensperger has stood firm and defended the integrity of the election, which election officials across the country say was secure and free from systemic fraud.
“This is not a political process. It’s really an accounting process, it’s adding up all the numbers and making sure they line up,” Raffensperger said in an interview with POLITICO on Wednesday afternoon.
It seems likely the Trump campaign will request a recount. Unlike other states, such as Wisconsin, where the Trump campaign paid $3 million for a partial recount in two heavily Democratic areas of the state, state and local election officials would shoulder the cost burden of a recount in Georgia.
“We continue to demand that Georgia conduct an honest recount, which includes signature matching,” said Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser for the campaign. “We intend to pursue all legal options to ensure that only legal ballots are counted.“
The Trump campaign continues to home in on signatures, falsely alleging widespread malfeasance. Ballots themselves in the state are not signed, but outer envelopes are. Once the signature is verified, the ballot and envelope are separated and there is no way for election officials to tell which voter cast which ballot, a common practice to protect ballot privacy.
A recount, following the audit, would be exceedingly unlikely to change Biden’s victory. The recount would be a machine retabulation of the ballots, and the secretary of state’s office says the audit showed that the machines did a proper job in counting votes.
Trump and his allies have spread significant misinformation about the Georgia voting process. The president wrongly claimed that signatures could not be verified in the state, while he and his team have falsely alleged that Dominion voting systems have switched votes away from him across the country. Earlier in the week, Raffensperger’s office announced the results of an audit of a random sample of the actual voting machines, which “found no evidence of the machines being tampered.”
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