ATLANTA – Election officials across Georgia were expected to complete a hand tally of the presidential race Wednesday night, which would allow state officials to begin the process of certifying the election results, a top elections official said.
The hand recount of about 5 million votes stems 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 deadline for the counties to complete the audit was 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, ahead of the Friday deadline for state certification. Gabriel Sterling, who oversaw the implementation of the state’s new voting system, said he expects the counties to meet that deadline. He said the secretary of state's office plans to release a report on the audit Thursday.
The hand count is meant to ensure that the state’s new election machines accurately tabulated the votes and isn’t expected to change the overall outcome, state election officials have repeatedly said.
Going into the count, Democrat Joe Biden led Republican President Donald Trump by a margin of about 14,000 votes. Previously uncounted ballots discovered in four counties —Douglas, Fayette, Floyd and Walton — during the hand count will reduce that margin to about 12,800, Sterling said.
A law passed last year requires the audit but leaves it up to the secretary of state to select the race to be audited. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he chose the presidential race because of its significance and tight margin. Because of the close results, he said, a full hand recount would be needed to complete the audit.
Once the results are certified, if the margin between the candidates remains within 0.5%, the losing campaign has two business days to request a recount. Sterling said he hoped the hand tally affirming the result of the election would be enough to convince everyone that the election results were sound, but he said a recount would be done if requested.
“I'm hoping that we won't have to put the counties through that level of work,” Sterling said. “But if that request comes through, it's a lawful request.”