Georgia officials on Wednesday announced an unprecedented hand recount of all ballots cast in the state, where presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden held a lead in the election.
President Trump’s campaign welcomed the announcement by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, which advanced Mr. Trump’s challenge to election counts across the country, though he has far to go to claim a second term.
The Trump campaign began organizing to have its eyes on every ballot, including mail-in, absentee and votes cast in person on Election Day.
The campaign, however, suffered a blow to its legal fight pending before the Supreme Court over Pennsylvania’s extended counting of mail-in ballots. State officials said about 10,000 mail-in ballots arrived after Election Day, an amount too small to change the outcome for Mr. Trump.
He trails by about 50,000 votes, or 0.7%, in Pennsylvania. An automatic recount is triggered in the state if the margin is 0.5% or less.
At this juncture, the most likely path to victory for Mr. Trump is through Pennsylvania. The margin there is relatively slim amid a slew of disputes. If he succeeds in undoing Mr. Biden’s projected win there, Mr. Trump then would need to do the same in Arizona or Nevada and then come out on top in tight races in Georgia and North Carolina.
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“This will be a gradual process. This will require patience. We know the president’s supporters and the media want immediate results,” said Tim Murtaugh, the president’s campaign manager. “This will require patience and the following of methodical steps and the process and that is what will begin soon in Georgia.”
Mr. Raffensperger said the Georgia recount will “help build confidence.”
“It will be an audit, a recount and a re-canvass all at once,” he said. “We have all worked hard to bring fair and accurate counts to assure that the will of the voters is reflected in the final count.”
All Georgia ballots will be recounted by hand for the audit in each of the 159 counties, an unprecedented move in state history.
Mr. Raffensperger said his office wants the process to begin by the end of the week and he expects it to take until Nov. 20, which is the state certification deadline.
Mr. Biden, projected to be the winner of the national election, is leading the vote count in Georgia by roughly 14,000 votes, or 0.3 %. Mr. Trump won Georgia in 2016 by a roughly 5% margin.
Both Georgia senators — Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — are headed to runoff races in January that will determine which party controls the upper chamber.
On Monday, they issued a joint statement demanding Mr. Raffensperger, also a Republican, resign as Georgia’s top election official. They cited “mismanagement and lack of transparency” as a chief concern.
Mr. Raffensperger rejected their demand.
The recount will not affect their races. It will be focused on the presidential election and ensure the accuracy of the machines, equipment and processes in place.
Mr. Trump’s campaign will be able to have individuals in place to eye every piece of paper for the hand recount.
“This is an unprecedented effort that is being taken in the state of Georgia,” said Stefan Passantino, counsel to the Trump 2020 campaign.
Rep. Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican helping lead the Trump campaign’s recount effort in the state, said several measures would ensure a fair count, including looking into ballot harvesting in the state and ensuring that ballot signatures match.
Before the recount announcement, the Trump campaign said some votes were cast under the names of dead people. Campaign officials provided four such incidents.
Mr. Raffensperger has repeatedly said he hasn’t found evidence substantiating claims of voter fraud but will continue to investigate.
“My office will continue to investigate each and every incidence of illegal voting, double voting, felon voting, people voting out of state. If you report it we will investigate it. Every legal vote will count,” he said. “We haven’t found any widespread fraud. We will investigate every single case that voters bring to us.”
There is no automatic recount law in Georgia, but the Trump campaign formally requested an optional recount this week.