Georgia presidential hand tally done, affirms Biden’s win

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President-elect Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, speaks at The Queen theater, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

ATLANTA (AP) — A top Georgia election official said Thursday that a hand tally of ballots cast in the presidential race has been completed.

Joe Biden has won Georgia and its 16 electoral votes, an extraordinary victory for Democrats who pushed to expand their electoral map through the Sun Belt.

The win by Biden pads his Electoral College margin of victory over President Donald Trump. Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election on Nov. 7 after flipping Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to the Democrats’ column.

The hand tally of about 5 million votes stemmed from an audit required by a new state law and wasn’t in response to any suspected problems with the state’s results or an official recount request. The state has until Friday to certify results that have been certified and submitted by the counties.

The counties were supposed to finish the hand count by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. Gabriel Sterling, who oversaw the implementation of the state’s new voting system, said Thursday evening that the audit was complete and the results would soon be posted on the secretary of state’s website.

A official holds up a completions sign as they sort ballots during an audit at the Georgia World Congress Center on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Atlanta. Election officials in Georgia’s 159 counties are undertaking a hand tally of the presidential race that stems from an audit required by state law. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Once the state certifies the election results, the losing campaign has two business days to request a recount if the margin remains within 0.5%. That recount would be done using scanners that read and tally the votes and would be paid for by the counties, Sterling said.

The Trump campaign released a statement saying they “demand that Georgia conduct an honest recount” though it’s unclear if they will make a formal request come Friday.

Headlines are already falsely reporting that Joe Biden is declared the winner in Georgia. Sorry, media, that’s not how it works. The State of Georgia has not certified its results, and it should not. This so-called hand recount went exactly as we expected because Georgia simply recounted all of the illegal ballots that had been included in the total. We continue to demand that Georgia conduct an honest recount, which includes signature matching. We intend to pursue all legal options to ensure that only legal ballots are counted.

Trump Campaign Senior Legal Advisor Jenna Ellis

It was up to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to select the race to be audited, and he said the presidential race made the most sense because of its significance and the tight margin separating the candidates. Because of that small margin, Raffensperger said a full hand recount was necessary.

Votes that hadn’t previously been counted were found in several counties during the audit, which required recertification of the election results in those counties.

In Floyd County, more than 2,500 ballots were discovered during the audit that hadn’t previously been scanned, and the secretary of state’s office had called for the firing of the county’s chief elections clerk, Robert Brady.

Ballots are stored on portable shelving at a Cobb County Election facility as officials handle ballots during an audit, Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, in Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

The county elections board on Thursday voted to issue a written reprimand to Brady and, because it was his second written reprimand within six months, to fire him in accordance with county policy, board member Melanie Conrad said in an email.

Several other counties found memory cards with votes that hadn’t been uploaded and counted prior to the audit.

Going into the hand tally, Biden led Trump by a margin of about 14,000 votes. The previously uncounted ballots discovered during the hand count will reduce that margin to about 12,800, Sterling said.

Biden now has 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.

Trump won Georgia by 5 percentage points in 2016 over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

In 2020, Democrats had focused heavily on the state, seeing it in play two years after Democrat Stacey Abrams narrowly lost the governor’s race.

Both of Georgia’s Senate seats were on the ballot this year, further boosting the state’s political profile as well as spending by outside groups seeking to influence voters. Those two races are headed to a January runoff.

Georgia hadn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton in 1992.

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