For the first time in decades, Georgia was a crucial swing state in the presidential race.
One week after the election between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Trump, Georgia’s results are still up in the air, with the candidates both hoping to claim the state’s 16 electoral votes.
With 99% of ballots counted, Biden on Wednesday held a slim lead of about 14,108 votes, according to Fox News projections. But given the tight margin, election officials said Wednesday the state would conduct an audit of the election and recount by hand the nearly 5 million ballots cast.
“With the margin being so close, it will require a full by hand recount in each county,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, said during a news conference in Atlanta. “This will help build confidence.”
Biden’s success in Georgia, which has not voted to elect a Democrat as president since 1992, was underscored by his support in the state’s biggest cities, while Trump saw major gains in rural areas — part of a broader demographic trend.
For instance, Biden’s victory over Trump in Fulton County, which comprises most of Atlanta, is projected to be five percentage points higher than Hillary Clinton’s four years ago. The Democratic standard bearer also saw deeper support than Clinton, the 2016 nominee, in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, including Gwinnett, Cobb, Douglas, Clayton and DeKalb Counties.
Biden also added to Clinton’s margins in some of Georgia’s other cities, including suburbs outside Augusta, Columbus, Macon, Savannah and Athens.
At the same time, voters in rural areas, particularly southern Georgia and the Piedmont region, continued to turn out in strong numbers for Trump.
Demographic changes and increased voter turnout also played a role in the suddenly tight presidential race: In 2019, the population surged to 10.6 million from 6.9 million in 2000, according to The New York Times. The state’s foreign-born population now represents more than 10% of the overall population. In 2004, 70% of voters were White, according to exit polls. This year, White voters made up 60%.
The Peach State will be in the limelight again later this year with a pair of January runoffs that will determine which party controls the Senate.
Republicans hold a slim 53-47 Senate majority, but after Tuesday’s election, the GOP is up 50-48. That means Democrats would need to win both runoffs in Georgia to secure a 50-50 tie. In that scenario, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris could cast a tie-breaking vote to move the Democratic agenda forward.