ATLANTA (CN) — In the early Friday morning hours, presidential candidate Joe Biden narrowly amassed more votes than President Donald Trump in Georgia.
Although the race is still too narrow for expert race watchers to call, the unofficial results from the Georgia secretary of state show Biden leading Trump by a little more than 4,000 votes as of 8 p.m. Each candidate has amassed about 2.45 million votes from Georgia voters so far.
Should Biden ultimately win Georgia with its 16 electoral votes, it would be the first time in a generation a Democratic presidential candidate has won the deep-South state, a place where presidential peanut farmer Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday school and land that inspired aspects of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs.
Should Biden win Georgia, the electoral votes from the state would leave him with a projected 269 electoral votes – one vote shy of wining the White House if another state is not called for him first.
Trump gained an early lead there as votes were counted Tuesday night after polls closed. But as the sun dawned Wednesday, arced across the sky, set and rose again, the counts of ballots in predominately urban areas began chipping away at Trump’s lead.
The race in Georgia is coming down to the last few thousands of ballots that took some counties marathon sessions to count.
Four years ago in the race against Hillary Clinton, Trump had won the state with the backing of 51% of the more than 4 million voters who cast ballots in that race.
This year’s election in Georgia also carries potential significance for the U.S. Senate as both of its seats are in play. During the counting late Thursday, Republican Senator David Perdue did not collect the 50% of voter support needed to head off a runoff election.
Perdue’s campaign manager Ben Fry welcomed the possibility of a runoff after the votes are tallied. “It is clear that more Georgians believe that David Perdue’s positive vision for the future direction of our country is better than Chuck Schumer’s radical, socialist agenda,” Fry said in a statement.
His challenger is Democrat Jon Ossoff, managing director of Insight TWI, which produces investigative documentaries. When his campaign believed Perdue would not net a majority of votes in the race, Ossoff campaign manager Ellen Foster noted the votes were still being tallied but said the campaign was “confident that Jon Ossoff’s historic performance in Georgia has forced Senator David Perdue to continue defending his indefensible record of unemployment, disease, and corruption.”
The second Georgia senate race, where junior Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Republican seeking reelection, is clearly headed to a Jan. 5 runoff. Governor Brian Kemp appointed the junior senator to the spot previously held by Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, and Loeffler faced a jungle primary of 20 candidates in the special election.
Gathering about 26% percent of the vote, Loeffler came in second to the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who preaches from the pulpit of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, once pastored by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Warnock earned about 33% of the vote.
On Wednesday, the Secretary of State’s Office began releasing updates on how much of the vote remained: By 8 p.m. Wednesday, 122,535; 10:15, 90,735; and by 9:15 a.m. Thursday morning, 61,367 ballot remained.
By 10:35 p.m. Thursday evening, the secretary of state announced the state had to count 14,097 votes.
With the close results, groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund reminded voters who cast provisional ballots Tuesday that the deadline to cure their ballots was by 5 p.m. Friday at their local registrar.
Gabriel Sterling, who is managing the implementation of the state’s new voting system, asked for patience in remarks to reporters Thursday morning because this election is the first time the state is counting paper ballots in 20 years. Georgia had recently retired the paperless system it implemented after the hanging-chad snafu of the 2000 elections, switching it ahead of the 2020 elections for a ballot-marking system created by Dominion Voting Systems.
“Fast is great, and we appreciate fast,” Sterling said. “We more appreciate accuracy. Accuracy is going to be the bedrock upon which people will believe the outcomes of these elections.”
Sterling said if a candidate’s victory is within a half a percent, state law allows the candidates to call for a statewide recount, a possibility in this race.
In the last few days of the race, both candidates touched down in Peach State. Biden spoke from Warm Springs a week before the election, a symbolic town for Democrats because it is the location of Franklin Roosevelt’s Little White House. Trump touched down in Rome, a city located in the northwest corner of the state on Sunday.
On Wednesday, Trump baselessly “claimed” Georgia as a win for his reelection bid. No official groups had projected the president would win the state, as Biden still had a path to victory in the state at the time.
As the count across the nation wound on, the Trump campaign challenged the results across the nation, filing a lawsuit in Minnesota, calling for a recount in Wisconsin and turning to the court to mount a challenge in Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile in Georgia, the Trump campaign filed one suit it touted in a statement as affecting all 159 counties when it came to keeping late-arriving absentee ballots separate from other votes, but a complaint filed in the coastal county of Chatham seeks relief only in the community that contains the city of Savannah. After an hour-long hearing, Judge James Bass dismissed the suit Thursday saying there was no evidence election officials in Chatham did not follow the law.