By Simon Lewis and Daphne Psaledakis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Georgia’s secretary of state on Friday said he expects a recount due to the small margin for the presidential election in the battleground state, where Democrat Joe Biden has a small lead over Republican President Donald Trump.
The presidential candidates each had 49.4% of counted ballots, though Biden was ahead by 1,579 votes as of Friday morning with 4,169 left to count, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, Gabriel Sterling, said.
“With a margin that small, there will be a recount,” Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, told reporters.
Officials said about 9,000 military and overseas ballots were still outstanding and could be accepted if they arrive on Friday and are postmarked on Tuesday or earlier.
There are two ways of seeking a recount in Georgia. A presidential candidate who loses by 0.5% of the vote or less can force a recount by sending a written request to the secretary of state, or a candidate can ask the secretary of state to conduct one by alleging a “discrepancy or error” in the vote tabulation. In that case, state law gives the secretary discretion about whether to conduct a recount.
Local election officials in Georgia also can conduct recounts in their counties if they think there is a discrepancy in the results.
The Southern state switched to new touch-screen voting machines this year. After a voter makes their choices, the machine produces a marked paper ballot that’s fed into a scanner that counts the vote.
Absentee voters – hundreds of thousands this year – filled out the same ballots, which also were fed into the scanners. If the scanner cannot read the ballot, a bipartisan group of election officials reviews it to determine whether or how it should be counted.
A recount essentially repeats that process, and in the past has not made big changes in the results.
Because of that, a recount is considered unlikely to have a big effect on the state’s vote totals.
(Reporting by Simon Lewis, Daphne Psaledakis and Brad Heath; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)