GEORGIA — Georgia’s governor and top election official both certified the presidential election results on Friday, securing President-elect Joe Biden as winner of the state.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger certified the results earlier in the day before Gov. Brian Kemp made his announcement that afternoon.
The officials, “validated two vote counts: an initial machine count of paper ballots, and a manual recount to audit the outcome,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.
The two counts showed a slight discrepancy between results, with the machine count showing Biden received 12,670 more votes than President Donald Trump, but the recount audit showing Biden ahead by 12,284 votes.
“Working as an engineer throughout my life, I live by the motto that numbers don’t lie,” Raffensperger said. “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.”
Although certified, Kemp criticized the way election officials handled the audit.
“We demand complete explanations for all discrepancies identified so our citizens have complete confidence in the runoffs,” Kemp said. “We cannot have lost memory cards or stacks of uncounted ballots in upcoming runoffs for U.S. Senate. Every legal vote must be counted, and the security of the ballot box must be protected.”
As predicted by Raffensperger — a Republican who heads Georgia’s election office — the results of the hand review of the nearly 5 million votes cast in the presidential election showed Biden won the state and its 16 electoral votes. The announcement was delayed until Thursday evening because one county was still auditing ballots.
During the news conference Friday, Raffensperger said he plans “to propose election-law changes aimed at increasing trust in the results, by allowing state officials to intervene in counties that have systemic problems in administering elections, requiring photo ID for absentee voting and enabling more challenges to voters who might not live where they say,” WSB-TV reported.
Raffensperger said the risk-limiting audit of Georgia’s presidential contest upheld and reaffirmed the original outcome produced by the machine tally of votes cast. Due to the tight margin of the race and the principles of risk-limiting audits, the audit was a full manual tally of all votes cast. The audit confirmed that the original machine count accurately portrayed the winner of the election, his office said in a news release.
“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. “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.”
Biden defeated President Donald Trump by 12,284 votes, according to the final count from the audit.
On Nov. 11, Raffensperger ordered a hand recount of the entire state’s general election, which began the next day. He pledged the process would be transparent, with Democrats, Republicans and independents standing behind the vote counters as they checked every ballot.
The deadline for every county to complete the re-tally was Wednesday at midnight, and the deadline for the state to certify results was Friday, the Associated Press reported.
By law, Georgia was required to conduct the audit of a statewide race following the Nov. 3 elections.
The audit process also led to counties catching mistakes they made in their original count by not uploading all memory cards. Those counties uploaded the memory cards and recertified their results, leading to increased accuracy in the results the state will certify, the state said.
In Georgia’s recount, the highest error rate in any county recount was 0.73 percent. Most counties found no change in their finally tally. The majority of the remaining counties had changes of fewer than 10 ballots.
According to the audit report, Georgia showed a 0.1053 percent variation in statewide total vote count, and a 0.0099 percent variation in the overall margin.
Because the margin is still less than 0.5 percent, Trump can request a recount after certification of the results. That recount would be done by rescanning all paper ballots.
The recount has shown no significant voting irregularities except for in Floyd County, where about 2,500 early-voting ballots initially went uncounted because of a malfunctioning scanner. About 1,600 of those ballots went for Trump, who had already won the Republican-leaning county by a wide margin.
On Thursday, the Floyd County Board of Elections fired chief elections clerk Robert Brady after the 2,500 uncounted ballots were discovered. Citing two reprimands in the past six months, the board terminated Brady, according to The Rome News-Tribune.
Fayette County Elections Director Floyd Jones concluded that the 2,760 newly counted ballots added a net gain of 449 votes for Trump over Biden, according to The Citizen in Fayetteville. Trump had already beaten Biden in Fayette County’s initial count, 35,653 to 30,789.