ATLANTA (NEXSTAR) — Georgia election officials have announced an audit of presidential election results that will trigger a full hand recount of nearly 5 million ballots.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said at a news conference Wednesday that his office wants the process to begin by the end of the week and he expects it to take until Nov. 20, the state’s certification deadline.
“With the margin being so close, it will require a full, by-hand recount in each county,” Raffensperger said on Wednesday. “This will help build confidence. It will be an audit, a recount, and a recanvas all at once. It will be a heavy lift but we will work with the counties to get this done in time for our state certification.”
Raffensperger said they have not found any widespread fraud.
“My office will continue to investigate each and every incidence of illegal voting,” Raffensperger said. “Double voting, felon voting, people voting out of state — if you report it we will investigate it. Every legal vote will count.”
President-elect Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by about 14,000 votes out of nearly 5 million votes counted in the state.
After results from the hand recount are certified, the losing campaign can then request another recount, which will be performed by machine, Raffensperger said.
In the 2016 Wisconsin recount, Trump gained 837 additional votes and Clinton gained 706 additional votes, a difference of 131 votes out of nearly 3 million.
HOW MANY PEOPLE VOTED ACROSS THE COUNTRY THIS YEAR?
More than 150 million people voted in the presidential election. As of Wednesday, President-elect Joe Biden had received over 5 million more votes than Trump.
Biden has 290 votes in the Electoral College to Trump’s 214. The Associated Press has not yet determined the winner in Alaska, Georgia or North Carolina.
Of the states Trump has most targeted as allegedly tainted by fraud, Biden holds small but significant leads in all of them. The Democrat leads in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
HOW DID THE ELECTION GO?
Several states successfully enacted voting measures during the coronavirus pandemic. The Democratic stronghold of California improved its mail-in balloting system, for example, and delivered as expected for Biden. But Trump easily won reliably Republican Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana, all states that also significantly expanded voting by mail this year.
Two decades after it was at the center of a disputed recount, Florida has adopted early voting and allowed voters to cast absentee ballots without having an excuse. The AP called Florida for Trump at 12:35 a.m. last Wednesday.
Vote counting was slow in three Midwestern states that went for Trump four years ago and flipped to Biden this time: the “blue wall” of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. That’s because of an increase in mail-in ballots, which the Biden campaign pushed its supporters to use as a safety measure because of the pandemic. Trump baselessly argued that mail-in ballots were subject to fraud and encouraged his supporters to show up to vote in person on Election Day.
As a result, Trump led all three states in Election Day voting, but those leads were erased as mail-in ballots were counted.
All three states largely ignored advice from nonpartisan observers to expand the window for counting mail-in ballots before Election Day. Michigan gave election officials one day, and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin did not allow counting beforehand. All three states have Republican legislatures.
WHAT IS TRUMP CHALLENGING?
The Trump campaign has filed more than a dozen lawsuits in at least five states. Late Tuesday, the campaign said it filed a new one in Michigan alleging, in part, that their poll watchers were harassed or turned away; the suit asked the secretary of state not to certify the election results. Included in the suit were affidavits from poll watchers who alleged they were kept too far away or that they were targets of intimidation.
Poll watchers have no role in counting votes.
The campaign has challenged a ruling by Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court allowing election officials to accept mail-in ballots up to three days after the election as long as those ballots were postmarked by Election Day. And it has challenged the secretary of state over instructing counties that voters whose absentee ballots were rejected could cast a provisional ballot.
Trump has won one victory so far: A state court ruled his campaign observers had to be allowed closer to the actual vote counting. That ruling had no impact on the outcome of the race.
Four other campaign suits have been dismissed. Others are pending.
On Monday, his campaign sued to force Pennsylvania not to certify the results of the election altogether. The 85-page lawsuit itself contained no evidence of voter fraud, other than a smattering of allegations such as an election worker in Chester County altering “over-voted” ballots by changing votes that had been marked for Trump to another candidate.
Democratic leaders in the state accused Trump of trying to disenfranchise voters and overturn an election he lost.
WHAT ARE TRUMP’S ALLIES SAYING?
Trump’s lawyers and campaign staff say that the election is not over and that they are investigating claims in several states, though they continue to lack any evidence of widespread fraud that affected the outcome of the race. Top Republicans have supported the president’s efforts to fight the election results in court.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Trump was “100% within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options.” Attorney General William Barr authorized the Justice Department to investigate “clear and apparently-credible allegations of irregularities.”
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
All disputes over the counts in each state must be complete by Dec. 8. Members of the Electoral College vote on Dec. 14. The House and Senate hold a joint session on Jan. 6, 2021, to count the electoral votes in each state.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.