Election 2020 Georgia Vote Counting

Officials work on ballots at the Gwinnett County Voter Registration and Elections Headquarters, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Lawrenceville, near Atlanta.

ATLANTA — Joe Biden took the lead over President Donald Trump in Georgia early Friday, Nov. 6, as vote counting continued, with little more than 900 votes separating the candidates after about five million votes were cast in the state.

The Associated Press has not declared a winner in Georgia because the race between the Republican president and the Democratic nominee remains too early to call.

Biden took the lead when results were updated early Nov. 6 by Clayton County, part of which is in Georgia's 5th Congressional District, long held by Democrat Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights leader who died in July.

"It's wonderful, that's my point," the Rev. Jesse Jackson told The Associated Press Nov. 6 by phone. "Dr. (Martin Luther) King and John Lewis speak from their graves today. The heavenly hosts rejoice."

The Secretary of State's office said that fewer than 8,200 absentee ballots remained to be tallied and 8,900 ballots sent to military and overseas voters had yet to be returned.

Counties also have provisional ballots to review and possibly add to their totals, along with absentee ballots that need to be "cured" by voters Nov. 6. Ballots cast before Election Day by military voters and citizens living overseas must be received by 5 p.m. Nov. 6 to be tallied.

Gabriel Sterling, who has overseen the implementation of Georgia's new electronic voting system, said counties have been working diligently to finish tabulating their results, and he emphasized his confidence in the legitimacy of the process.

"I think if anybody was going to try to rig a system they might have seen something a little less close than this," Sterling said Nov. 5. "In this state in particular we take security very seriously."

Under Georgia law, if the margin between Biden and Trump is under half a percentage point of difference, a recount can be requested. Sterling said a recount for president is "more than likely, and the people will see that the outcome will stay essentially the same."

After each county certifies their total, the state will perform an audit before certifying the results. Counties must certify their results by Nov. 13 and the state must certify the results by Nov. 20.

With margins so narrow in Georgia, Democrats and Republicans along with voting advocacy groups are scrambling to encourage people to fix flaws in already submitted ballots before Friday's deadline to ensure they are counted.

There are two categories of ballots where voters may need to "cure" flaws. One is in mail-in ballots, where voters may have forgotten to sign their ballot or elections workers may have decided that the signature doesn't match.

The second is provisional ballots, where voters encountered a problem in person at a polling place and cast their vote with the understanding that officials would later determine whether it's eligible. Some of these will be counted without further action, but if a voter didn't present a photo identification, they will have to present ID to officials to cure their ballot. Advocates also say that in some cases, voters may need to go to a county elections office if they didn't show up on the rolls at a polling place to make sure their ballot is counted.

Cam Ashling, a Democratic activist, said she spent Nov. 5 canvassing Gwinnett and Hall counties northeast of Atlanta door to door, although she said she found few voters. She said volunteers are flooding in on the Democratic side to seek out missing ballots.

"I guess they're waking up to the reality that we can flip Georgia," Ashling said.

State officials couldn't immediately provide the number of uncured absentee ballots. Provisional lists are kept at the county level, and there are thousands outstanding statewide that county officials will decide on whether to count.

With 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, Georgia's 16 electoral votes could clinch it for the Democrats.

Donald Trump Jr. spoke Nov. 5 at an event in Atlanta, along with several Georgia elected officials, and decried the process.

Earlier in the day, roughly a hundred Trump supporters gathered outside the arena. They carried signs that read, "Foolton County=Fraud" and chanted "God bless Trump" and "Stop the steal." Several Atlanta police officers monitored the scene.

On Nov. 5, Chatham County Judge James Bass dismissed a lawsuit by the Georgia Republican Party and the Trump campaign that raised concerns about 53 absentee ballots; county officials testified that all had been received on time.

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