Secretary of State Office's certifies Georgia's 2020 election results
ATLANTA - The Secretary of State's Office said it certified Georgia's 2020 election results on Friday afternoon.
The secretary previously announced plans to certify the election during a press briefing Friday morning, a day after a statewide audit of the results was completed. A statement was sent out prematurely stating the certification was complete but later was clarified that it was still underway. FOX 5 learned around 4 p.m. Friday the certification process was officially completed.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger certified results reported by the state’s 159 counties that show Biden with 2.47 million votes, President Donald Trump with 2.46 million votes and Libertarian Jo Jorgensen with 62,138. That leaves Biden leading by a margin of 12,670 votes, or 0.25%.
The Trump campaign will have two business days to formally request a recount if they so desire.
"I have lived by the motto that numbers don't lie. As Secretary of State, I believe that the numbers we have presented today are correct," Raffensperger said during a press conference Friday morning. "The numbers reflect the verdict of the people, not a decision by the Secretary of State's Office, by the courts, or by the campaigns."
Raffensperger went on to say he wanted to improve upon Georgia's election system and said he would work with the governor and legislature to do so. The secretary called for an absentee ballot photo ID requirement, in addition to allowing the state to step in when counties have systemic problems.
FOX News and the Associated Press have called Georgia for Joe Biden as the Secretary of State's Office said it has completed a hand recount audit of the vote.
Later Friday, Gov. Brian Kemp certified the state’s slate of 16 presidential electors. In an announcement streamed online, Kemp did not clearly endorse the results. Instead, he said the law requires him to “formalize the certification, which paves the way for the Trump campaign to pursue other legal options and a separate recount if they choose.”
The Republican governor hasn’t stepped forward to defend the integrity of this year’s elections amid attacks by Trump and other members of his own party, who claim without evidence that the presidential vote in Georgia was tainted by fraud. Kemp has neither endorsed Trump’s fraud claims nor backed Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, in his assertion that the election was conducted fairly.
Trump’s endorsement two years ago helped Kemp win a heated Republican primary and eke out a narrow general election victory over Democrat Stacey Abrams. Even after losing the White House, Trump is expected to remain a powerful influence with GOP voters in the upcoming Senate runoffs in Georgia as well as in 2022, when Kemp will have to seek reelection.
The counties’ results were affirmed by a hand count of the 5 million ballots cast in the race, according to results released by the secretary of state’s office. The tally resulted from an audit required by a new state law and wasn’t in response to any suspected problems with the state’s results or an official recount request. Raffensperger said the hand tally confirmed Biden’s victory.
Kemp said Friday that he was concerned that the audit looked only at ballots, not the signatures on the absentee ballot applications or absentee ballot envelopes.
“As a former Secretary of State, he is the first to know and confirm that a signature is matched twice prior to an absentee ballot being counted,” Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in a statement.
In fact, the signatures on absentee ballot applications and envelopes are required to be checked when they are received. The audit is only meant to ensure that the voting machines counted the ballots correctly, Raffensperger’s office has said.
Two years ago, when he was secretary of state, Kemp pushed back forcefully against an outcry from Democrats who accused him of suppressing voter turnout to improve his odds of winning the gubernatorial election. At the time, he insisted that Georgia’s laws “prevent elections from being stolen from anyone.”
Biden now has 306 electoral votes to President Donald Trump's 232.
The state's hand audit found a few thousand ballots that were not counted in two counties, Floyd and Forsyth counties, but it was not enough to change the end results.
Several members of the organization Concerned Black Clergy stood at the State Capitol Thursday in defense of Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger.
The group of Democrats, led by State Representative Billy Mitchell, were unapologetic in their support of how the Republican official handled the state's presidential election and hand recount.
GET MORE 2020 YOU DECIDE COVERAGE
“Georgia’s historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state’s new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results,” said Secretary Raffensperger. “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.”
RELATED: Federal judge dismisses Trump campaign lawsuit seeking to halt Georgia election certification
The news comes after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by President Trump and his lawyers seeking a temporary restraining order to halt certification of Georgia's election.
Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, during a press conference on Thursday, promised another lawsuit would be filed in Georgia outlining multiple issues during the election in Atlanta.
RELATED: Giuliani: Recount in Georgia 'means nothing' because of ballot signatures
In Georgia, the president has repeatedly attacked the auditing process and called it “a joke.”
He has also made repeated incorrect assertions that Georgia election officials are unable to verify signatures on absentee ballot envelopes. In fact, Georgia requires that they be checked.
Trump’s own election security agency has declared the 2020 presidential election to have been the most secure in history. Days after that statement was issued, Trump fired the agency’s leader.
RELATED: Georgia runoff key dates
Now the focus begins to shift to two runoff elections that will ultimately decide which political party controls the U.S. Senate. Republicans Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler face close races with Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock. Republicans need just one of those seats to maintain their majority.
Georgia's Senate runoff election is set for January 5.
Here are some key dates for Georgians to remember as the runoff races kick-off, according to the Georgia Secretary of State's website:
- November 18: Earliest day for a registrar to mail an absentee ballot for the general election runoff
- December 7: Voter registration deadline to vote in the federal runoff election
- December 14: Advanced in-person or early voting begins for the general election runoff for federal offices
- January 5, 2021: Federal runoff election day
The Associated Press contributed to this report