Georgia’s hand audit of nearly five million ballots confirmed that President-elect Joe Biden won the state, election officials announced Thursday evening.
Biden’s unofficial margin of victory was 12,780 votes after “human errors” in four Georgia counties — Douglas, Fayette, Floyd and Walton — led local election officials to resubmit their final results. Those errors cut Biden’s lead by more than 1,000 votes statewide.
The tally will become official Friday when the state certifies the election. Biden’s margin of victory was 0.3%, meaning incumbent Donald Trump’s campaign could request a recount.
Most Georgia counties reported no or single-digit differences between their initial tallies and audit totals. The audit showed a 0.1053% variation in the statewide total and a 0.0099% variation in the margin. The expected variation between hand and machine counts, assuming no issues beyond normal human counting errors, range from 1.0%-1.5% across ballot types, a summary of the audit reads.
The hand audit had the gap between Biden and Trump at 12,284 votes, giving Trump a net increase of roughly 500 votes. However, that won’t be the official margin because tallies in other counties won’t change based on the hand recount. The purpose of Georgia’s audit under current law is to confirm the outcome of the election, not the exact margins.
“Georgia’s historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state’s new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results,” said Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a statement. “This is a credit to the hard work of our county and local elections officials who moved quickly to undertake and complete such a momentous task in a short period of time.”
Debunking conspiracy theories
In the weeks following Election Day and throughout the audit process, Raffensperger and his office withstood pressure from fellow Republicans and debunked internet conspiracy theories about widespread voting irregularities and election tampering. Some of those false claims were made or promoted by President Donald Trump.
Sitting U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler called for Raffensperger to resign over his handling of the election and claimed the secretary of state’s office was not being “transparent” — one of the first examples of high ranking Republican officials casting doubt on the integrity of Georgia’s election.
When Trump falsely claimed that Georgia election officials are unable to verify signatures on absentee ballot envelopes, Raffensperger’s office took to Facebook to explain that signatures tied to the state’s absentee ballots were checked twice.
Under state law, voters must sign a request for an absentee ballot, and that request signature is checked against the state’s database. Voters who request the ballot online must provide their driver’s license or state ID number to confirm their identification. Voters must also sign an outer ballot envelope, and that signature is also checked against the state’s database.
Ballots removed from signed envelopes can’t be traced back to the voter to protect ballot secrecy.
Trump also falsely claimed that machines from Dominion Voting Systems, Georgia’s provider, were deleting and switching votes nationwide. Pro V&V, a U.S. Election Assistance Commission-certified testing laboratory, audited a random sample of Georgia’s voting machines. They found no evidence that the machines were tampered with, according to a news release from Raffensperger’s office earlier this week.
Some human errors were discovered during the audit process, according to election officials.
The audit in Walton County found that a memory card of nearly 284 votes had not been uploaded. Floyd County workers had to rescan early and provisional ballots after 2,600 uncounted votes were found. Fayette County election officials found a memory card of nearly 2,800 votes that they had to upload to its final tally. Biden gained a net total of about 30 votes in Douglas County after election officials found an Election Day memory card.
State election officials have until Friday to certify their election results. Because the margin is within 0.5%, Trump has a legal right to request a recount.
The Trump campaign has two business days to file their formal request, according to state election officials. If the state certified its results on Friday, Trump’s deadline would be Nov. 24.
The recount would be done electronically, in accordance with current state election law. Counties will cover the cost of both the audit and a potential recount. The moving of elections moved from Dec. 1 to Jan. 5 will save counties “millions of dollars,” and state election officials are looking for ways that federal funds could be used to offset these costs, the secretary of state’s office previously said.
“Georgia’s first statewide audit successfully confirmed the winner of the chosen contest and should give voters increased confidence in the results,” Ben Adida, Executive Director of VotingWorks, said in a statement. “We were proud to work with Georgia on this historic audit. The difference between the reported results and the full manual tally is well within the expected error rate of hand-counting ballots, and the audit was a success.”