Georgia’s midnight recount deadline passes with Fulton results still out

    Auditors unpack absentee ballots in Macon on Nov. 13, the first day of Georgia's 2020 presidential election statewide hand count. President Donald Trump has since requested another recount after official election results have him losing to President-elect Joe Biden by fewer than 13,000 votes. Grant Blankenship/GPB News

    Georgia’s historic presidential recount is said to be close to wrapping up Friday, with only several thousand votes remaining to be counted before apparently confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

    Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office expressed optimism earlier in the day that the state’s 159 county elections offices would meet his Wednesday night deadline to finish the recount.

    But by late Thursday, Fulton County’s beleaguered elections operation accounted for the bulk of the 3,000 remaining votes holding up state certification in an election where a record 5 million Georgians cast ballots. 

    Biden still held a nearly 10,500 vote lead over President Donald Trump at last count Thursday.

    Fulton government announced on Twitter at 1 a.m. Thursday that its recount was over, but ended up having to reconcile more ballots, a county spokeswoman said Thursday. On Nov. 25, Fulton County announced its recount was underway, would take a break for Thanksgiving and election workers would resume the count the following Saturday.

    If the recount holds up, it will be the third time Trump came up short in Georgia, including an intensive hand count of every ballot that confirmed Biden’s win in the Nov. 3 election.

    Raffensperger is pushing to certify the new election results on Friday, giving Georgia’s 16 Democratic electors more than enough time to prepare to select Biden on Dec. 14.

    But in the meantime, lawsuits contesting the election continue to play out in court, as does the pressure on state Republican legislators from Trump, many supporters and his team of attorneys to overthrow the election. 

    Despite the pending lawsuits and Trump’s baseless claims of fraud in Georgia’s election, there’s virtually no chance that Biden’s victory won’t stand once the recount is final, said Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis.

    “The burden is on them now to show that there’s some widespread irregularity that would have changed the outcome or likely change the outcome of the election,” he said. “I think what you’re seeing now is just an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the outcome and to call into question the legitimacy of vote by mail. And I think that’s dangerous for democracy.”

    Republican state Sen. Chuck Hufstelter also said he supports Kemp and Raffensperger for following the law and that when the recount is complete it’s time to focus on the Jan. 5 U.S. Senate runoffs where Republicans Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler face Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. 

    “We need to try to move forward and hopefully get some good things done,” said the Rome lawmaker. “I know there’s people frustrated, it was the other party screaming the same thing two years ago that they were cheated out of votes and I just don’t see it in either case, personally.”

    Stanley Dunlap
    Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.