Breaking: Georgia SecState orders a full hand recount in presidential race; Update: Audit and recanvass too

Team Trump got its wish. Before certifying the 2020 election results, Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger has ordered a full hand recount of all ballots in the election. Get ready for a few days of suspense:

The Trump campaign’s representative, former House member Doug Collins, co-signed a letter with the state GOP chair yesterday to demand the full recount:

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who’s leading President Donald Trump’s recount team in Georgia, and state Republican Party Chairman David Shafer sent a letter to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Tuesday requesting that he order a hand recount of Georgia’s nearly 5 million ballots before certifying the results.

Washington Post reporter Amy Gardner says the recount will only come in the presidential race. That may not be enough for the state GOP:

It would make more sense to do a recount in all statewide races, especially the Senate race between David Perdue and Jon Ossoff.

Keep in mind that Raffensperger is not a fan of the claims of widespread election fraud as the reason for Donald Trump’s loss last week. Raffensperger emphatically denied that any evidence exists of fraud on that scale, and challenged accusers to produce evidence of it:

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray that he is a conservative Republican supporter of not only President Donald Trump, but the two Republican senators who are now calling for him to resign.

Raffensperger said he has investigators on staff whose sole job is to look into wrongdoing. He told Gray that so far, nobody has provided any evidence of any significant voter fraud in Georgia.

“We haven’t found any widespread fraud. We will investigate every single case that voters bring to us,” Raffensperger said.

If nothing else, a hand recount might make that point even more emphatically. It might be why Raffensperger decided to proceed with it, although the small gaps in these races made it all but inevitable anyway.

Speaking of which, the gaps are small in the overall sense, but for recounts they’re actually fairly large, bordering on huge. Assuming that a recanvass doesn’t produce significant math/data entry errors (which can happen), Trump currently trails in Georgia by 14,148 votes. As we have remarked on numerous occasions now, recounts don’t change vote totals on that scope, or really anywhere near that scope. Usually the overall gap changes in statewide races tend to be in the hundreds, not the thousands, and to my recollection never on a five-figure scale.

If Republicans expect that kind of change, though, why aren’t they also challenging the Perdue-Ossoff race? Perdue leads Ossoff by 83,000-plus votes at the moment, but he’s missed the 50%+1 vote threshold needed to avoid a runoff by only 14,162 votes. If there’s really a chance that Trump got shorted on that scale by ballot counters, it’s fairly easy to assume that Perdue also got shorted a similar amount, as their vote totals are nearly equal. That would allow Republicans to get to 51 seats without a runoff on January 5.

Perhaps they want to do a hand recount in one race first before doing another. However, there’s a deadline for certification looming. Can Georgia do back-to-back hand recounts in time to meet that deadline? And why should they, when they could do both simultaneously, assuming no statutory impediment to doing so?

In this case, a recount is really just a box-checking exercise. There’s only a slim chance of any significant shift in ballot counts, and this gap would be an unprecedented hurdle in recounts. We’ll get some suspense, but don’t expect a status change, and it appears the state Republican Party isn’t really expecting one either.

Update: Some have been confused whether Raffensperger ordered a recount, an audit, or a recanvass. The answer is … yes:

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says the state will begin a full audit of election results in Georgia today. It’s the first time this has ever happened in our state.

The audit will focus on the presidential election and all ballots will be recounted by hand.

“With the margin being so close, it will require a full, by-hand recount in each county,” Raffensperger said during a news conference Wednesday morning. “This will help build confidence. It will be an audit, a recount and a recanvas all at once. It will be a heavy lift but we will work with the counties to get this done in time for our state certification.”

Thanks to Dan McLaughlin for flagging this.