Georgia’s top elections official certified voting results on Friday that show President-elect Joe Biden narrowly won the state, a move that comes the same day as Vice President Mike Pence visits to boost Republicans in twin runoffs for control of the U.S. Senate.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger finalized the vote count ahead of a legal deadline that required the results to be certified by Friday, though President Donald Trump’s campaign is likely to demand another recount of the tally.
The timing of Pence’s visit, coinciding with the day officials confirm Trump will be the first Republican to lose Georgia since 1992, underscores the internal GOP fissures sparked by the president’s promotion of false claims about his election defeat.
Raffensperger certified Biden’s victory as Pence was speaking to hundreds of supporters at an outdoor pavilion in Gainesville. Some of those in attendance chanted “stop the steal” as Pence started speaking.
Top state Republicans have not acknowledged Biden’s victory even as they warn that Democrats could have complete control of Washington if U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue are defeated on Jan. 5.
Pence, who is set to speak at rallies in Canton and Gainesville Friday afternoon, will likely echo the calls to “save the Republican majority.” If Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock flip the seats, the Senate would be divided 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.
Raffensperger certified the vote after a manual recount of roughly 5 million ballots validated the initial results of the election. That recount uncovered almost 6,000 ballots that had been overlooked in the first tally, resulting in Trump closing his deficit to Biden by 1,400 votes.
The manual recount showed Biden received 12,284 more votes than Trump, making it one of the thinnest margins in the nation. Only Arizona, where roughly 11,000 votes divide the two presidential candidates, is closer.
“The numbers reflect the verdict of the people, not a decision by the secretary of state’s office, or of courts or of either campaign,” Raffensperger said Friday. “Our first goal is carrying out elections successfully and getting the results right.”
Trump’s campaign has tried to delay Raffensperger, a Republican he once endorsed, from certifying the results. And the president has singled out both Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp for criticism as he promotes the false narrative the election was stolen from him.
Late Thursday, Trump legal adviser Jenna Ellis said the campaign would “pursue all legal options.” Several lawsuits filed by Trump’s allies in Georgia have already been dismissed, including a complaint rejected Thursday that sought to bar the certification.
Raffensperger has forcefully denied Trump’s allegations of wrongdoing in Georgia’s election, and he and other state officials have publicly debunked conspiracy theories that undermine the integrity of the vote.
Biden campaign spokeswoman Jaclyn Rothenberg said in a statement Thursday that the hand-counting of ballots “simply reaffirmed what we already knew: Georgia voters selected Joe Biden to be their next president.”
After Raffensperger certified the vote, the next step will be for Kemp to certify the 16 Democratic electors for the state by 5 p.m. Saturday. The group of party powerbrokers and activists includes Stacey Abrams, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and U.S. Rep.-elect Nikema Williams.
Still, 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.
Some Republicans worry the infighting over the election is distracting attention from the 2021 runoffs – and that Trump’s claims of fraud could dampen GOP voter enthusiasm by sending the signal the vote is rigged.
Loeffler and Perdue are relying on a host of big-name Republicans to re-energize voters, and each have relayed dire warnings about “radical” Democrats while largely steering clear of Trump’s claims.
Pence’s visit makes him the latest potential 2024 presidential candidate to stump in Georgia, following trips from Sens. Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. The vice president is headed for Cherokee and Hall counties – two of the most important GOP strongholds in the state.