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.
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.
The secretary of state's office reported Thursday that a hand tally of ballots cast in Georgia for the presidential race was completed, affirming Biden's narrow lead over Trump.
The hand count confirmed the former vice president leads Trump by roughly 12,000 votes out of nearly 5 million counted.
The complete hand recount 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. Georgia’s top elections official, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, on Friday certified the election results.
“Working as an engineer throughout my life, I live by the motto that numbers don’t lie,” Raffensperger said during a news conference at the state Capitol. “As secretary of state, I believe that the numbers that we have presented today are correct. 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.”
The final certified results had Biden with 2.47 million votes, Trump with 2.46 million votes and Libertarian Jo Jorgensen with 62,138. That leaves Biden leading by a margin of 12,670 votes or 0.25%.
Raffensperger’s office stumbled earlier in the day when it prematurely announced the certification while it was still unfinished. Forty minutes afterward, a corrected news release was sent out saying that the results would be released later. The momentary slip was yet another moment of drama in a race that has been fraught with accusations.
Georgia’s Republican governor then certified the state’s slate of 16 presidential electors. Gov. Brian Kemp’s spokesman Cody Hall said the governor certified the electors on Friday. Under state law, Kemp had until Saturday at 5 p.m.
With the state certifying the election results, the losing campaign has two business days to request a recount since 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, the secretary of state's office has said.
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While not formally a recount under the letter of state law, the hand tally conducted to complete the audit was effectively a recount in practice. No available evidence suggests a machine recount of ballots already reviewed by hand will result in a different outcome.
“The recount process simply reaffirmed what we already knew: Georgia voters selected Joe Biden to be their next president,” Biden campaign spokeswoman Jaclyn Rothenberg said in an email. “We are grateful to the election officials, volunteers and workers for working overtime and under unprecedented circumstances to complete this recount, as the utmost form of public service.”
The presidential race was selected by Raffensperger for review under a new state law that says one race in the general election must be audited by hand to check that machines counted ballots accurately. Raffensperger said the tight margin of the presidential race meant a full hand count of ballots was necessary to complete the audit.
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. 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.