The US state of Georgia will begin a manual recount of all its presidential ballots, its secretary of state Brad Raffensperger said on Wednesday, amid attacks from fellow Republicans and as-yet unsubstantiated allegations of significant voting irregularities in the state.
At the time the recount was announced, Democrat Joe Biden led US President Donald Trump by more than 14,000 ballots, with almost all absentee and in-person ballots counted and with the majority of the state’s 159 counties having filed their final numbers, Raffensperger said.
Biden’s win over Trump nationally was called by multiple news organizations on Saturday, though mail-in votes are still being tabulated in many states and each state has yet to certify its results. By Wednesday, only Vermont had done so.
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Word of the recount in Georgia, which had been expected since the weekend, followed a formal request Tuesday by the Trump campaign and state Republicans for a statewide audit of the nearly 5 million ballots cast. Biden leads Trump 49.5 per cent to 49.2 per cent.
“This will help build confidence” in the outcome, Raffensperger told reporters in Atlanta. “It will be an audit, a recount and a recanvass all at once.”
Allies of Trump have raised scattered charges of voting irregularities in the state, including one accusation that a poll worker witnessed the combining of some mail-in ballots that had arrived late with those that had arrived on time. That claim, which affected roughly 50 votes, was swiftly dismissed by a judge, yet Republicans have continued apace with their allegations.
On Monday, Georgia’s Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, both of whose own races are headed to run-off elections in January, called for Raffensperger’s resignation, claiming “mismanagement” and a lack of transparency though failing to offer any specific allegations.
Raffensperger, who is also a Republican, dismissed the senators’ accusation as “laughable”, and said that any illegal voting in the state, while probable, would not be sufficiently widespread to change the outcome of the election.
“Was there illegal voting? I am sure there was,” he 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.”
State officials have defended their ballot-counting process, and said last week that they expected the results of any recount to remain “essentially the same”.
Even in the unlikely event that Georgia’s results are overturned and the state’s 16 electoral votes are awarded to Trump, Biden would still hold enough Electoral College votes to take the White House.
Current Associated Press projections, which do not include the Georgia race, put Biden’s tally at 290 Electoral College votes, well beyond the 270 required.
With victory in the popular vote a certainty – Biden’s lead grew to more than 5 million on Wednesday – Trump is the first president since the end of the 19th century to lose the popular vote in two consecutive elections. In 2016, he lost by nearly 3 million votes to the Democrat Hillary Clinton, but won the decisive Electoral College battle.
In the face of Biden’s increasingly resilient victory, the Trump campaign and Republican party have scrambled to file lawsuits alleging significant voter fraud in numerous states, including Georgia. Prompt dismissals by judges in a number of those legal challenges have not deterred the president’s team.
“WE WILL WIN!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
WE WILL WIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 10, 2020
Besides posting a steady stream of tweets alleging a rigged election, Trump has largely removed himself from the public eye since media outlets including Associated Press called the race in Biden’s favour on Saturday.
A brief Veterans Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Wednesday did not see Trump make any remarks or field questions from the press.
While Trump has refused to concede the election, despite reported counsel to do so from close advisers, Biden’s team has continued with its transition strategy, this week announcing a roster of policy experts and former officials who will lead its agency review process.
But efforts to begin the transition process have been stymied by the refusal so far by a Trump appointee at the General Services Administration to certify Biden as president-elect, a sign-off that customarily follows soon after a candidate gains an insurmountable lead in the Electoral College. Such authorisation is required to gain access to federal government resources, including funding and office space.
Biden on Tuesday called the Trump administration’s refusal to accept the result of the election an “embarrassment,” but said that nothing was “slowing us down”. Despite lacking the customary support of the State Department, the president-elect has already fielded numerous congratulatory calls from foreign leaders.
Political consultants at Signum Global Advisors forecast on Wednesday that while Trump would likely never concede the election, he would lose critical support from congressional Republicans over the coming weeks as states certify their results.
“By December 1 at the latest, we expect that Trump’s claims that the election was ‘stolen’ will so lack credibility that even his Republican allies will distance themselves,” the consultants wrote in a research note.
So far, only a handful of in-office Republicans, including Senator Mitt Romney of Utah and Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, have acknowledged Biden’s victory.
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