After a required audit that included a hand count of all votes cast in Georgia’s presidential election, President Donald Trump still could request a recount, according to Mercer Law Dean Cathy Cox. 

“We still have many miles to go before results are final in Georgia,” she said. 

Cox, former Georgia secretary of state and one of the nation’s foremost experts on election law and voting procedures, made the comments Nov. 18 during a virtual panel discussion hosted by Mercer University’s Political Science Department.  

Results of the audit released Nov. 19 reaffirmed Joe Biden’s win in Georgia. Biden led Trump by 12,284 votes, a margin of less than 0.5%.

Now that the audit is complete, two deadlines loom: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger must certify the state’s presidential electors by Nov. 20, and Gov. Brian Kemp must certify them by 5 p.m. Nov. 21.  

Once the results are certified, candidates may make legal challenges and recount requests. These could come as early as Thanksgiving week, Cox said. 

Candidates are entitled to a recount if the margin is less than 0.5%.  

Georgia’s first audit 

The audit, which, specifically, was a risk-limiting audit, was required under a new state law. Such an audit was not possible in the past with the state’s old voting equipment, Cox said. 

The new machines marked a voter’s ballot and printed out receipts, which were then scanned and tabulated. This technology allowed elections officials to check paper ballots against the machine tallies during the audit.  

While the audit is required by law, the rules gave Raffensperger discretion as to which race would be audited. 

A close margin and political criticism from Raffensperger’s own party likely led to his decision to choose the presidential race, Cox said. 

In the days and weeks since the election, Trump’s recount manager in Georgia and Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler criticized Raffensperger’s handling of the election, she said. 

Both Perdue and Loeffler, who are facing Democratic challengers in a January runoff, called on Raffensperger to resign, citing “failures” in the election process without providing specific evidence. 

“Because of this, the secretary of state used his discretion to use the presidential race for the audit,” Cox said. 

And although there is no provision in Georgia for a hand recount unless a court orders it, the recent hand count was required for the audit because of the closeness of the race, she said. 

If the race selected for the audit was not close, the statistical model that determines how many ballots need to be counted by hand would have required only a small amount. 

“That’s why we’ve been waiting on every ballot to be hand counted,” Cox said. 

A recount requested by Trump or any other candidate would require a re-scanning of all ballots on the machines. 

“They cannot get a hand recount unless they go to court,” she said. 

 

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Jennifer Borage
Jennifer is a digital content specialist at Mercer. She creates and maintains written and multimedia content for primary University web pages. She collaborates with various schools and departments to ensure timely and consistent web page content is maintained. She also examines web data and analytics to drive content creation decisions.