By Beau Evans
Capitol Beat News Service
In an unprecedented move, Georgia will undertake a hand recount of the nearly 5 million ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election with roughly 14,000 votes separating President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Wednesday.
Several state and local runoff elections including a seat on the Public Service Commission will also be rescheduled from Dec. 1 to Jan. 5 for election workers to better prepare for another wave of voters, Raffensperger said.
Raffensperger formally called for the hand recount as part of a regular audit of the election results, which were poised to be done via an electronic sampling of ballots before Raffensperger revised the process under emergency powers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, all 159 county elections boards in Georgia will have until the certification deadline of Nov. 20 to count by hand every in-person, mail-in and provisional ballot cast in last week’s election, Raffensperger said at a news conference Wednesday.
A recount of this magnitude has not been conducted before in Georgia and follows record turnout in the Nov. 3 general election. Raffensperger said the hand count should instill confidence in the final election results amid growing – and unproven – accusations of voter fraud.
“We understand the significance of this for not just Georgia but for every single American,” Raffensperger said. “At the end of the day, when we do a hand count, then we can answer the question of exactly what was the final margin in this race.”
Biden led Trump by 14,108 votes in Georgia as of Wednesday afternoon, drawing intense focus to a state that a Democratic presidential nominee has not won since 1992 and which is set for two runoff elections on Jan. 5 that could decide the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.
Democratic leaders in Georgia have dismissed claims of voter fraud and urged Trump to begin a smooth transition of power to Biden, who was declared winner of the election by a host of major news outlets analyzing the vote tallies on Saturday. No outlets have called the race in Georgia so far.
The voting rights group Fair Fight, founded by former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, shortly after Raffensperger’s announcement Wednesday said that Trump “cannot overturn the will of Georgia voters.”
“Donald Trump is delaying the inevitable,” the group said on Twitter. “He lost, and he knows it.”
Republican allies of Trump hailed Raffensperger’s decision Wednesday, calling it a good first step in a push to weed out whether any ineligible ballots were cast. The president and his supporters have cried foul on the election results over the past week, alleging voter fraud without hard evidence in close-race states like Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, who is leading the Trump campaign’s recount activities in Georgia, said in a conference call Wednesday his team is looking at allegations of ballot harvesting and improperly signed ballots, as well as some alleged instances of dead Georgians voting.
“This is a victory for integrity,” Collins said of the recount. “This is a victory for transparency.”
Raffensperger and his staff have not discovered any evidence of substantial ballot-casting fraud yet but have pledged to investigate credible allegations that may arise.
“Anecdotes and stories don’t work,” Raffensperger said Wednesday. “We need something we can actually investigate.