Gov. Brian Kemp accepted Georgia’s election results on Friday but said he’d like to see changes in future voting to tamp down the questions that have dogged the weeks since Election Day.
The governor formalized Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s earlier certification of the general election, which most notably gives Democrat Joe Biden a narrow victory in the state over President Donald Trump. The Associated Press has figured Biden with 306 electoral votes, with just 270 needed to win.
Trump has not conceded the race, nor has he cooperated with a transition.
Kemp — who served as secretary of state from 2011-18 — noted the result was confirmed by a risk-limiting audit, which included a hand recount of votes. And the governor noted “significant errors made in several counties, including Floyd, Fayette, Douglas and Walton.”
In Walton County, a memory card containing votes from one of two machines at the Between precinct was not loaded the night of the Nov. 3 election. The discovery earlier this week added votes to Trump’s landslide victory over Biden in Walton County.
Republicans have had at least a plurality in presidential races in 10 consecutive Walton County elections, and 2020 becomes the first time a Democrat has carried Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992.
The Walton County Board of Elections certified its new numbers on Tuesday. Trump carried the county with 74% of more than 50,000 votes cast.
“It is important for Georgians to know that the vast majority of local election workers did their job well under unprecedented circumstances, and I thank them for their service,” Kemp said in remarks at the state Capitol.
“However, it’s quite honestly hard to believe that during the audit, thousands of uncounted ballots were found weeks after a razor-thin outcome in a presidential election. This is simply unacceptable.
“I have heard directly from countless Georgians. They expect better, and they deserve better.”
Kemp said the audit didn’t look at the signatures on absentee ballot applications, or the signatures on ballot envelopes, and he encouraged Raffensperger to address the issue.
Raffensperger previously said his office tightened the rules on signature verification and has said the rate of absentee ballots rejected in this election was similar to the 2018 election, when Kemp was voted in as governor.
Kemp said Raffensperger had announced support for “strengthened photo ID requirements” on absentee voting. The governor agreed and said he hoped legislators address the issue.
“Voters casting their ballots in person must show photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting,” Kemp said. “I have heard from many members of the General Assembly, and I appreciate their input and share their concerns.”
Kemp said he had no choice about formalizing the certification after U.S. District Judge Steven D. Grimberg in Atlanta threw out an attempt to get a restraining order against the measure. The governor says by formalizing the vote totals, the Trump campaign now may pursue other legal options or a recount.
Kemp also looked toward the Jan. 5 runoff elections for two Senate seats and a spot on the Public Service Commission.
In the regular Senate seat, incumbent Republican David Perdue of Warner Robins faces a challenge from Democratic investigative journalist Jon Ossoff of Atlanta.
The certified numbers showed Perdue with 49.73% of the vote and Ossoff at 47.95%. A Libertarian candidate, Shane Hazel, got just enough to keep either from getting to the 50%-plus-one required to win outright.
And in the race to fill former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, an Atlanta Democrat, finished in first place of 21 candidates with 32.9% of the vote. He’ll face Kemp’s appointee, Kelly Loeffler, an Atlanta Republican. She had 25.91%.
The PSC District 4 race will pit incumbent Lauren “Bubba” McDonald Jr., a Republican, against Democratic challenger Daniel Blackman. McDonald had 49.91% of the vote to Blackman’s 46.97%.
Vice President Mike Pence was in Georgia on Friday to campaign for Perdue and Loeffler.
“We need the great state of Georgia to defend the majority,” Pence told a crowd in Canton. “And the road to the Senate Republican majority goes straight through the state of Georgia.”
The election this month leaves Republicans with 50 seats in the upcoming session of the Senate and Democrats, or independents who caucus with them, at 48. Victories by Perdue and Loeffler would strengthen the GOP majority, but wins by Ossoff and Warnock would create a tie that becomes a de facto Democratic majority upon Vice President-elect Kamala Harris following Pence as the president of the Senate on Jan. 20.