Georgia manual recount won’t replace official election results

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

Biden’s lead over Trump likely to stand

Georgia election officials said Tuesday they no longer intend to make the results of the state’s manual recount the official tally in the presidential race, with a couple of exceptions.

The decision leaves little chance for election results to change much after the recount concludes Wednesday. Joe Biden led President Donald Trump by 14,000 votes, according to unofficial results.

But some votes that weren’t originally counted will be added to the state’s totals. Election officials in Floyd and Fayette counties discovered ballots they hadn’t previously been tabulated, and those votes will be included in final counts. After accounting for those ballots, Biden’s lead will shrink to about 13,000 votes.

The change in how the recount is handled came after lawyers for the secretary of state’s office reviewed Georgia law and concluded that the new hand count shouldn’t replace the original machine count of scanned ballots, said Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager.

The recount, ordered by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger last week, is moving forward under a law calling for the first statewide audit of an election.

“The whole intent of the audit is to verify the results we already saw,” Sterling said. “We thought we were going to go down a path and then we kind of rethought it and said, ‘You know, the more legally stable way to do this is to do it this way.’”

If the audit uncovers serious discrepancies, as it did when ballots were found in Floyd and Fayette counties this week, county election officials will redo their original machine counts and then report a new total that will become a part of the official count.

The audit is intended to verify which candidate won rather than determine a perfect vote count, he said.

Marilyn Marks, an election integrity advocate who is suing the state over the security of Georgia’s voting machines, said the audit isn’t a meaningful or valid recount.

“It is a real shame that they put everyone through this made-up, all-in-one process that they knew from the very beginning could never be an all-in-one process,” Marks said. “This was a farce.”

The results of the audit will be released after it’s completed by a Wednesday night deadline.

Raffensperger has said the manual count has closely matched original counts so far, but some counties haven’t finished their hand tabulations yet.

There could be another recount after this one concludes.

Georgia law gives candidates a right to a recount if they lost by less than 0.5% and request a recount within two business days after Raffensperger certifies the election, which state law requires him to do by Friday.

A second recount would be conducted by rescanning ballots through computers, and it would become the official count if the original tally was incorrect.

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