ATLANTA – Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden continues to expand his lead in Georgia after what could be the final data dump from the state’s most populous county.
As of Saturday morning, the new vote totals from Fulton County brings the former vice president’s current lead in Georgia to 7,248, adding more distance from Friday when the state first swung in favor of the Democratic candidate due to Clayton County.
“I could not be more pleased with the results we have here today,” Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron said.
Biden claimed nearly 4,000 of the additional 5,100 votes published overnight, which included provisional ballots and votes from members of the military and those overseas.
With the race still tight in Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger said a recount will be likely due to the extremely close margin of victory, leaving the state’s 16 electoral votes still up in the air.
“Georgia deserves accurate, real election results,” Raffensperger said at a press conference on Friday. “Election workers around the state are working with integrity to ensure every legal ballot is counted, and no illegal ballots are counted.”
Raffensperger said his office is focused on ensuring every legal vote is added and counted accurately. He said it is important to maintain the trust of the public.
“The final tally in Georgia, at this point has huge implications across the country. The stakes are high and the emotions are high on all sides,” he said. “We will not let those debates distract us from our work. We will get it right and we will defend the integrity of our elections.”
The secretary of state also said officials are being open with monitors being allowed in for transparency and pledged his office would investigate all legitimate claims regardless of partisan preference.
Gabriel Sterling, who is in charge of the elections infrastructure in Georgia said on Friday there were about 8,400 overseas/military ballots and 14,200 provisional ballots outstanding across the state.
Those overseas ballots or UOCAVA ballots had to be postmarked by Nov. 3 and must have arrived by 4:30 p.m. on Friday. Sterling said just because the 8,400 are outstanding does not mean they will make it in time to be counted.
Sterling said there were about 14,200 provisional ballots that were received by count election officials on Election Day. Officials are working to determine the validity of those ballots, but not all will be accepted.
“If a voter tries to cast a ballot at the wrong precinct, they cast a provisional ballot and only the races relevant to their assigned precinct are counted. If a voter tries to cast a ballot in the wrong county, they are only eligible to cast ballots in statewide races,” the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office explained in a release Friday. “If a voter attempts to cast a ballot but is not listed as a registered voter, they vote a provisional ballot, which is set aside until county officials or the voter him or herself clarifies their registration status. Lastly, provisional ballots are used for any votes cast during court extended voting hours.”
Neither candidate has reached the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House. But Biden eclipsed Trump in Wisconsin and Michigan, two crucial Midwestern battleground states, overtook the president in Georgia and has passed the president by over 20,000 votes in Pennsylvania, where votes were still be counted.
It was unclear when a national winner would be determined after a long, bitter campaign dominated by the coronavirus and its effects on Americans and the national economy. The U.S. on Wednesday set another record for daily confirmed cases as several states posted all-time highs.
The pandemic has killed more than 233,000 people in the United States.
Sterling said with the tight vote in some races, a recount will likely be triggered. That could take up to a week after the Nov. 13 certification deadline, meaning the final numbers might not be known until Nov. 20.
“Officials in numerous counties are continuing to count ballots, with strong security protocols in place to protect the integrity of our election,” said Raffensperger. “We have long anticipated – and said publicly – that counting would most likely take place into Wednesday night and perhaps Thursday morning. We’re on pace to accomplish that responsibly, ensuring that the voice of every eligible voter is heard. It’s important to act quickly, but it’s more important to get it right.”
Sterling also cleared up some confusion voters were having about the way they voted. He said early voting, for state purposes, is considered in-person absentee voting.
“Early voting in person is what’s called ‘absentee in person,’” Sterling said Thursday afternoon. “That’s why your ballot status shows that your absentee ballot was accepted. It’s confusing, but it doesn’t mean someone else mailed in a ballot with your name. It simply means your vote was counted when you cast your ballot in person during early voting.”
Meanwhile, tensions have grown nationwide as allegations of voter fraud spread like wildfire.
Fulton County’s election director warned against jumping to judgment after an employee went into hiding because of incorrect accusations on social media that he threw a ballot away.
“Personally, I think it’s shameful,” Barron said. “He was merely discarding a list of instructions that was put into the envelope.
Legal battles also loom in the state, with the Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel promising that will “not give up on the process until every last issue has been uncovered and resolved.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.