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Biden maintains lead in Georgia after completion of hand recount

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 held onto his 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 in Georgia on Thursday after the state completed a days-long hand recount of nearly 5 million votes.

With all of the state’s 59 counties reporting their results, Biden holds a 12,284-vote edge over Trump, only slightly narrower than the roughly 14,000-vote lead the president-elect held in the initial vote tally.

“Georgia’s historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state’s new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results,” said Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a statement Thursday. “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.”

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Biden was declared the winner in Georgia last week, becoming the first Democrat since 1992 to carry the state in a presidential election.

Raffensperger ordered a full hand recount of the vote last week after facing intense pressure from Trump and his allies, who have repeatedly made the false claim that the election results were tainted by widespread voter fraud and systemic irregularities.

Raffensperger has defended the integrity of the election and has said that he ordered the hand recount only to reassure voters of the accuracy of the results.

There is no evidence that the results of the election were tainted by any malfeasance. Raffensperger’s office announced Tuesday that it had completed an audit of voting machines and had found no sign of fraud.

While the audit confirmed that there was no foul play in the reporting of initial election results, the recount exposed flaws in Georgia’s new elections system. After the hand count, Trump netted fewer than 500 votes more than he had in the original count.

Election workers in three counties found more than 3,300 votes stored on memory cards that had not been previously uploaded to state election computers. And in Floyd County, a deep red county in northwest Georgia, the recount discovered some 2,600 ballots that had not been previously scanned.

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Still, the recently unaccounted for votes were not enough to alter the outcome of the election in Georgia. The Floyd County Board of Election voted unanimously on Thursday to fire its chief elections official Robert Brady after the 2,600 uncounted ballots were discovered.

The hand recount did uncover several thousand votes that had not been previously reported to the state. Those votes, however, were not enough to turn the tides of the election in Trump’s favor.

Recounts rarely result in drastic enough changes to alter the outcome of an election, and Biden’s campaign has repeatedly said that the recount in Georgia would yield similar results to the initial count.

“You can recount these ballots alphabetical order, by machine, by hand, by county starting with the second letter in order,” Marc Elias, a lawyer for Biden’s campaign, told reporters on a conference call earlier Wednesday. “They’re going to count the same way.”

Raffensperger will now have until Friday to certify the election results. After that, Trump will still be able to request another recount of the vote. Georgia law allows candidates to ask for recounts if an election is decided by 0.5 percentage points or less, and the current margin separating Biden and Trump is well within that range.

If Trump’s campaign requests a recount, it will be done by machine rather than by hand.

Updated 8:08 p.m.