Georgia’s patient election workers count presidential ballots for a third time

Workers sort ballots in preparation for scanning in a recount of the presidential race in Georgia.
Workers sort ballots in Lithonia, Ga., on Tuesday in preparation for scanning in a recount of the state’s presidential race.
(Ben Gray / Associated Press)

A machine recount of Georgia’s 5 million votes in the presidential race is underway, just days after election workers completed a laborious hand tally that confirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s narrow win in the state.

The machine recount was requested by President Trump after certified results showed him losing the state to Biden by 12,670 votes, a margin of 0.25%. Under state law, the losing candidate can request a recount when the margin is less than 0.5%. Trump’s campaign formally requested the recount Saturday.

State election officials have said that it’s possible the results of the recount could be slightly different from the original tally, but that it’s very unlikely it would be enough to change the outcome.


County election workers across Georgia were allowed to begin the machine recount at 9 a.m. Tuesday and have until the end of Dec. 2 to wrap it up.

Some counties only tested the equipment Tuesday, with actual counting to begin Wednesday. With interruptions for the Thanksgiving holiday expected, the secretary of state’s office instructed counties to publicly post when they would be testing so that monitors from both main political parties and interested members of the public could make plans to observe.

Last Thursday, election officials announced the results of a hand tally in the presidential race that stemmed from an audit but was not considered an official recount under state law. The day after Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced that the tally confirmed Biden’s lead, he certified the election results.

With Georgia’s GOP feuding since Joe Biden won there, a question looms: Can it unite to help two senators win runoffs that will decide which party runs the Senate?

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp then certified the state’s slate of 16 presidential electors, a group of prominent Democrats.

Under state election rules, an official recount must be conducted by high-speed scanners that read and tabulate the votes.

Before beginning the recount, election workers must test the scanners to make sure they’re counting accurately. To do that, they create test decks of 100 ballots — 75 marked by touchscreen voting machines and 25 marked by hand — and count those ballots by hand before running them through a scanner. If the scanned tally matches the hand tally, the scanner is deemed to be working correctly.

Biden is the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia in 28 years, since Bill Clinton.

“Georgia voters have selected Joe Biden to be their next president,” Biden campaign attorney Patrick Moore said in a call with reporters Tuesday. “We’re confident that this second recount, which is in fact a third time the votes have been counted, will simply reaffirm Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia.”