ATLANTA (NewsNation Now) — Georgia’s top elections official said Friday that he will certify that Joe Biden won the state’s presidential election after a hand tally stemming from a mandatory audit affirmed the Democrat’s lead over Republican President Donald Trump.
His office then stumbled on the final step, prematurely announcing that the certification was complete while only unofficial results remained on the public website. Forty minutes after the big news, the secretary of state’s office corrected its news release and said the results would be released later.
“Working as an engineer throughout my life, I live by the motto that numbers don’t lie,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said during a news conference at the state Capitol Friday. “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.”
In the end, the hand count affirmed Biden won by more than 12,000 votes out of about 5 million cast, according to data released by Raffensperger’s office Thursday.
State law requires Raffensperger to certify the election results by 5 p.m. Friday. Then, Gov. Brian Kemp has until 5 p.m. Saturday to certify the state’s slate of 16 presidential electors.
Once Raffensperger certifies the results, Trump’s campaign will have two business days to request a recount since the margin is within 0.5%. That recount would be done using scanning machines that read and tally the votes and would be paid for by the counties, the secretary of state’s office has said.
Raffensperger also said Friday 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.
The full certified results will be published online on the Secretary’s of State website.
Raffensperger, a self-described “passionate conservative,” has endured criticism and insults from fellow Republicans — from the president to the chair of the state Republican Party — over his handling of the election. He acknowledged their feelings on Friday.
“Like other Republicans, I’m disappointed our candidate didn’t win Georgia’s electoral vote. Close elections sow distrust. People feel their side was cheated,” he said.
But Raffensperger, as he had repeatedly done before, defended the integrity of the process and the results.
The hand tally of about 5 million votes stemmed 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.
Biden’s win in Georgia marks the first time the Southern State has backed a Democrat for president in nearly 30 years.
The attention now shifts to Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats, both of which ended up on the ballot in 2020. Tight races forced both Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler into runoff elections with Democratic challengers that will be decided Jan. 5.