By Dave Williams
Capitol Beat News Service
ATLANTA - Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger defended the state’s elections system Friday, one day after President Donald Trump and his Republican supporters accused the secretary of state’s office of mishandling absentee ballots.
With only 4,169 absentee ballots remaining to be counted as of Friday, morning, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden had pulled ahead of Trump in Georgia by a slim 1,599 votes. Biden had trailed the president in the Peach State from the time vote counting began after the polls closed on Tuesday night until the wee hours of Friday morning.
Georgia was one of just a handful of states still up for grabs on Friday, with Biden holding narrow leads in most of them.
“The stakes are high and emotions are high on all sides,” Raffensperger, a Republican, said during a news conference. “We will not let that debate distract us from our work. We will get it right.”
After Trump took to the White House podium Thursday night to slam Georgia and other states still counting absentee ballots, Republican members of Georgia’s congressional delegation rushed to back the president. GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler contributed to a defense fund raising money to mount legal challenges alleging fraud in the election.
But Gabriel Sterling, voting systems manager for the secretary of state’s office, said Friday Georgia election officials have not seen any “widespread irregularities” in the counting of votes.
“When margins are this tight, small things can make a difference,” he said. “So, everything is going to have to be investigated to ensure the integrity of this election.”
Sterling said most of the absentee ballots remaining to be counted – about 3,500 – are in Gwinnett County. The rest come from Cobb, Cherokee and Floyd counties, he said.
Sterling said 8,890 absentee ballots requested by overseas military personnel have not been returned. The deadline for those ballots to be counted is the end of the day Friday, he said.
Raffensperger said the thin margin separating Biden and Trump in Georgia will necessitate a recount, which will come after the vote has been audited and certified.
“We’re committed to doing everything we can to maintain trust in our electoral process,” Raffensperger said.
Sterling said the secretary of state’s office is open to investigating any allegations of wrongdoing that can be supported.
“If somebody has a credible complaint and some evidence, they can give our office a call,” he said.
Sterling said the vote count in Georgia likely won’t be completed before Saturday.