ATLANTA — A hand tally of the presidential race in Georgia is complete, and the results affirm Democrat Joe Biden's lead over Republican President Donald Trump.
Biden went into the recount with a margin of 13,558 votes, according to votes tallied by NBC News. Previously uncounted ballots discovered during the hand count reduced the margin to 12,284 votes, the Georgia secretary of state's office reported.
"The recount process simply reaffirmed what we already knew: Georgia voters selected Joe Biden to be their next president," said Jaclyn Rothenberg, Georgia communications director for the Biden campaign. "We are grateful to the election officials, volunteers and workers for working overtime and under unprecedented circumstances to complete this recount as the utmost form of public service."
Trump's campaign said in a statement that the recount went as it expected because it "recounted all of the illegal ballots that had been included in the total."
"We continue to demand that Georgia conduct an honest recount, which includes signature matching," said Jenna Ellis, the campaign's senior legal adviser. "We intend to pursue all legal options to ensure that only legal ballots are counted."
The hand recount of nearly 5 million votes stemmed from an audit required by a new state law, not from any suspected problems with the state's results or an official recount request. The state has until Friday to certify the results that the counties have certified and submitted.
Once the state certifies the election results, the losing campaign has two business days to request a recount if the margin remains within 0.5 percent. That recount would be done using scanners that read and tally the votes, and it would be paid for by the counties, said Gabriel Sterling, who oversees Georgia's voting systems.
It was up to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to select the race to be audited, and he said the presidential race made the most sense because of its significance and the tight margin separating the candidates. Because of the small margin, Raffensperger said, a full hand recount was necessary.
Raffensperger said in a statement Thursday that the results reaffirm the integrity of the state's election process.
"Georgia's historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state's new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results," he said. "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."
Raffensperger's office said in the statement that the highest error rate in any county recount was 0.73 percent. Most counties had no changes in their final tallies. The majority of the remaining counties had changes of fewer than 10 ballots.
Other counties found slight differences in results as they did their hand counts; state election officials had consistently said that was to be expected.