Georgia faces Wednesday night deadline to finish recount of U.S. election ballots

Election officials across Georgia are staring down a Wednesday deadline to complete a hand tally of the U.S. presidential race in the state.

The hand recount of nearly 5 million votes stems 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. The law requires the audit to be done before the counties’ certified results can be certified by the state.

The deadline for the counties to complete the audit is 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, ahead of the Friday deadline for state certification.

Read more: Georgia official says Lindsey Graham suggested he should throw out ballots

The hand count is meant to ensure that the state’s new election machines accurately tabulated the votes and isn’t expected to change the overall outcome, state election officials have repeatedly said.

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Going into the count, Democrat Joe Biden led Republican President Donald Trump by a margin of about 14,000 votes. Previously uncounted ballots discovered in two counties during the hand count will reduce that margin to about 13,000, said Gabriel Sterling, who oversaw the implementation of the state’s new voting system for the secretary of state’s office.

US election: Georgia official says audit of results expected to be complete next week

US election: Georgia official says audit of results expected to be complete next week

Once the results are certified, if the margin between the candidates remains within 0.5%, the losing campaign can request a recount. That would be done using scanners that read and tally the votes and would be paid for by the state, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has said.

A law passed last year requires the audit but leaves it up to the secretary of state to select the race to be audited. Raffensperger said he chose the presidential race because of its significance and tight margin. Because of the close results, he said, a full hand recount would be needed to complete the audit.

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Over the two weeks since the election, Raffensperger has been under attack from fellow Republicans, from the president on down.

Read more: U.S. election: Georgia official says ‘anecdotes and stories’ not enough to overturn election results

U.S. election: Georgia official says ‘anecdotes and stories’ not enough to overturn election results