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Georgia secretary of state announces hand recount of presidential race

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) announced Wednesday he will oversee a hand recount of ballots cast in the Peach State as President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force MORE maintains a slim lead over President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE there.

Raffensperger, who has come under an avalanche of pressure from Republicans to take some kind of action given the tight statewide margin, said he will implement a risk-limiting audit to cover the presidential race. The audit is expected to be done by Nov. 20, when the state must certify its election results.

“With the margin being so close, it will require a full, by-hand recount in each county. This will help build confidence. It will be an audit, a recount and a recanvass all at once. It will be a heavy lift, but we will work with the counties to get this done in time for our state certification,” Raffensperger said at a press conference.

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The announcement comes as Trump and Republicans in Georgia have promoted baseless allegations of voter fraud in Georgia to explain the more than 14,000-vote margin that separates Trump from Biden in the historically red state.

Raffensperger in particular has faced broadsides from fellow Republicans over his oversight of the election, with Georgia Sens. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerMcConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge Club for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout MORE and David PerdueDavid PerdueTrump: 'I'm ashamed that I endorsed' Kemp in Georgia Ossoff warns McConnell would cause paralysis in federal government if GOP holds Senate Collins urges voters to turn out in Georgia runoffs MORE, who are each facing a runoff election in January, calling for his resignation and accusing him of failing “to deliver honest and transparent elections.”

“Earlier today Senators Loeffler and Perdue called for my resignation. Let me start by saying that is not going to happen,” Raffensperger fired back in a statement on Monday. “The voters of Georgia hired me, and the voters will be the one to fire me.”

That rebuke did little to ease the pressure, with GOP House members in Georgia continuing on Tuesday to call on him to review the unsubstantiated voter fraud allegations and the Trump campaign specifically calling for a by-hand recount.

The secretary of state walked a fine line during his Wednesday remarks, saying he would look into claims of voter fraud but maintaining that local officials performed their jobs well on Election Day.

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“They and their staff are the ones that do the hard work on the ground of making sure that all legal votes will be counted,” Raffensperger said. “Their job is hard, they executed their responsibilities, and they did their job. These men and women, and my office, will continue to follow the law and count every legal vote.”

“My office will continue to investigate each and every instance of illegal voting, double voting, felon voting, people voting out of state,” he added. “We have all worked hard to bring fair and accurate counts to ensure that the will of the voters is reflected in the final count and that every voter will have confidence in the outcome whether their candidate won or lost.”

The recount will be of all the votes cast in the state rather than just a subset given the tight statewide margin.

“When you have 5 million votes and the margin is so close, 14,000, if we pulled out 10,000 votes, all of the sudden you could say, ‘Well this is the person that won.’ You pull out 100,000, it says this person won. You pull out a million, this person won. And that’s why mathematically you actually have to do a full hand-by-hand recount of all because the margin is so close,” Raffensperger said.

Regardless of the results from the recount, Biden will still have enough Electoral College votes to win the White House. With calls from Georgia and North Carolina still pending, and hesitance from some outlets to call Arizona for Biden amid his lead there, the former vice president still has 279 electoral votes after winning the Rust Belt states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.