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Sunday January 24th, 2021 8:27PM

Georgia official: Vote audit over; Biden still leads Trump

By The Associated Press
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ATLANTA (AP) — A top Georgia elections official says a hand tally of the presidential race in Georgia is complete, and the results affirm Democrat Joe Biden’s lead over Republican President Donald Trump. Gabriel Sterling released the information to The Associated Press on Thursday. The hand recount of nearly 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. The state has until Friday to certify the results that have been certified and submitted by the counties. Once the results are certified, the losing campaign can request a recount.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia election officials said they expected to release a report Thursday on a hand tally of the presidential race, and they have repeatedly said they expect it to affirm Democrat Joe Biden's narrow lead over Republican President Donald Trump.

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. The state has until Friday to certify results that have been certified and submitted by the counties.

The counties were supposed to finish the hand count by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. Gabriel Sterling, who oversaw the implementation of the state's new voting system, said he expected the secretary of state's office to put out a report on the results by midday Thursday but no results had been released by early evening.

Once the state certifies the election results, the losing campaign has two business days to request a recount if the margin remains within 0.5%. That recount would be done using scanners that read and tally the votes and would be paid for by the counties, Sterling said.

It was up to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to select the race to be audited, and he said the presidential race made the most sense because of its significance and the tight margin separating the candidates. Because of that small margin, Raffensperger said a full hand recount was necessary.

Votes that hadn't previously been counted were found in several counties during the audit, which required recertification of the election results in those counties.

In Floyd County, more than 2,500 ballots were discovered during the audit that hadn't previously been scanned, and the secretary of state's office had called for the firing of the county's chief elections clerk, Robert Brady. The county elections board on Thursday voted to issue a written reprimand to Brady and, because it was his second written reprimand within six months, to fire him in accordance with county policy, board member Melanie Conrad said in an email.

Several other counties found memory cards with votes that hadn't been uploaded and counted prior to the audit.

Going into the hand tally, Biden led Trump by a margin of about 14,000 votes. The previously uncounted ballots discovered during the hand count will reduce that margin to about 12,800, Sterling said.

The Associated Press has not declared a winner in Georgia, where Biden led Trump by about 0.3 percentage points. There is no mandatory recount law in Georgia, but state law provides that option to a trailing candidate if the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points. It is AP’s practice not to call a race that is — or is likely to become — subject to a recount.

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