Georgia on Friday will get fully underway with a hand recount of all ballots cast in its razor-close election between President Trump and President-elect Biden, in a move that won’t change the result of the presidential race — but one the Georgia secretary of state says will ensure there is faith in the state’s results.
The recount of every ballot in the state by hand must start in every county by Friday morning and be completed by Wednesday, which is two days before the state’s goal to have the election results certified by Nov. 20. Some counties began their recount on Thursday.
“With the margin being so close, it will require a full, by-hand recount in each county,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said, in a briefing Wednesday, adding that the recount will “build confidence.”
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, in Atlanta. Georgia election officials have announced an audit of presidential election results that will trigger a full hand recount. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
The recount comes as Raffensperger is under fire from his own party, with both Republican senators from the state calling for his resignation in a statement that insinuated a lack of transparency and that illegal votes may have been counted, but did not cite specific evidence of fraud.
“The management of Georgia elections has become an embarrassment for our state. Georgians are outraged, and rightly so. We have been clear from the beginning: every legal vote cast should be counted. Any illegal vote must not,” Sens. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., said in a joint statement. “And there must be transparency and uniformity in the counting process. This isn’t hard. This isn’t partisan. This is American.”
Raffensperger shot back at the senators in a statement rejecting their calls for resignation.
“As a Republican, I am concerned about Republicans keeping the U.S. Senate,” Raffensperger said. “I recommend that Senators Loeffler and Perdue start focusing on that.”
Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler speaks during a campaign rally Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, in Marietta, Ga. She and Sen. David Perdue, also a Republican from Georgia, called for the state’s GOP secretary of state to resign this week. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
He also said what many experts have been repeating in recent days about the Trump campaign’s lawsuits and calls for recounts: That although it is likely there was some fraud in the election, it is almost certain there was not enough to close the margins Biden has opened up in the states he has won or even in a place like Georgia which has not yet been called for Biden. The president-elect leads in Georgia by just over 14,000 votes as of Friday morning.
“Was there illegal voting? I am sure there was,” Raffensperger said. “And my office is investigating all of it. Does it rise to the numbers or margin necessary to change the outcome to where President Trump is given Georgia’s electoral votes? That is unlikely.”
He added on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning that he believes a “relatively small amount” of errors will be found and the first count will be “fairly accurate.”
Nevertheless, Raffensperger said in a Wednesday conference, “probability theorem” requires a full recount of every ballot with a margin so small — three-tenths of a percent.
President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen theater, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. Biden leads in Georgia by about 14,000 votes as a recount gets underway in earnest Friday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
“When you have 5 million votes and the margin is so close, 14,000, if we pulled out 10,000 votes all of a sudden it could say this is the person that won,” he continued. “We pull 100,000 it could say this is the person that won. We pull out a million, this person won. And that’s why mathematically you actually have to do a full hand-by-hand recount of all because the margin of so close.”
Meanwhile, the secretary of state will be quarantined as the recount is happening after his wife tested positive for the coronavirus, according to FOX 5 Atlanta.
Trump has not conceded the election to Biden, and the potential that his campaign could grab Georgia’s 16 electoral votes is a near necessity as it also tries to find ways to erase Biden leads in races that have already been called in Pennsylvania, Nevada and elsewhere.
Trump 2020 counsel Matt Morgan said in a press call on Thursday that, during the Georgia recount, the campaign will have monitors and be allowed to observe the process, contrasting that to instances in Pennsylvania where the campaign said it was not allowed to observe the counting of votes.
And Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., has been dispatched by the Trump campaign to lead its recount effort.
“There’s been a lot of things happened in this race that nobody expected,” Collins said on “Bill Hemmer Reports” this week in response to an op-ed by top GOP operative and former deputy chief of staff for ex-President George W. Bush Karl Rove. The op-ed, published in the Wall Street Journal, noted that recounts historically may change vote totals by hundreds, not tens of thousands.
“In Georgia, we’re seeing a very close election, 14,000 votes, we’re seeing irregularities,” Collins said. “But we’re also having the first of its kind and that is a hand recount that will actually take these ballots and actually put to rest and say going forward that we’re actually checking these ballots against the machine count.”
Trump himself as of Monday was also holding out hope for a victory in Georgia.
“Georgia will be a big presidential win, as it was the night of the Election!” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, the Biden transition says it is moving ahead despite Trump’s refusal to concede and the fact the General Services Administration has not yet officially ascertained that Biden is the winner of the election. That ascertainment would allow transition officials to receive intelligence reports, open government funds and offices for the transition and more.
“The most important thing … is that [Biden’s] focus is on doing his job as president-elect, and his job as president-elect at this stage of the process is mostly about moving forward on his agenda to get ready to be president on Jan. 20,” Biden’s newly named Chief of Staff Ron Klain said on MSNBC Thursday.
Fox News’ Kristina Biddle, Christina Wurm and Talia Kaplan contributed to this report.