U.S. President-elect Joe Biden was declared the winner of Georgia Thursday after a statewide manual recount confirmed his narrow lead over President Donald Trump in the presidential race.
Georgia was the final state to be called by the Associated Press as it awaited the results of the audit, which was ordered by the state’s top election official to assure the integrity of the initial election results.
Biden is the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the traditionally Republican stronghold since Bill Clinton in 1992. Georgia is also now the fifth state to be flipped from Trump’s electoral wins in 2016.
With Georgia’s 16 electoral votes, Biden is now projected to have won the election with 306 votes compared to Trump’s 232.
The highly anticipated recount report was released Thursday evening amid a contentious battle over the results of the election, which Biden was already projected to have won nearly two weeks ago.
Biden’s lead over Trump in the traditionally Republican-leaning state was roughly 13,000 votes before Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ordered the audit of all five million ballots cast for president.
The final results now show that lead largely unchanged, with Trump improving his vote total by just under one per cent.
“Georgia’s historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state’s new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results,” Raffensperger said in a statement.
The AP declared Biden the winner of Georgia shortly after the report was released. While other outlets had already declared Biden the winner of Georgia before the state’s audit was completed, the Associated Press held off, due to a practice of not calling states that are subject to a recount.
Because Biden’s lead over Trump in Georgia is still less than 0.5 per cent of all votes cast, state law says the Trump campaign can still request another recount after the state election results are certified. Raffensperger is expected to formally certify Biden’s victory on Friday.
Unlike this manual audit, where paper ballots cast were counted by hand, a recount requested by Trump would see those ballots get electronically scanned.
The Trump campaign has yet to comment on whether it will request that recount.
Trump and his team of lawyers and campaign surrogates have targeted Georgia along with other battleground states that flipped to Biden, pushing baseless allegations of voter fraud and manipulation of vote tabulation software without providing proper evidence.
Trump has repeatedly attacked the recount process and called it “a joke.” He has also made repeated incorrect assertions that Georgia election officials are unable to verify signatures on absentee ballot envelopes. In fact, Georgia requires that they be checked.
Republicans have filed multiple lawsuits in Georgia contesting the results, pointing to isolated instances of fraud and disputing the absentee ballot process. One lawsuit seeking to toss votes received after Election Day was withdrawn due to a lack of evidence.
Raffensperger, a Republican, has also come under fire from his own party over the results of the election. Party members have accused the secretary of state of incompetence and have called for his resignation, which Raffensperger has dismissed.
Georgia will continue to be in the spotlight even after the recount confirmed Biden’s win. Both races for the U.S. Senate there are headed to runoffs in early January, with Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue fending off challenges from Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
–With files from the Associated Press
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