Georgia hand tally of presidential race gets underway

The hand tally of the presidential race stems from an audit required by state law

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 13: Gwinnett county workers begin their recount of the ballots on November 13, 2020 in Lawrenceville, Georgia. The difference in votes between US President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden is about 14,000 as of right now.   Megan Varner/Getty Images/AFP
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Election officials in Georgia’s 159 counties started counting ballots on Friday morning for a hand tally of the presidential race that stems from an audit required by state law.

The law requires that one race be audited by hand to check that the machines counted the ballots accurately, not because of any suspected problems with the results.

Joe Biden is the first Democrat to win the state of Georgia since 1992 and the first non-southern Democrat to win there since John Kennedy in 1960.

In Pennsylvania, the state has rejected the Trump campaign calls for a recount, the Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said on Thursday night.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger chose to audit the presidential race and said the tight margin — Democrat Joe Biden leads Republican President Donald Trump by 14,000 votes — meaning a full hand count was necessary.

In Cobb County, in suburban Atlanta, several dozen two-person audit teams wearing face masks as a precaution against coronavirus sat at tables in a large room at a county event centre in Marietta as they began counting absentee ballots.

At each table, one auditor picked up a ballot read the candidate’s name aloud and then passed it to the other auditor, who also said the name aloud before placing the ballot in a clearly marked tray corresponding to the candidate’s name. As they worked, the room was quiet aside from the shuffling of papers and auditors saying, “Trump” or “Biden.”

A similar scene occurred in counties across the state as the count began.

A broad coalition of top government and industry officials have declared that the November 3 vote and the following count unfolded smoothly with no more than the usual minor hiccups, rejecting President Donald Trump’s persistent claims and complaints.

It was, they declared, resorting to Mr Trump’s sort of dramatic language, “the most secure in American history.

The president was not impressed. He tweeted on Friday that Democrats have complained for years about unsafe elections but “Now they are saying what a wonderful job the Trump Administration did in making 2020 the most secure election ever.”

“Actually this is true, except for what the Democrats did. Rigged Election!” Mr Trump tweeted.

He didn’t elaborate, but he and his supporters have charged repeatedly — and filed legal challenges — complaining that their poll watchers were unable to closely watch the voting and counting.

They also have raised objections to problems that are typical in most elections: Questions about signatures, late votes and postmarks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost.

Many of those challenges have been tossed out by judges, some within hours of their filing, though some are still pending.

With President-elect Biden leading Mr Trump by wide margins in key battleground states, none of the issues would have any impact on the outcome of the election.

The statement came late Thursday from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and echoed repeated assertions by election experts and state officials.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged the House and Senate Republicans to stop the “charade” of Mr Trump’s reelection.

The White House is planning for President Trump to serve a second term despite his reelection loss, a top official said on Friday.

"We are moving forward here at the White House under the assumption that there will be a second Trump term," the outgoing president's trade advisor Peter Navarro said on Fox Business Network.

Trump has yet to concede nearly a week after US media announced that his Democratic challenger Joe Biden had defeated him.