Analysis: Why did Georgia take so long to count votes?

Darina Lubenov, Staff Reporter

President-elect Joe Biden was declared victorious in Georgia during the 2020 presidential election, flipping the once-reliable Republican Southern stronghold into a Democratic one during this year’s elections.

Georgia finished submitting final ballots 17 days after Election Day, turning blue for the first time since 1992.

These results have prompted the current-president Donald Trump and his administration to issue a recount of votes cast in the state not once, but — as of Tuesday, Nov. 24 — twice. 

The Trump administration had ordered Georgia counties to begin another recount to see if the third time will be the charm for the Republican Party.

It’s important to remember that swing states like Georgia are important for candidates because they are unpredictable, especially in the framework of the electoral college. With this year’s pandemic, absentee ballots were an option for many eligible voters across the nation. These ballots played a big role in this election accounting for Georgia sending out about 1.7 million mail-in ballots. 

On the website, a government-created site, voters were able to request ballots, drop off ballots and track them as they reach the counting site. The site ensures that votes are secure and counted in a timely fashion. 

Absentee ballots are easier and much more convenient. They are first requested or freely sent out, then filled out and eventually dropped off at an official ballot drop box for collection.

Although research shows that absentee ballots don’t usually favor one party or another, this year they were much more likely to count toward the Democratic Party in this year’s presidential election, as Trump repeatedly urged his Republican base to vote in-person.

About 65 million mail-in ballots were requested nationwide, and more than 160 million Americans voted in the 2020 election. 

In Georgia, absentee ballots were heavy in major cities like Atlanta, Athens and Savannah, where urban and suburban areas in surrounding counties have become firmly Democratic. Even if the surrounding of the state is red or Republican, these urban and suburban counties are likely to outnumber the rest of the state’s tallies, as shown in practically every presidential election. Bigger but sparse and rural areas with few citizens tend to vote Republican, while smaller but dense urban areas tend to favor Democrats.

Controversy with absentee ballots was scattered all over the news for this year’s election. They were falsely deemed unreliable, dangerous, and fraudulent by critics, and this was one of the Trump administration’s biggest selling points.

Hence, the recount. 

So, how exactly did counties in states like Georgia repeat this counting process?

Workers had to repeat the same process of counting by hand. If they saw something suspicious or irregular, they marked it and placed it to the side to be double-checked later on. Workers were just as careful as before for checking if signatures match up with the address.

Local election workers then made sure that the ballot was filled out correctly and if it is timely for it to count. In Georgia, if a mail-in ballot is not submitted by Election Day, it will not be counted.

Votes can also be counted by a computer which is confirmed to be safe, according to the state of Georgia. Many computers assist the counties as they count faster.

Counties even placed cameras fed live footage to anyone who would like to watch voters count. But even with footage that was constantly surrounding election workers, there was constant reassurance from experts that vote counting was secure and highly accurate. 

The Trump administration had no concrete evidence that voter fraud existed among ballots, but if the margin between the two leading candidates is less than 0.5 percent, a recount can be called. President-elect Joe Biden was 0.25 percent ahead of Trump in the state of Georgia, so Trump was able to call for another recount.

Georgia officially certified its results in early December.