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Georgia launches statewide hand recount of presidential race

By Mark Niesse – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
     Greg Bluestein – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Nick Avila for (CNT) City News and Talk #local-all #breaking-all

Democrats accuse GOP official of ‘caving’

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger took the extraordinary step on Wednesday to order a recount of all 5 million ballots cast in the presidential election, under mounting pressure by fellow Republicans who leveled baseless accusations of voter fraud to discredit Joe Biden’s 14,000-vote lead in the state. 

Flanked by local elections officials at a Capitol press conference, Raffensperger said the recount will be conducted by hand in each of Georgia’s 159 counties before a Nov. 20 deadline to finalize election results. The cost of the enormous undertaking, or who will finance it, is not immediately known. 

The decision came after an immense effort by President Donald Trump and his supporters to cast doubt on Georgia’s election results, despite no evidence of any wrongdoing or irregularities. U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, facing Jan. 5 runoffs, called for Raffensperger’s resignation, and Trump’s campaign demanded the hand recount Tuesday.

Raffensperger, who has long maintained there’s no evidence of voter fraud, insisted he wasn’t influenced by the outside pressure, which was amplified by Trump on Twitter. Instead, he cast it as an effort to bolster faith in the election results. 

“This will help build confidence. It will be an audit, a recount and a re-canvass, all at once,” Raffensperger said from the steps of the state Capitol. “It will be a heavy lift. But we will work with the counties to get this done in time for our state certification.”

‘Never be happy’

Democrats, who had praised Raffensperger’s stance all week, accused him of buckling to outside pressure to score political points. 

“They’re putting a lot of resources to confirm something we already know to be true. He’s caving,” said state Rep. Teri Anulewicz, a Smyrna Democrat who compared Republicans to whiny children who will still complain after convincing mom and dad to pull over for fast food. “The Trump supporters, they’ll never be happy.”

The recount raised concerns about whether it would be completed before the deadline next week to certify the vote.


“I have a great deal of faith in our counties to do what they have to do to get it done before the deadline,” said Sara Tindall Ghazal, the former voter protection guru of the state Democratic party. “The only reason it could drag out that far is interference from county observers who deliberately try to obstruct.”

She called on the Trump campaign to pay for the recount. 

“I’m not categorically opposed to it if this is what it takes to restore integrity in the elections,” she said. “But it’s only needed because of Republicans. This is clearly being done to mollify one party that doesn’t want to accept the outcome. They broke it, though, so it’s up to them to fix it.”

Some Trump supporters were skeptical of the process and worried it could distract attention from the Jan. 5 runoffs that will likely determine control of the U.S. Senate. 

State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, one of few Republicans who has acknowledged Biden’s victory, said it might be a “good thing to go back through these ballots to be sure.”

“But I don’t expect it to change anything, myself,” added Hufstetler, R-Rome. “I certainly think we need to focus on what’s ahead – the Senate runoffs.”

How it works

It’s not exactly clear how long the process will take, particularly because Georgia rolled out a new voting system for the first time in nearly two decades this year. 

Since it only applies to the presidential race, it won’t affect the outcome of the matchup between Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff, which was narrowly forced into a runoff after neither candidate got a majority of the vote. 

Poll workers will review the readable text on printed-out ballots or bubbled-in choices on absentee ballots. Then they’ll sort ballots into piles for each candidate to check the accuracy of results.

The hand recount is made possible by combining it with a previously planned audit of paper ballots.

While a State Election Board rule requires recounts to be conducted by re-scanning ballots on computers, audit rules call for a human review of printed text on ballots. The audit is now effectively a statewide recount, to be conducted by hand in 159 county election offices.

In addition, Raffensperger announced that he will use emergency powers to postpone the Dec. 1 scheduled statewide runoff for Public Service Commissioner. That runoff will now coincide with federal runoff elections for U.S. Senate on Jan. 5. It will not affect a Dec. 1 runoff to briefly fill the U.S. House seat left vacant by Rep. John Lewis’ death.