Georgia confirms Biden victory and finds no widespread fraud after statewide audit
(CNN) -- Georgia has finished its statewide audit of the razor-thin presidential race, confirming that President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump, according to a news release from the Secretary of State's office.
Biden beat Trump by 12,284 votes, according to the final results from the audit. This is a slight drop for Biden compared to the pre-audit results.
Officials have said repeatedly that the audit confirmed there was no widespread fraud or irregularities in the election.
Georgia is required under state law to certify its election results by Friday.
"Georgia's historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state's new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results," Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, said in a statement.
"This is a credit to the hard work of our county and local elections officials who moved quickly to undertake and complete such a momentous task in a short period of time."
There is no state where the sting of Trump's loss has been more acutely felt than in the red state of Georgia.
The suburban revolt against Trump in the suburbs surrounding Atlanta, paired with huge turnout among Black voters, powered Biden's gains in the state, building on years of intensive Democratic organizing to register voters.
The Biden campaign's communications director for Georgia, Jaclyn Rothenberg, said in a statement Thursday evening that the recount outcome, "simply reaffirmed what we already knew: Georgia voters selected Joe Biden to be their next president."
"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," she said.
The state is now the center of the political universe, because the two US Senate runoff elections will determine which political party controls the Senate.
The President has continued to tweet debunked disinformation about voting software used in the state and objected to the recount as "fake" by tweeting false claims about the state's signature-matching process.
Gabriel Sterling, Georgia's voting system implementation manager, explained to CNN's Anderson Cooper on "AC360" Thursday that "one of the main things that you're looking for when you do this hand audit is to make sure that the items you see on the paper, on the ballot" match what the computer says.
"Human beings are looking because, as you know, one of the big complaints is these machines somehow flipped votes or changed votes or did stuff. They didn't, at least not in Georgia," Sterling said. "We proved it."
During the weeklong recount, officials in four counties found new batches of votes that weren't counted on Election Day or weren't properly transmitted to the Secretary of State for tallying.
In all, more than 5,800 uncounted votes were uncovered, netting nearly 1,400 new votes for Trump, who falsely said the discoveries were proof of wrongdoing. State officials stressed that these were accidents caused by human error and not indicative of fraud or vote-rigging.
Raffensperger's office called the difference between the audit results and the original machine-counted results "well within the expected margin of human error that occurs when hand-counting ballots."
Ben Adida -- the executive director of the election security nonprofit VotingWorks, which assisted Georgia with the audit -- said in a statement, "Georgia's first statewide audit successfully confirmed the winner of the chosen contest and should give voters increased confidence in the results."
Raffensperger has come under fire from both Trump and the state's sitting GOP senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who called on him to resign after falsely accusing him of failing to "deliver honest and transparent elections."
Raffensperger told CNN's Jake Tapper on Wednesday that the state has "not seen widespread voter fraud." When asked about the attacks from Trump and members of his own party, he defended his credentials as a "lifelong Republican" and "conservative Christian Republican."
"I'm going to make sure we count every legal, lawful vote and we're not going to count any illegal votes," Raffensperger said. "My record will stand on itself. We have done a great job."
Governor's signature needed to finalize Biden's win
While Raffensperger is expected to certify the results on Friday morning, there is one more step in the process: Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has until 5 p.m. ET Saturday to sign the paperwork that officially grants Georgia's 16 electors to Biden, according to state law.
CNN has asked Kemp's office if he plans to do this without incident.
State law says the governor "shall certify the slates of presidential electors receiving the highest number of votes," and it's unclear what options Kemp would have to avoid signing the paperwork.
Kemp has been relatively quiet during the audit process, but he released a statement before the audit urging Raffensperger to "take a serious look at any and all voting irregularity allegations that have been made."
Trump has mentioned Kemp in at least six tweets since Election Day, encouraging him to "get tough" and make the state "flip Republican." He also encouraged Kemp to "take charge" after it became clear the audit wasn't uncovering widespread irregularities.
In other tweets, the President has struck a more hostile tone, blaming Kemp for a legal agreement the state reached earlier this year with Democratic groups regarding absentee ballots. Raffensperger's office has said Trump is mischaracterizing the agreement, known as a consent decree, which he falsely claimed weakened verification rules for absentee ballots.
This story and its headline have been updated with the results of Georgia's recount.
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