Georgia presidential count tightens in scan of last ballots

ATLANTA — Vote counting continued in several Georgia counties on Thursday as Americans watched to see whether the state gives Democrat Joe Biden the electoral votes he needs to become president.

By 10 p.m. Thursday night, Trump was ahead of Biden by less than 2,000 votes, with more heavily Democratic counties still expected to report vote totals.

The Associated Press has not declared a winner in Georgia, because the race between President Donald Trump and Biden is still too early to call. With thousands of ballots still being tallied in counties that tend to vote blue, Democrats had reason for optimism.

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“Things are getting really close,” Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs told The Associated Press Thursday morning. By the time all the votes are counted, “there’s a good chance that it’s literally between 1,000 votes, between the two of them,” she said.

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The secretary of state’s office announced that as of 125:45 p.m. there were around 16,000 votes remaining to be counted. Gabriel Sterling, who has overseen the implementation of Georgia’s new electronic voting system, said at a news conference that the secretary of state’s office has long said counting could take several days.

“This is going to be an extremely close margin especially in the presidential election,” he said at a morning news conference in the state Capitol.

The outstanding absentee ballots don’t include provisional ballots and ballots that need to be “cured” before being scanned. Sterling also noted that ballots cast before Election Day by military voters and citizens living overseas and received by end of day Friday will be tallied.


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“I think all of us would agree that having an accurate count is much more vital – an accurate and fair count – is much more vital than having a fast one,” Sterling said.

Ballots were still being scanned Thursday in the Atlanta-metro area counties of Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett. Chatham County, home to Savannah, also had a large number still being tallied.

Adjudication panels will then review any that were flagged electronically. These panels, including representatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties, study each ballot for marks indicating voter intent. After each county certifies their total, the state will perform an audit before certifying the results, Sterling said.

No Democratic presidential candidate has won Georgia since Bill Clinton was first elected in 1992, and it’s been 20 years since Georgia elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate. But some cracks in the GOP grip on power were evident two years ago when Democrat Stacey Abrams narrowly lost the gubernatorial contest to Republican Brian Kemp and refused to concede.

Shifting demographics — with more Black, Latino and Asian American voters joined by transplants from other states — and voter registration efforts have made the state more competitive. The populous suburbs in Cobb and Gwinnett counties just north of Atlanta had already flipped for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and stayed there for Abrams in 2018.

Trump claimed early Wednesday that it was “clear that we have won Georgia.” But Biden nodded to the state’s potential swing status, saying as he spoke ahead of the president: “We’re still in the game in Georgia, although that’s not one we expected.”

With 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, Georgia’s 16 electoral votes would clinch it for the Democrats.

In Fulton County, one woman sang “All Night Long” as election workers opened, flattened, stacked and scanned ballots inside Atlanta’s State Farm Arena. Fulton County spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt said about 10,000 absentee ballots were still being processed and should be included in results by early afternoon.

“We’re very very close,” Corbitt said. But she cautioned that another 2,800 provisional ballots need to be cured. She also said that about 300 absentee ballots were rejected, mainly because people had not signed the envelope.

Fulton Elections supervisor Rick Barron said any flagged ballots would be handed over to adjudication panels, which were set to review them in the corner of a large warehouse on Atlanta’s westside.

After listening to an hour of arguments on Thursday, Chatham County Judge James Bass dismissed a lawsuit by the Georgia Republican Party and the Trump campaign that essentially sought to ensure state laws are being followed on absentee ballots. The suit had raised concerns about 53 absentee ballots; county officials testified that all had been received on time.

Trump campaign officials said they were considering peppering a dozen other counties around the state with similar legal filings.

In Gwinnett County, outside Atlanta, more than 4,000 absentee ballots received on Election Day still had to be counted as of Wednesday night, county spokesman Joe Sorenson said. The county also had about 1,000 provisional ballots to tally, and an undetermined number of votes from an in-person site, his statement said.

Several thousand remained to be counted Thursday morning in Cobb, where Elections Director Janine Eveler said the county plans to process another 882 provisional ballots on Friday, along with any military and overseas ballots and any ballots with missing or mismatched signatures that have been corrected.

Emory University political science professor Alan Abramowitz said Wednesday that the final margin will likely be very small.

“I think that it’s going to end up very, very close and Biden, I’d say, has a chance to win Georgia,” he said. “That’s close to a 50-50 proposition, I would say.”