ATLANTA — At least four Georgia counties have found batches of uncounted votes during the state’s unprecedented hand audit of the presidential election, but not enough to significantly impact President-elect Joe Biden’s lead.
Before the statewide risk-limiting audit turned into a hand recount of the presidential race, Biden led President Donald Trump by a margin of about 14,000 votes. After additional votes left out of the original count due to a variety of missteps by county elections offices, Biden's lead has remained but dipped to less than 13,000.
Additional ballots were discovered in Floyd, Fayette, Walton and Douglas counties. The Secretary of State's office has noted the uncovered votes were a result of “human error” on the part of county elections workers using the new voting system.
Aside from the four counties with issues, 112 counties were within single-digit deviations of their original machine counts and 58 counties found no difference at all, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
As of Wednesday morning, 4,968,000 of Georgia’s nearly 5 million ballots cast had been hand counted so far — a 12,781 vote margin now separating the two presidential candidates.
All Georgia counties have until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday to certify their results — a deadline that elections officials say they’re on track to meet.
Elections officials reiterated Wednesday they expect changes to the results after the hand count but not significant enough to swing which candidate is in the lead. The uncovered votes were not illegitimate or an indication of voter fraud, officials said.
The hand audit went and worked as planned, Gabriel Sterling, statewide voting implementation manager, said. Issues with memory cards that led to the undercounts should have been caught before the audit with quality control measures in place for counties — but the system is still new.
“We love fast but accurate is more important and this process of showing us that we can get to this better level of accuracy,” he said. "We want to make sure as in the future, that our elections directors do all their processes on the front end, so we're not chasing these things down after the fact.”
The Secretary of State's office has until Friday to certify the results of the entire state.
"We still consider ourselves to be on a good pace right now for completing the audit in the scheduled time we have set,” Sterling said. “Giving us enough time to go to the final certification process for the election which we know is required to be done by Friday."
Election officials said Tuesday the state’s manual recount will not replace original machine results as the official tally of the race in Georgia. Floyd, Fayette, Walton and Douglas counties will rectify their results after the recount unearthed missing ballots which will be included in the final count.
Legal counsel for the Secretary of State's office confirmed the full hand recount cannot replace the original machine count, Sterling said, while the audit is used to confirm the winner and not necessarily solidify the exact vote count.
The losing candidate in the race will still be allowed under Georgia law to request another recount as the vote margin is still within the necessary .5% of the total votes cast.
The Trump campaign has been vocal that it will likely request another recount and have used the unearthed votes to back up unfounded claims of voter fraud.
“Georgians deserve to have honesty, transparency and full confidence in their elections, which is why Georgia Republicans will not stop until every legal vote is counted,” Savannah Viar, campaign spokesperson, said.
The Biden campaign said it is confident that even if there is another recount after the statewide hand audit, the outcome will not change.
“You can recount these ballots in alphabetical order, by machine, in random order, by hand, by county starting with the second letter in order — they are going to count the same way," Mark Elias, chair of Perkins Coie’s Political Law Group and lawyer for the campaign, said. "In the end, more voters voted for Joe Biden than voted for Donald Trump and there isn’t any amount of recounting of these ballots that’s going to change that fact."