Georgia recount shows ‘verdict of the people’ as results certified

11/06/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger makes remarks during an election update briefing at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Friday, November 6, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
11/06/2020 — Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger makes remarks during an election update briefing at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Friday, November 6, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

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

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

Photo ID requirement for absentee voting proposed

Georgia’s Republican governor and secretary of state certified election results Friday that showed Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump by over 12,000 votes, one of the closest margins in the country.

By making Georgia’s presidential results official, Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger validated two vote counts: an initial machine count of paper ballots, and a manual recount to audit the outcome.

Biden received 12,670 more votes than Trump, according to the certified vote total of machine counts. The recount found a similar result, with Biden ahead by 12,284 votes.

“Like other Republicans, I’m disappointed our candidate didn’t win,” Raffensperger said during a news conference at the state Capitol. “Working as an engineer throughout my life, I live by the motto that numbers don’t lie. As secretary of state, I believe that the numbers that we have presented today are correct. The numbers reflect the verdict of the people.”

Kemp’s certification awards Georgia’s 16 electoral votes to Biden, as required of him by state law.

Kemp criticized errors by county election officials that overlooked nearly 6,000 ballots until they were found during the manual recount and audit. Those ballots, which reduced Trump’s deficit by about 1,400 votes, were added to official totals before certification.

“Like the president, I’ve been frustrated with some of what I’ve seen — misplaced ballots, the confusion, the questions,” Kemp said. “I understand why he’s frustrated. He’s a fighter. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to follow the laws of the Constitution of this state, and what’s what I’m doing.”

Now that the election is certified, Trump can seek a machine recount.

State law gives candidates the right to another tabulation if they lost by less than half a percent and request it within two business days of certification. Trump trailed Biden by 0.3%. A recount would be paid for by Georgia taxpayers.

Trump complained about Kemp and Raffensperger on Twitter, writing that another review of voter signatures on absentee ballot envelopes could have found “illegal ballots.” County election officials verify signatures when they receive absentee ballots, but after that point, it’s impossible to match ballots back to voters due toballot secrecy protections guaranteed by the Georgia Constitution.

“Why are they so fast to certify a meaningless tally?” Trump wrote.

The Biden campaign said the human and machine counts both came to the same conclusion: Trump lost in Georgia.

“The recount process simply reaffirmed what we already knew: Georgia voters selected Joe Biden to be their next president,” said Jaclyn Rothenberg, a spokeswoman for the Biden campaign.

Rechecking vote totals by hand was only made possible because Georgia added paper ballots to the voting process this year, providing a way to validate computer tabulations. For the previous 18 years, in-person voters cast their ballots on electronic voting machines that lacked a paper ballot.

“Using Georgia’s new paper-based voting system, voters can check their ballots, and then election officials can review some or all of the ballots to confirm or correct the results,” said Mark Lindeman, interim co-director for Verified Voting, which assisted Georgia in its elections audit. “These practices let Georgia voters have greater confidence that their votes count.”

Raffensperger also proposed three changes to state law that he will seek in next year’s session of the Georgia General Assembly:

Photo ID for absentee voting: Voters would need to provide photo ID for their absentee ballots to be counted. Photo ID requirements would replace verification of absentee ballots by matching voter signatures, a process that the Trump campaign has attacked.

Raffensperger has supported photo ID since his 2018 campaign. While Raffensperger didn’t reveal details of the proposal, voters would have to provide a copy of their driver’s licenses or other identification in absentee ballot envelopes. Kemp said he supports the proposal.

State election intervention: The secretary of state’s office should be given the authority to intervene in counties that have “systemic, ongoing problems” such as miscounted ballots, Raffensperger said.

Voter registration cancellations: Raffensperger will seek more ways to allow challenges of the registrations of voters who are suspected of no longer living where they are registered.

These proposals could face obstacles in the General Assembly.

Many Democrats oppose stricter photo ID and voter registration cancellation laws, saying they’re more likely to disenfranchise legitimate voters than prevent voter fraud. And Republicans are wary of giving the secretary of state’s office power to take over local county offices that run elections.

Official election results

President

Joe Biden: 2,474,507 (49.5%)

Donald Trump: 2,461,837 (49.3%)

Jo Jorgensen: 62,138 (1.2)

U.S. Senate

David Perdue: 2,462,617 (49.7%)

Jon Ossoff: 2,374,519 (47.9%)

Shane Hazel: 115,039 (2.3%)

U.S. Senate

Raphael Warnock: 1,617,035 (32.9%)

Kelly Loeffler: 1,273,214 (25.9%)

Other 18 candidates: 2,024,112 (41.2%)

Note: Both Senate races will be decided by runoffs Jan. 5.

Source: Secretary of state’s office

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