Spotlight on Georgia as state’s 16 electoral votes remain at stake

Focus on accuracy over speed in counting ballots, state election official says

Democratic and Republican representatives review absentee ballots at the Fulton County Election preparation Center Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Democratic and Republican representatives review absentee ballots at the Fulton County Election preparation Center Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

FULTON, Ga. – Votes are still being counted in Atlanta-area counties as Americans watch from around the nation to see whether Georgia will give Democrat Joe Biden the electoral votes he needs to become president.

The Associated Press has not declared a winner in Georgia’s presidential contest because the race between President Donald Trump and Biden is too early to call.

Gabriel Sterling, who was in charge of implementing the state’s new paper ballot voting system, said that as of 11 a.m. Thursday, just over 60,000 votes remained outstanding in 13 counties, including 11,200 in Fulton County and 17,157 in Chatham County.

Sterling said the goal is to finish counting ballots Thursday.

“Fast is great. We appreciate fast. We more appreciate accuracy,” Sterling said. “Accuracy is going to be the bedrock upon which people will believe the outcomes of this election -- be they on the winning side or the losing side. Accuracy is vital, and it’s the key to all our processes."

News4Jax reporter Vic Micolucci was in Atlanta on Thursday as Fulton County finalized its counting of ballots. Just before 1 p.m., he said a crowd was growing outside the State Farm Arena where the ballots were being tabulated.

Here’s how the vote looks in Georgia now:

Candidate

Votes

%

Joe Biden(D)
2,474,50750%
Donald Trump*(R)
2,461,83749%
*Incumbent
100% of Precincts Reporting

(2,656 / 2,656)

Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs told the AP that the final margin may be as small as 1,000 votes. Several counties were shifting Thursday from scanning the final absentee ballots to having review panels study any votes that were flagged electronically to make sure the voter’s intent was clear.

Trump had a narrowing lead over Biden in Georgia, a close race in a state that has not backed a Democrat for president since 1992. There is no automatic recount, but a candidate can request one if the margin is within 0.5%.

The outstanding vote was primarily in the Atlanta area, which tends to lean Democratic. On Wednesday, about 50 people were counting votes inside State Farm Arena, the home of the Atlanta Hawks NBA team.

“We’re trying to make sure that every ballot is counted,” said Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron. “We expect this to go probably until midnight or more.”

Barron went on to say, “We’re going to finish tonight. As long as it takes, we’re going to be here.”

Vote 2020 continues as President Trump vows to fight and Joe Biden moves closer to winning
Vote 2020 continues as President Trump vows to fight and Joe Biden moves closer to winning

At about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Barron said his crew had about 24,000 more ballots to get through.

Counties have until 5 p.m. on Nov. 13 to certify results.

At stake in Georgia are 16 electoral votes. All absentee ballots were due Tuesday.

President Trump’s campaign files suits in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan

On Wednesday night, President Trump’s campaign and the Georgia Republican Party have filed a lawsuit against the Chatham County Board of Elections asking a judge to order the county to secure and account for ballots received after 7 p.m. on Election Day.

State party Chairman David Shafer said in a statement Wednesday night that they planned to sue in a dozen counties.

The lawsuit alleges that a Republican observer watched a poll worker take unprocessed absentee ballots from a back room and mix them into processed absentee ballots waiting to be tabulated.

In Georgia, ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day in order to count. Chatham County contains Savannah and leans Democratic.

A woman who answered the phone at the Chatham County Board of Elections offices declined to comment.

Georgia is among a handful of states that The Associated Press has not called. In the race to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, Democrat Joe Biden currently has 264 while Trump has 214.

Trump’s campaign has also filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Michigan. The AP called Michigan for Democrat Joe Biden on Wednesday. Nevada, Pennsylvania and Georgia are undecided.

The new filings, joining existing Republican legal challenges in Pennsylvania and Nevada, demand better access for campaign observers to locations where ballots are being processed and counted, and absentee ballot concerns, the campaign said. However, at one Michigan location in question The Associated Press observed poll watchers from both sides monitoring on Wednesday.