Georgia on track to complete hand tally of presidential race tonight, officials say

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ATLANTA (NewsNation Now) — Georgia election officials are down to the final tens of thousands of ballots left to be hand-counted in a presidential race tally that must be completed Wednesday, the secretary of state’s office said.

During an update Wednesday morning, Georgia Secretary of State official Gabriel Sterling said that more than 4.9 million of the state’s roughly 5 million votes have already been tallied by hand so far, and that the state is on track to complete the audit by the deadline.

The hand recount stems from an audit required by a new state law and wasn’t in response to any suspected problems with the state’s results or an official recount request. The law requires the audit to be done before the counties’ certified results can be certified by the state.

The deadline for counties to complete the audit is 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, ahead of the Friday deadline for state certification.

“Once they go through that first round of hand-tallying, they then have to go through quality control in every single county,” Sterling said.

The hand count is meant to ensure that the state’s new election machines accurately tabulated the votes and isn’t expected to change the overall outcome, state election officials have repeatedly said.

Sterling said in a video call Wednesday with journalists that the state aims to make public results of the recount on Thursday.

He said that the process has uncovered another memory card that hadn’t been uploaded, this time at a precinct in Douglas County. The card carried 128 votes for President Donald Trump and 156 votes for Democrat Joe Biden, Sterling said.

“Fast is great. We love fast. Accurate is most important. And this process is showing us we can get to that level of accuracy,” Gabriel Sterling with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office said.

The process has already uncovered a memory card in Fayette County that hadn’t been uploaded. That card’s 2,755 votes were also not enough to flip Biden’s lead. The breakdown of uncounted ballots linked to the card included 1,577 for Trump and 1,128 for Biden.

A trove of votes that weren’t previously included in election results were also discovered in Floyd County during the hand tally. Election officials there found more than 2,500 ballots that hadn’t been scanned.

Sterling reassured the public that human errors happen.

“This is why we don’t give out interim audit results because it can be misleading to look at them because there will be human errors on this,” Sterling said.

Going into the count, Democrat Joe Biden led Republican President Donald Trump by a margin of about 14,000 votes.

Once the results are certified, if the margin between the candidates remains within 0.5%, the losing campaign can request a recount. That would be done using scanners that read and tally the votes and would be paid for by the state, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has said.

A law passed last year requires the audit but leaves it up to the secretary of state to select the race to be audited. Raffensperger said he chose the presidential race because of its significance and tight margin. Because of the close results, he said, a full hand recount would be needed to complete the audit.

Over the two weeks since the election, Raffensperger has been under attack from fellow Republicans, from the president on down.

Georgia’s two U.S. senators, who both face stiff competition from Democrats in Jan. 5 runoff elections, last week called for Raffensperger’s resignation.

“The secretary of state has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections,” Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler wrote in a letter.

U.S. Rep Doug Collins, who is running Trump’s Georgia recount effort, has traded barbs on social media with the secretary of state. And over the weekend, the president tweeted that Raffensperger — whom he endorsed in a runoff election two years ago — is “a so-called Republican (RINO),” using the acronym for “Republican in name only.”

Raffensperger has steadfastly defended the state’s handling of the election and the subsequent hand tally. He has said his office has seen no evidence of widespread voting fraud or irregularities and he was confident the audit would affirm the election results.

The Associated Press has not declared a winner in the presidential race in Georgia, where Biden led Trump by 0.3 percentage points. There is no mandatory recount law in Georgia, but state law provides that option to a trailing candidate if the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points. It is AP’s practice not to call a race that is – or is likely to become – subject to a recount.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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