Georgia manual recount confirms Biden victory

201116-Lawrenceville-Workers count ballots at the Gwinnett County election warehouse in Lawrenceville on Monday evening, Nov. 16, 2020. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
201116-Lawrenceville-Workers count ballots at the Gwinnett County election warehouse in Lawrenceville on Monday evening, Nov. 16, 2020. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

A manual recount of 5 million ballots cast in Georgia showed Thursday that Joe Biden won the presidential election, validating initial results.

The recount found that Biden received 12,284 more votes than President Donald Trump.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger plans to certify the election by Friday, a deadline set by state law to finalize results.

The hand recount, which also functioned as an audit of the election, mostly aligned with initial machine counts. It also uncovered almost 6,000 ballots in four counties that had been overlooked in the initial tally, resulting in Trump closing his deficit to Biden by 1,400 votes.

Both counts found the same outcome: Thousands more voters in Georgia chose Biden than Trump.

11/17/2020 Ñ  Marietta, Georgia Ñ Cobb County elections workers continue to count and sort ballots during a Cobb County  hand recount of Presidential votes at the Jim Miller Park Event Center  in Marietta, Tuesday, November 17, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/17/2020 Ñ Marietta, Georgia Ñ Cobb County elections workers continue to count and sort ballots during a Cobb County hand recount of Presidential votes at the Jim Miller Park Event Center in Marietta, Tuesday, November 17, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

In addition to the votes Trump gained from the newly discovered ballots, he also picked up nearly 500 additional votes in the manual tally. The machine count showed Trump trailing by 12,780 votes.

The recount and audit, ordered by Raffensperger last week, was a major effort to verify the results of the presidential election. He sought the recount following political pressure from Trump allies who questioned Georgia’s results.

“Georgia’s historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state’s new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results,” said Raffensperger, a Republican. “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 Associated Press called the race in Georgia for Biden soon after the recount was completed. Several other major media outlets projected Biden would win last Friday.

ExploreTrump allies draw Georgia into election conspiracy claims

The hand recount showed small differences from the original machine count, which election officials said they expected.

In all, there were 126 counties within 10 votes of their original vote tally, according to the audit data. Of those counties, 54 counties matched their initial results exactly. No county had an error rate higher than 0.73% compared to their original results.

Initial election results were produced by optical scanners that read either bar codes on printed-out paper ballots or filled-in ovals on absentee ballots.

The recount reviewed every ballot by hand, with humans reading the printed text or ovals on each ballot across Georgia’s 159 counties.

Biden is on track to receive Georgia’s 16 votes in the Electoral College, which will meet Dec. 14 to cast their ballots for president.

“We’ve been saying from the beginning that the results of this audit would show that Joe Biden won this race,” said Maggie Chambers, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Georgia.

The Trump campaign bashed Georgia’s recount because it didn’t include another verification of voter signatures on absentee ballot envelopes. Election workers checked signatures when absentee ballots are received, but signature matching is impossible during recounts because ballot envelopes can’t be traced back to ballots. The Georgia Constitution guarantees ballot secrecy.

“Whatever the count in Georgia today is, it’s totally ridiculous,” said Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, during a nationally televised press conference earlier in the day. “They’re counting the same fraudulent ballots one more time, and we’re still very close.”

A lawsuit by a Trump supporter to block Georgia from finalizing its results fell short in federal court Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Steven Grimberg, a Trump appointee, found no justification to halt certification of election results based on allegations of improprieties by attorney L. Lin Wood, the plaintiff in the case.

The hand-count audit made clear that mistakes that resulted in missed votes the first time around didn’t affect the outcome of the election, said Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, a government accountability organization. Most of the overlooked votes were stored on memory cards that county election officials failed to load after election night.

“It’s important to keep those mistakes in perspective: humans make mistakes. That’s why Georgia has a risk-limiting audit process, to look for these types of mistakes and double-check that the election outcome is correct,” Dennis said.

Gwinnett County had a large difference in its manual recount, with 1,642 more ballots counted than were scanned by machine. The additional votes benefited Trump, netting him 285 more votes.

There could be another recount next week. Under Georgia law, candidates have the right to request a machine recount after certification if they lost by less than half a percent. Trump was trailing Biden by about 0.3%. The cost of the recounts will be paid by taxpayers.

If the next recount finds the original count was incorrect, the results of the election would be recertified, according to state law.

By the numbers

12,284: Joe Biden’s advantage over Donald Trump in a manual recount

12,780: Machine-counted margin between the candidates

5 million: Ballots recounted by hand since Friday

Recount changes

Joe Biden carried the five core metro Atlanta counties, but here’s how the recount affected the margins between the two candidates. For example, Trump picked up 345 votes in Fulton County during the recount:

Clayton: +145 Trump

Cobb: +315 Biden

DeKalb: +560 Biden

Fulton: +345 Trump

Gwinnett: +285 Trump

Georgia: +496 Trump

Source: Georgia secretary of state’s office

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