- Georgia’s secretary of state said there will be a statewide recount because of the razor-thin margin between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Former Vice President Joe Biden.
- Biden took the lead in Georgia and Pennsylvania early Friday as he pushes closer to the 270 electoral votes he needs to claim victory.
- Trump has already announced his desire for a recount in Wisconsin, though the 20,000 vote deficit between Trump and Biden will be difficult to overcome.
- Few recounts in the last 50 years have led to changes in the winners. In Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, and Arizona — key states in this year’s race — no statewide recount has led to a change in the winner for at least 20 years.
A Tight Race in Georgia
Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden took a narrow lead over President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania and Georgia early Friday, putting Biden closer to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidential race. However, Georgia’s secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) told reporters later that morning that the state would head to a recount because of just how close the margin between them is proving to be.
“Right now Georgia remains too close to call. Out of approximately 5 million votes cast we’ll have a margin of a few thousand,” Raffensperger said. “With a margin that small, there will be a recount in Georgia.”
“Interest in our election obviously goes far beyond Georgia’s borders. The final tally in Georgia at this point has huge implications for the entire country.”
Candidates must be within half a percentage point of each other to trigger a recount in the state, and as of the morning, Biden had pulled ahead by just over 1,500 votes.
“Everything’s going to have to be investigated to protect the integrity of the vote,” Gabriel Sterling, the Georgia’s Voting System Implementation Manager, told reporters that same morning.“We are literally looking at a margin of less than a large high school.”
Still, officials noted that there are 4,169 mail ballots that need to be counted, with the majority of those coming in Gwinnett County, in Atlanta’s suburbs. On top of that, the state has until Friday to receive overseas and active military ballots that were postmarked by Election Day, and voters have until then to fix any mistakes on absentee ballots that were marked as deficient. There are also some outstanding provisional ballots, according to Politico.
Sterling emphasized that the count would be thorough and transparent, pushing back against false claims from the president and his base about ongoing fraud. “We’re not seeing any widespread irregularities,” he said.
A formal recount challenge will likely not be made until later in November as results continue to trickle in. Such a request must be made within two days of results being certified. As of now, the state certification process is set to be finalized by Nov. 20.
Winning Georgia’s 16 electoral votes will be an important feat for Biden. Trump won Georgia by 5.7 percentage points in 2016, and Republican presidential candidates have carried Georgia in every election since 1992, when Democrat Bill Clinton was victorious there.
What Recount Rules Look Like in Other Key States
Thin margins like that in Georgia could open up the possibility of recounts in other states as well. In fact, the Trump campaign has already signaled that it would request a recount in Wisconsin, where Trump trails behind Biden by around 20,000 votes. Many news outlets have already Biden the apparent winner.
In Wisconsin, a candidate can request a recount if the margin is less than 1%. The request must be made no later than 5 p.m. on the first business day after the state has received final results from the state’s counties.
If that recount is at all similar to past Wisconsin recounts, experts and even other Republicans admit that the vote deficit will be tough to overcome.
When Wisconsin conducted a statewide recount in 2016, after Trump beat Hillary Clinton by more than 20,000 votes, the recount netted Trump 131 votes.
Another key state in the race for president is Pennsylvania, where Biden is leading by over 12,000 votes. Over 124,000 mail-in ballots have yet to be counted.
If Biden wins Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, he doesn’t need any of the other states he’s leading in to reach 270. Trump, on the other hand, cannot find a route to 270 electoral votes without Georgia and Pennsylvania.
As far as recounts laws go, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar is required to order a recount if the winning margin is 0.5% or less. The recount would need to be ordered by 5 p.m. on Nov. 12 and completed by Nov. 24.
A recount can also be triggered in each county if requested by three voters, according to the Washington Post.
Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, and North Carolina have yet to be projected. Trump is ahead in both North Carolina and Alaska, with most expecting that to remain the case. Though, it is worth noting that North Carolina will accept mail-in ballots that arrive through Nov. 12, and the race is not likely to be called until then.
Alaska may be one of the last to be called as well because officials there won’t even begin counting mail ballots, or early in-person ballots cast after Oct. 29, for another week.
Meanwhile, Biden holds a lead in Nevada by around 22,000 votes. There, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit alleging that votes have been cast by deceased people and nonresidents. Election officials in Nevada have denied those claims.
It is unclear when vote count totals will be high enough to award the state’s six electoral votes since the state is still counting and will accept mail-in ballots received through November 10, as long as they were postmarked by Election Day.
If either candidate wants a recount there, Nevada will not launch it automatically. Instead, the state allows defeated candidates in any election to request a recount, no matter the margins. The deadline to request a recount is no later than three business days after the canvass of the vote. The candidate requesting a recount must also be willing to put down a deposit to cover the estimated cost of the recount.
That deposit will only be returned if the candidate requesting the recount ends up winning the race after it.
Biden has also maintained a lead in Arizona over the last few days, with Fox News and the Associated Press already declaring him the winner there. Meanwhile, Trump’s supporters have made baseless voter fraud claims there as well, encouraging the state to keep counting votes in hopes that their candidate can pull out a win.
Those calls are a sharp contrast to those from Trump supporters in Michigan, who called for counting to stop after seeing Biden’s lead grow with mail-in ballots.
It should be noted that all the ballots being counted are valid ballots and any decision to not count them would be both unprecedented and undemocratic.
In Arizona, state law requires a recount when the margin between the top two candidates is equal to or less than one-tenth of 1% of the total number of votes cast. However, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) told ABC News on Thursday morning that she did not anticipate that a recount would be necessary.
“Our recount margins are very narrow,” she said. “I don’t think we’re going to get to that territory.”
Biden is currently leading with over 43,000 votes.
Most news organizations have already declared Biden the winner since Wednesday, with a roughly 150,000-vote lead.
Michigan state law requires a recount be conducted automatically if the margin between two candidates is 2,000 votes or less.
A candidate can also petition for a recount if he or she alleges fraud or a mistake and “would have had a reasonable chance of winning the election.” The petition must be filed within 48 hours of the count’s completion.
A judge in the state has already dismissed a Trump campaign lawsuit which alleged their election inspectors did not have proper access to observe the counts in Michigan. The judge argued it was basically moot because most of the ballots have already been counted.
Could a Recount Flip a Key Battleground? Probably Not
Though many expect Trump to seek some recounts as his paths to victory disappear, experts argue that recounts likely won’t make a difference in a statewide election. According to NBC News, few recounts in the last 50 years have led to changes in the winners.
In Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada and Arizona — key states in this year’s race — no statewide recount has led to a change in the winner for at least 20 years.
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Politico) (The Washington Post)
House Passes Landmark Elections Bill To Expand Voting Rights
- House Democrats passed the For the People Act on Wednesday, a broad voting rights bill that aims to enhance voting rights.
- Among other measures, the legislation would mandate automatic voter registration, expand early and mail-in voting, restore voting rights to former felons, and impose new disclosure requirements for campaign donations and political advertising.
- Democrats say the act is necessary to ensure American’s right to vote, especially as state legislatures have proposed dozens of bills that would roll back voting access and consolidate GOP power.
- Republicans have argued that states, not the federal government, should decide how elections are run and claimed the new bill would lead to fraud that helps liberal candidates.
House Approves For the People Act
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a sweeping elections bill Wednesday that aims to significantly expand federal voting rights all over the country.
The bill, called the For the People Act, was proposed by Democrats and passed 220 to 210 almost entirely along party lines. According to reports, if signed into law, it would be the most comprehensive enhancement of federal protections since the 1960s.
The bill contains a wide variety of provisions, but the most significant fall into two broader categories: creating uniform standards for voting and increasing financial transparency.
Regarding the voting rights standards, among other things, the bill would:
- Weaken restrictive state voter ID laws.
- Mandate that state governments use existing records to automatically register voters.
- Guarantee no-excuse mail voting and at least 15 days of early voting for all federal elections.
- Make it harder to purge voter rolls.
- Restore voting rights to former felons.
- End partisan gerrymandering by requiring states to appoint independent commissions to draw congressional districts.
As for what the bill aims to do regarding expanding transparency, it would:
- Impose new disclosure requirements for “dark money” donations used to finance campaigns.
- Create a public financing option for congressional campaigns.
- Require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.
- Require tech platforms to disclose political advertising information.
Arguments For And Against
Democrats have argued that this legislation is essential to protecting and ensuring the right to vote.
The task, they say, is especially important now because Republican-controlled state legislatures have proposed dozens of bills that would roll back voting access as a reaction to former President Donald Trump’s loss and efforts to undermine the election. Many Republicans have used Trump’s false claims about voter fraud to promote their legislation.
Democrats have said these bills are a very transparent attempt by Republicans to consolidate their power because they know they benefit from lower voter turnout, and thus their strategy to win more races is just simply to make voting harder. As a result, Democrats have said the For the People Act is key to combatting these bills
“Everything is at stake,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) said Wednesday. “We must win this race, this fight.”
Republicans, for their part, have argued that states, not the federal government, should make changes to how elections are run, and that the legislation would lead to fraud that benefits Democrats.
“House Democrats do not get to take their razor-thin majority — which voters just shrunk — and use it to steamroll states and localities to try and prevent themselves from losing even more seats next time,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in response to the bill’s passage.
However, many have disputed that claim by noting that there is no evidence of widespread fraud that helped Democrats in the last election. By contrast, there are years of evidence that Republicans do benefit from making it harder for people to vote and gerrymandering districts, a fact that McConnell himself seemed to acknowledge by implying that Democrats win more when voting rights are expanded.
Despite Republican objections, recent polls have found that most Americans support having more voter protections. According to a January survey by Data for Progress, 67% of Americans back the For the People Act, including a majority of Republicans.
Still, the legislation is all but doomed in the Senate, which struck down an almost identical version passed by the House in 2019. While Democrats technically have a majority now, the current 50-50 split will require a minimum of 10 Republicans to join forces with all 50 Democrats to avoid the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)
Texas Governor Will Reopen State “100%” and End Mask Mandate Against Expert Advice
- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Tuesday that he was opening the state “100%” and ending the mask mandate starting March 10, against health guidance from federal officials.
- Abbott justified his decision by noting that nearly 6 million Texans have been vaccinated and hospitalizations are down in the state.
- Experts, however, pointed out that less than 2 million of the state’s 29 million residents are fully inoculated, and the CDC currently ranks Texas 48th for vaccination rates out of all 50 states.
- On Tuesday alone, governors in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Michigan as well as local leaders in Chicago and San Francisco also announced plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions.
Abbott Announces Major COVID Policy Changes
Starting March 10, Texas will no longer have a state-wide mask mandate or any coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and facilities, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced Tuesday.
The move represents the most expansive reopening of any state and makes Texas the largest state to lift its public masking requirement. However, it also goes entirely against the recommendation of the nation’s top experts.
During a press conference Monday, Rochelle Walensky, the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned leaders against rolling back restrictions. She cited the fact that the recent nation-wide decline in cases has been stalling and that there has been community spread of the new variants — three of which have been found in Texas, saying:
“With these new statistics, I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19,” she said.
“Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress,” she continued.
“Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of covid-19 in our communities, not when we are so close.”
Conditions in Texas
While cases have been declining in Texas, like most of the country, there is still a lot of data that makes Abbott’s decision especially concerning.
According to The New York Times tracker, Texas still ranks within the top ten states with the highest weekly cases per capita, reporting a weekly average of just over 7,200. Texas also has more hot-spot counties than any other state, according to Business Insider’s analysis of the Times data, which found that 10 counties have reported more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents on average over the last week.
Notably, that number could be skewed because of the massive drop in the testing due to a recent storm that left millions without power and clean water. In fact, experts have warned that Texas could see more COVID cases in the fallout of the storm because people were forced to shelter together.
Abbott, however, did not focus on any of that in his announcement. Instead, he cited other metrics, noting that nearly 5.7 Texans have been vaccinated. He also pointed to declines in hospitalizations.
But both of these justifications are misleading. While it is true that Texas has vaccinated close to 6 million people, according to the CDC, less than 2 million out of 29 million state residents have received both doses needed to be considered fully inoculated.
Beyond that, the CDC’s latest vaccination report ranks Texas 48th in vaccination rates out of all 50 states. Part of that is tied to the lag the state faced because of the storm, but experts still say this just proves that the state needs to be focus on catching up and vaccinating more people instead of rolling back restrictions.
To that point, public health officials have also pushed back against Abbott’s use of declining hospitalization rates as a rationale for his reopening plans. They warned that current hospitalization declines are already slowing and could reverse, and that will only get worse with reopenings.
Other States Reopen
Texas, however, is not the only state that has rolled back restrictions lately, or even just in the past 24 hours.
On Tuesday alone, the governors of Louisiana and Michigan as well as the mayors of Chicago and San Francisco all announced that they would be easing some restrictions on businesses and/or the capacity at which they operate.
Right after Abbott’s announcement, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) made a nearly identical one with an even shorter timeline. In a tweet, he said that starting Wednesday, he would lift all county mask mandates and allow businesses to “operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules.”
The recent easing of restrictions is part of a broader trend — and not just in states that have Republican governors or large conservative populations.
While California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) slammed Abbott’s move as “absolutely reckless,” he has also been widely condemned by leaders in his state for recently rolling back numerous restrictions.
Over the last few weeks, the Democratic governors of Virginia, North Carolina, and New York have all also lifted or otherwise modified regulations to make them less restrictive.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Dallas Morning News) (Business Insider)
Georgia House Passes Sweeping Bill To Restrict Voting Access
- The Georgia House approved an election bill Monday that would impose new restrictions on absentee voting and provisional ballots, cut weekend early voting hours, and limit physical access to voting options, among other measures.
- Republicans proposed the bill after losing the Presidential and Senate races, arguing that it is necessary to restore confidence in the state’s elections and prevent fraud.
- Democrats have condemned the proposed law, noting that Republicans created the distrust by spreading former President Trump’s false claims about election fraud even when top GOP officials in the state said there was no evidence. They also accused them of trying to suppress voters, particularly Black residents.
Georgia House Approves Election Bill
Republicans in the Georgia House passed a sweeping bill Monday that would significantly roll back voting access in the state.
The bill, which was proposed by Republicans who want to impose new restrictions after losing the election, was passed 97-72 along party lines. If signed into law, among other things, the legislation would:
- Require a photo ID for absentee voting.
- Cut the amount of time voters have to request an absentee ballot.
- Restrict ballot drop box locations to inside early voting locations.
- Shorten Georgia’s runoff election period.
- Impose more strict regulations on provisional ballots.
- Prevent the governments from mailing out unsolicited absentee ballot applications to registered voters.
- Ban nonprofit organizations from helping fund elections.
- Almost entirely cut early voting busses that are key to transport people to the polls.
- Prohibit food and drinks from being distributed to voters waiting in long lines.
- Limit early voting hours on weekends.
The last provision is one of the most controversial because it would include limiting the get-out-the-vote campaign known as “souls to the polls,” which is widely used by Black churches. That initiative has been credited with mobilizing Black voters all over the country since the Jim Crow era. The proposed law would limit events to just one Sunday during the early voting period, which would also be cut short.
Arguments For And Against The Bill
The Republicans who have pushed for the bill argue that it is necessary to restore public confidence in Georgia’s elections and help prevent fraud.
But Democrats, voting rights organizations, and protestors who have gathered in front of the capitol to demonstrate against the bill have pointed out that it was Republicans who hurt public trust in the state’s elections by repeating former President Donald Trump’s false claims about election fraud.
Meanwhile, numerous top Republican officials — including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger — have said time and time again that there was no evidence of fraud in the 2020 elections.
Though notably, many Republican state legislators who supported the former president’s false that massive fraud had occurred in their states never contested the results of their own elections, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Democrats have also said that the bill is just the Republican’s latest, transparent attempt to drive down turnout and suppress voters — particularly Black voters who helped Democrat’s wins in the state and take the Senate — rather than actually increase election security.
As far as what happens next, the bill will head to the state Senate, which is also Republican-controlled, and already considering its own elections bill that would end no-excuse absentee voting, among other things.
From there, it will go to Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who will likely sympathetic to the cause.
Notably, this legislation the only election bill like this being proposed in state capitols around the country or even in Georgia.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, legislators in 43 states are considering more than 250 bills that would create impediments to voting. Dozens of those proposals exist in Georgia alone.