ATLANTA (AP) — Joe Biden has won Georgia, scoring a rare win in a Southern state that hadn’t backed a Democrat for president in nearly 30 years.
The Associated Press declared Joe Biden the winner of Georgia and its 16 Electoral College votes on Thursday, after state election officials there said a hand tally of ballots cast in the presidential race confirmed the former vice president leads President Donald Trump by roughly 12,000 votes out of nearly 5 million counted.
The AP had already declared Biden president-elect after he clinched the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Georgia raised the Democrat’s electoral vote total to 306.
The AP did not call Biden the winner after election officials in Georgia initially completed and released results of the presidential election, because his margin over Trump in the state was 0.3 percentage points. It is AP’s practice not to call a race that is — or is likely to become — subject to a recount. While there is no mandatory recount law in Georgia, state law provides that option to a trailing candidate if the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points.
While not formally a recount under the letter of state law, the hand tally conducted to complete the audit was effectively a recount in practice. No available evidence suggests a machine recount of ballots already reviewed by hand will result in a different outcome. Therefore, AP declared Biden the winner in Georgia.
“The recount process simply reaffirmed what we already knew: Georgia voters selected Joe Biden to be their next president,” Biden campaign spokeswoman Jaclyn Rothenberg said in an email. “We are grateful to the election officials, volunteers and workers for working overtime and under unprecedented circumstances to complete this recount, as the utmost form of public service.”
The presidential race was the contest selected by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for review under a new state law that says one race in the general election must be audited by hand to check that machines counted ballots accurately. Raffensperger said the tight margin of the presidential race meant a full hand count of ballots was necessary to complete the audit.
The second tally turned up a few thousand ballots that had previously been uncounted — enough to narrow Biden’s lead but not change the outcome.
Trump and his allies claimed without evidence that Georgia’s election was tainted by widespread fraud, sparking infighting among Republicans as Raffensperger insisted the vote was fair and secure.
Not since Bill Clinton first sought the White House in 1992 had Georgia sided with a Democratic presidential candidate.
Despite Democrats’ long losing streak, many analysts predicted Georgia would prove to be a 2020 battleground. That’s largely because a growing number of non-white voters have loosened Republicans’ grip on the Atlanta suburbs.
Georgia’s embrace of Biden marked a stark political reversal from 2016, when Trump carried the state by 5 percentage points.
Four years ago, Trump was able to coast to victory in Georgia over Democrat Hillary Clinton without having to campaign in the state. Not so in 2020, when the potential for a Democratic upset forced Trump to play defense in Georgia heading into the campaign’s final leg.
Trump held a large rally in Rome, Georgia, the weekend before Election Day, making a return trip to the state not even three weeks after he campaigned in Macon.
Biden traveled in the campaign’s final week to Warm Springs, where President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought treatment for polio. Former President Barack Obama stumped for Biden in Atlanta the day before Election Day.
Both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats ended up on the ballot in 2020, further boosting the state’s political profile. Tight races forced both Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler into runoff elections with Democratic challengers that will be decided Jan. 5.