Georgia recount likely with Biden narrowly leading Trump

Updated: Nov. 6, 2020 at 6:35 AM EST
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ATLANTA (AP) — Joe Biden’s narrow lead over President Donald Trump in Georgia expanded Friday morning as vote counting continued, with about 1,500 votes separating the candidates after about five million votes were cast in the state.

“With a margin that small, there will be a recount,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Friday.

The Associated Press has not declared a winner in Georgia because the race between the Republican president and the Democratic nominee remains too early to call.

The Secretary of State’s office said several thousand absentee ballots were still being counted Friday. Also, 8,900 unreturned ballots sent to military and overseas voters could be counted if received by 5 p.m. Friday. Counties also have provisional ballots to review and possibly add to their totals, along with absentee ballots that need to be “cured” by voters by day’s end.

There are still “an unknowable amount of ballots” that could be counted, said Gabriel Sterling, who has overseen the implementation of Georgia’s new electronic voting system. He said counties have been working diligently to finish tabulating their results, and he emphasized his confidence in the legitimacy of the process. Any evidence-backed complaint will be investigated, he added.

“When you have a narrow margin, little, small things can make a difference. So everything’s going to have to be investigated to protect the integrity of the vote,” he said.

Under Georgia law, if the margin between Biden and Trump is under half a percentage point of difference, a recount can be requested. Sterling has said that if a recount is done, the outcome will stay essentially the same.

After each county certifies their total, the state will perform an audit before certifying the results. Counties must certify their results by Nov. 13 and the state must certify the results by Nov. 20.

With margins so narrow in Georgia, Democrats and Republicans along with voting advocacy groups are scrambling to encourage people to fix flaws in already submitted ballots before Friday’s deadline to ensure they are counted.

There are two categories of ballots where voters may need to “cure” flaws. One is in mail-in ballots, where voters may have forgotten to sign their ballot or elections workers may have decided that the signature doesn’t match.

The second is provisional ballots, where voters encountered a problem in person at a polling place and cast their vote with the understanding that officials would later determine whether it’s eligible. Some of these will be counted without further action, but if a voter didn’t present a photo identification, they will have to present ID to officials to cure their ballot. Advocates also say that in some cases, voters may need to go to a county elections office if they didn’t show up on the rolls at a polling place to make sure their ballot is counted.

Cam Ashling, a Democratic activist, said she spent Thursday canvassing Gwinnett and Hall counties northeast of Atlanta door to door, although she said she found few voters. She said volunteers are flooding in on the Democratic side to seek out missing ballots.

“I guess they’re waking up to the reality that we can flip Georgia,” Ashling said.

State officials couldn’t immediately provide the number of uncured absentee ballots. Provisional lists are kept at the county level, and there are thousands outstanding statewide that county officials will decide on whether to count.

Biden took the lead when results were updated early Friday by Clayton County, part of which is in Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, long held by Democrat Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights leader who died in July.

“It’s wonderful, that’s my point,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson told The Associated Press Friday morning by phone. “Dr. (Martin Luther) King and John Lewis speak from their graves today. The heavenly hosts rejoice.”

With 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, Georgia’s 16 electoral votes could clinch it for the Democrats.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.