USA TODAY’S coverage of the 2020 election continues this week as states prepare to finish certifying their vote counts after President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the hard-fought presidential race. President Donald Trump has yet to concede the race as Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris prepare to take office in January.
Be sure to refresh this page often to get the latest information on the election and the transition.
After a week-long hand recount of Georgia’s presidential election results, the Georgia secretary of state’s office reaffirmed Thursday night President-elect Joe Biden won the state and its 16 electoral votes.
A “risk-limiting audit” found Biden won Georgia by 12,284 votes, a narrower margin than the 14,196-vote lead he held immediately following the election. Local election administrators identified uncounted ballots in four counties. Each was the result of human error.
“Georgia’s historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state’s new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who ordered the recount, said in a statement. “This is a credit to the hard work of our county and local elections officials who moved quickly to undertake and complete such a momentous task in a short period of time.”
Biden is the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia since Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992. The state’s 16 electoral college votes represented a larger prize than several other battleground states, such as Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nevada.
The victory gave Biden 306 electoral college votes, 36 more than what is needed to win the White House.
Georgia must certify its election results Friday by state law, which required an audit be conducted before votes are certified. The recounting began last Friday. After certification, the Trump campaign can ask for another recount, which is allowed because the race is decided by less than 0.5%.
Trump has leveled baseless claims of voter fraud in Georgia and other battleground states he lost as he refuses to concede in the election he lost to Biden. The release of the Georgia recount results came hours after Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani held a news conference where he continued to make more wild and unfounded claims.
Earlier in the week, local election administrators in Georgia found a memory card from a scanning machine that wasn’t uploaded in Floyd County, leaving 2,600 ballots uncounted and giving Trump a net gain of 778 votes. Failure to upload a memory card in Walton County gave Trump another 176 votes. Trump got another net-gain of 449 because of 2,755 uncounted early ballots in Fayette County. Biden gained a net of 28 votes because of uncounted ballots in Douglas County.
These errors decreased Biden’s lead to 12,780 votes. The audit found an additional 496 votes for Trump, reducing Biden’s margin of victory further.
According to the secretary of state’s office, the differential between the audit results and the orginal machine counted results is “well within the expected margin of human error that occurs when hand-counting ballots.”
State officials cited a 2012 study by Rice and Clemson universities that found hand-counting election results can result in error rates of up to 2%.
The highest error rate of any county in Georgia was .73%, officials said. They said most counties found no change in their final tallies and the majority of other counties had changes of fewer than 10 ballots.
— Joey Garrison
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge on Thursday dismissed an Arizona Republican Party lawsuit seeking a new audit of Maricopa County ballots and denied the GOP’s request to delay certification of election results.
Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and its suburbs, is the largest county in Arizona.
The decision appears to leave just one election-related challenge — which will not affect the results of any races — pending in Arizona.
The Arizona Republican Party had filed its suit last week, alleging Maricopa County officials violated state law when they conducted a hand-count audit based on vote centers, open to any voter in the county, instead of assigned precincts.
The results of the vote center audit, which had bipartisan oversight, matched electronic counts exactly. But the GOP wanted a new, precinct-based hand count, saying the method would produce more “precise” results.
Attorneys for the party pointed to a state statute that instructs officials to audit ballots from two county precincts or 2% of county precincts. But, as Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office noted, the law is silent on audit parameters for counties with vote centers. It defers to the secretary of state’s election procedures manual in those cases.
The current manual — which Brnovich and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed off on last year — indicates officials in counties using vote centers “must conduct a hand count of regular ballots from at least 2% of the vote centers, or 2 vote centers, whichever is greater.”
That’s exactly what Maricopa County did, with a member of the Republican Party participating. Three other counties also conducted audits this way but were not named in the suit.
– Maria Polletta, The Arizona Republic
Vice President Mike Pence made a public appearance Thursday – to talk about the response to the spread of COVID-19, not President Donald Trump’s election challenges.
While numerous lawmakers have said Trump has downplayed or ignored the virus, especially during the election campaign, Pence said the government is working to defeat a record-breaking resurgence of cases and deaths.
“America has never been more prepared to combat this virus,” said Pence, who appeared in the White House briefing room in his capacity as head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Pence and other task force members acknowledged that COVID-19 cases are rising, but claimed the administration is working to meet the challenges in terms of testing, distributing personal protective equipment and pushing for vaccine development.
The vice president, who has kept a low profile during Trump’s legal challenges to Joe Biden’s election win, did not take questions from reporters about the election, the virus or anything else.
During the task force briefing, Pence pledged that the government will start shipping vaccines as soon as they are available, hopefully in weeks.
Pence also said he and Trump oppose a “national lockdown” and shutting down schools as ways to battle the spread of the virus. “We do not need to close our schools,” Pence said.
Among other speakers: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration’s top epidemiologist who has clashed with Trump over pandemic preparedness like mask-wearing.
Fauci echoed Pence in saying that vaccines will be ready soon and added that Americans should not worry about the speed with which they have been developed.
“The speed did not compromise, at all, safety, nor did it compromise scientific integrity,” Fauci said.
Task force official Dr. Deborah Birx, who has been out of the public eye for weeks, said Americans need to “increase their vigilance” in the face of this surge.
In addition to masks and social distancing, she said, Americans need to limit “household gatherings.”
– David Jackson
Biden Cabinet choices expected next week
President-elect Joe Biden says he has chosen a Treasury nominee who will please both progressives and moderates, and more personnel announcements are expected during the next week.
“I’ve made that decision,” he told reporters after a meeting with governors. “You’ll hear that just before or just after Thanksgiving.”
Ron Klain, Biden’s choice to become White House chief of staff, told CNN that two dozen White House officials would be named this month, with Cabinet members announced around Thanksgiving. Biden named Klain last week and nine officials this week.
“He is hard at work on this, he is talking to people every day, he is consulting broadly,” Klain said. “As he said, you’ll start to see at least one, if not more, of these Cabinet announcements right before or right after Thanksgiving.”
Senate confirmation for Cabinet nominees requires FBI background investigations, which can’t proceed until the General Services Administration recognizes Biden as the president-elect.
“This is a block not just to our transition, but to the Senate doing its constitutional duty as well,” Klain said.
– Bart Jansen
President-elect Joe Biden said President Donald Trump’s inviting Michigan officials to the White House to discuss election results in the state that Biden won is “irresponsible” and “outrageous.”
“What the president is doing now is really, it’s going to be another incident where he will go down in history as being one of the most irresponsible presidents in American history,” Biden said. “It’s not even within the norm at all. There’s questions about whether it’s even legal.”
“We’ve won Michigan,” Biden said. “It’s going to be certified.”
‘Hand in glove’:Biden promises governors coordination in combatting coronavirus
Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, will meet with Trump at the White House on Friday, a source briefed on the meeting told USA TODAY.
Biden said he couldn’t speak about Trump’s motivation.
“It’s hard to fathom how this man thinks,” Biden said. “It’s just outrageous what he’s doing.”
– Bart Jansen
Christopher Krebs, the former director of DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency whom Trump recently dismissed, slammed Rudy Giuliani’s Thursday press conference regarding the 2020 election.
“That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history. And possibly the craziest. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re lucky,” Krebs tweeted.
Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers, led a long press conference that was often filled with falsehoods and didn’t offer proof for his and the president’s allegations of widespread fraud.
In his previous role, Krebs presided over an elaborate election security effort guarding against foreign interference and fraud.
He was ousted by Trump after rejecting the president’s erroneous claims of widespread voter fraud. Just before his dismissal, Krebs had penned that the 2020 election was “the most secure in American history” and said that claims such as those from Giuliani and Trump’s legal team were not factually correct.
– Savannah Behrmann
The Republican leaders of the Michigan House and Senate are expected to meet with President Donald Trump at the White House on Friday as Trump continues his longshot bid to retain the presidency by overturning election results in key states such as Michigan.
House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, will meet with Trump, a source briefed on the meeting told USA TODAY.
Chatfield and Shirkey could not be reached Thursday.
The reported visit comes as Trump and his supporters find little legal relief in their ongoing attempts to show, without evidence or proof, that Michigan election results are illegitimate.
Both Chatfield and Shirkey have said they have no plans for any maneuvers aimed at the Republican-led legislature naming an alternate set of pro-Trump electors for Michigan.
Democrats and others blasted the leaders’ decision to travel to see Trump.
President-elect Joe Biden has approximately 154,000 more votes than Trump in Michigan, according to the latest unofficial totals. That has not stopped the president from claiming, inaccurately, that he won the state.
– Detroit Free Press
President Donald Trump’s legal team claimed Thursday without proof they have evidence of “voter fraud,” even though no court has agreed and legal analysts across the political spectrum say that various lawsuits are going nowhere.
In a statement lasting longer than 40 minutes, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani alleged inadequate ballot inspections and improper procedures in big cities like Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Milwaukee – but also referred to “affidavits” with vague suspicions.
In promoting the news conference, Trump tweeted his lawyers are “on a very clear and viable path to victory,” but few if any outside legal analysts believe that.
Biden has built up leads of thousands of votes in Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia, and the Trump team’s legal challenges don’t involve enough votes to overturn the results.
– David Jackson
The campaign for President Donald Trump withdrew a federal lawsuit on Thursday, incorrectly characterizing the actions of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers as its rationale for the decision.
The campaign championed the suit when it was filed last week, with surrogates speaking on national television about the more than 100 affidavits from Republican poll challengers and others included in the lawsuit.
The affidavits, and most other attacks from the Trump campaign in Michigan, focus on the counting of absentee ballots at TCF Center in Detroit. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Lavora Barnes, head of the Michigan Democratic Party, and others have called these attacks racist attempts by the campaign to disenfranchise Black voters in Detroit.
While the campaign suggested the affidavits were proof of what they considered to be election misconduct and irregularities, a Free Press review showed they did not contain evidence of widespread fraud or misconduct.
But in a new filing Thursday, campaign attorney Thor Hearne states the campaign decided not to pursue the lawsuit because two members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers do not want to certify the county’s election results.
“The Wayne County board of county canvassers met and declined to certify the results of the presidential election,” the three-sentence filing states.
The statement and legal filing are inaccurate. Although the four-member board initially deadlocked 2-2 on a vote to certify, the two Republican members eventually agreed to vote to certify the results. Certification of county results is a necessary step in the process to formalize final vote tallies in Michigan elections.
– Dave Boucher (Detroit Free Press)
Monica Palmer, the Republican chairwoman of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers who initially voted on Tuesday against certifying the county’s election results, then reversed her vote, said Thursday she received a phone call from President Donald Trump Tuesday evening after the meeting ended.
Palmer said she did not know how long the call lasted, saying there was a lot of stress and adrenaline that night.
“He was checking to make sure I was safe after seeing/hearing about the threats and doxxing,” Palmer wrote in a text message, referring to a firestorm of information released about her on social media.
William Hartmann, the other Republican member of the four-person Wayne County board, also spoke with Trump, the Associated Press reported.
Both board members signed affidavits late Wednesday saying they want to rescind their votes to certify the county’s election results because they do not feel the state will follow through with an audit.
– Clara Hendrickson
President Donald Trump’s lawyers will address reporters Thursday about their various challenges to Joe Biden’s election victory, despite a lack of court victories and skepticism from the legal community.
Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lead lawyer, and Jenna Ellis, senior legal adviser, will hold a mid-day news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C.
In promoting the event, Trump tweeted his lawyers are “on a very clear and viable path to victory,” but few if any outside legal analysts believe that. No judge has agreed with the Trump campaign’s claims of voters fraud.
Biden has built up leads of thousands of votes in key states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia, and the Trump team’s legal challenges don’t involve enough votes to overturn the results.
– David Jackson
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will hold a virtual meeting the National Governors Association’s executive committee on Thursday.
The NGA’s executive committee includes both Republican and Democratic governors, including Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y.; Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark.; Jared Polis, D-Colo.; Larry Hogan, R-Md.; Charlie Baker, R-Mass.; Gretchen Whitmer, D-Mich.; Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.; and Gary Herbert, R-Utah.
– Sean Rossman
Election officials in Georgia say they are on track to finish their weeklong hand recount of the presidential race, with results released by noon Thursday.
Election administrators have finished recounting the 5 million ballots cast in the race for president, but 21 of the state’s 159 counties are still inputting their data, Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager, said Wednesday.
These include some of the state’s largest counties, such as Fayette, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Chatham.
“We’re still in good shape on getting to our intention, which was to meet the midnight tonight deadline,” Sterling said Wednesday. “By noon tomorrow is our goal to have the audit report out to everyone.”
He said the past day of auditing found no more uncounted ballots like earlier in the week.
President-elect Joe Biden, who initially led President Donald Trump in Georgia by 14,196 votes, saw his lead narrow to 12,781 votes after officials identified uncounted ballots in four counties. Each was the result of human error.
Georgia must certify its election results Friday by state law, which required an audit be conducted before votes are certified. The recounting began last Friday. After certification, the Trump campaign is expected to ask for another recount, which is allowed because the race is decided by less than 0.5%.
Trump has leveled baseless claims of voter fraud in Georgia and other battleground states he lost as he refuses to concede in the election he lost to Biden.
Earlier in the week, local election administrators found a memory card from a scanning machine that wasn’t uploaded in Floyd County, leaving 2,600 ballots uncounted and giving Trump a net gain of 778 votes. Failure to upload a memory card in Walton County gave Trump another 176 votes. Trump got another net-gain of 449 because of 2,755 uncounted early ballots in Fayette County. Biden gained a net of 28 votes because of uncounted ballots in Douglas County.
Besides the changes in the four counties that failed to count all votes, the secretary of state’s office said results from the machine vote – not the manual recount – will remain the state’s official tally in the presidential race that will be certified Friday. State officials have said they expect Biden to remain the winner after the recount is complete.
– Joey Garrison
One day after testing positive for the coronavirus, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he’s “symptom-free” and continues to feel good.
“I remain symptom free & in isolation. I continue to feel good Thx for all the messages of encouragement & prayers,” Grassley wrote in a tweet Wednesday afternoon.
Grassley, who announced Tuesday evening he had tested positive for the virus, is isolating himself at his Washington, D.C.-area house on his doctor’s orders.
At 87, he is the Senate’s oldest serving Republican and the Senate president pro tempore, making him third in line of succession for the presidency after Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He was first elected to the Senate in 1980. He is the second-oldest serving U.S. senator after Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California who is also 87, but a few months older.
– Stephen Gruber-Miller