Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday signed the paperwork that officially grants the state’s 16 electoral votes to President-elect Joe Biden.
“The Governor has formalized the certification delivered to our office by the Secretary of State – as is required by state law,” Kemp spokesman Tate Mitchell told CNN in an email.
The certification is a major blow to President Donald Trump’s longshot efforts to overturn the outcome of the election in Georgia, and all but seals Biden’s razor-thin win in the state.
State law required Kemp to award Georgia’s electoral votes to the certified winner of the presidential election. A federal judge on Thursday rejected a last-ditch lawsuit that tried to block certification, and Biden’s victory was certified Friday afternoon by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
“State law now requires the governor’s office to formalize the certification, which paves the way for the Trump campaign to pursue other legal options and a separate recount if they choose,” Kemp said, later adding, “As governor, I have a solemn responsibility to follow the law, and that is what I will do.”
The announcement caps a whirlwind day where Raffensperger’s office announced that the results were certified, only to send a “correction” one hour later, saying the process was still ongoing. A third press release around 4 p.m. ET, said certification was completed.
Biden won Georgia by 12,670 votes, or 0.26% of the nearly 5 million ballots cast statewide, according to final certified results from the Georgia Secretary of State.
Trump White House
“Numbers don’t lie,” Raffensperger said during a news conference earlier Friday. “As secretary of state, I believe that the numbers that we are presented today are correct.”
Because of the close margin, the Trump campaign can request a recount. Georgia already conducted a statewide audit, hand-counting about 5 million ballots, and any future recount is extremely unlikely to change the results.
Certifying election results is typically a formality, but the process has become the latest battleground in Trump’s longshot attempt to cling onto power. His campaign is trying to block or delay certification in key states in hopes of overturning Biden’s victory through the Electoral College.
The scheme essentially becomes impossible if key states certify their presidential results before December 8, which is known as a “safe harbor” deadline under federal law. Now that Georgia has certified its results, the state has met the deadline and Congress is required to respect the pro-Biden slate of electors.
While going through the motions of formalizing Biden’s win, Kemp simultaneously raised concerns about the integrity of the process and even embraced some of Trump’s complaints about the process in Georgia.
Kemp asked Raffensperger to conduct a partial audit of absentee ballots to double-check that the signatures matched – caving to a persistent demand from Trump throughout the post-election process. It’s unclear if this can happen at this stage of the process, and CNN has reached out to Raffensperger’s office for comment.
Trump has mentioned the governor in at least six tweets since Election Day, encouraging Kemp to “get tough” and make the state “flip Republican,” even though Georgia voters backed Biden, the Democratic nominee. He also encouraged Kemp to “take charge” after it became clear the audit wasn’t uncovering widespread irregularities.
But in the tweets, Trump also berated Kemp, blaming him for a legal agreement the state reached earlier this year with Democratic groups regarding absentee ballots. Raffensberger’s office has said Trump is mischaracterizing the agreement, known as a consent decree, which he falsely claimed weakened verification rules for absentee ballots.
Kemp also said it was “unacceptable” that small batches of uncounted ballots were found during the audit. Election officials have repeatedly said these mishandled ballots were caused by mistakes and incompetence – not fraud. Raffensberger has balked at efforts by Trump and his GOP allies to undermine the vote-counting process in the state and has vigorously defended the integrity of the presidential race in Georgia.
This story has been updated with additional developments on Friday.
CNN’s Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.