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The Georgia Senate recount rules, briefly explained

Depending on how close the final results are, Senate candidates can request a recount.

Voters watch election results during a runoff election night party in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 5.
Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Georgia could soon see another election recount if the final margins in the state’s Senate runoffs are narrow enough.

Both races — between Sen. Kelly Loeffler and challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock, and between Sen. David Perdue and challenger Jon Ossoff — had tight margins, although at least one of the elections appears to be decisive enough to avoid a recount.

Vox’s election partner Decision Desk has projected Warnock and Ossoff as the winners, and as of Wednesday morning, Warnock held a more than 1 percentage point lead over his opponent, and Ossoff a 0.4 percentage point lead.

According to Georgia law, if two candidates are within a 0.5 percentage point margin or less, either one is able to request a recount. Election officials are also able to ask for a recount if they suspect a potential error or discrepancy in the results, and candidates can petition the secretary of state if they are concerned about a similar issue.

President Donald Trump previously called for a recount during the 2020 presidential election when President-elect Joe Biden won Georgia by a narrow margin. In both the initial count and the two recounts that were ultimately conducted, Biden came out ahead by more than 11,000 votes and a roughly 0.2 percentage point margin.

For the presidential race, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ordered a recount by hand in addition to a recount conducted via rescanning ballots in machines.

To push for a recount of the Senate results, candidates will have to request it within two business days after votes are certified. Counties in Georgia have until January 15 to approve the results of the election; Raffensperger then has until January 22 to officially certify the results.

As Jane Coaston previously wrote for Vox, however, multiple recent recounts in Georgia have not led to a change in the final outcome:

A 2004 Georgia judicial race in which the candidates were separated by fewer than 400 votes went to a recount, but the margin of victory only changed by 15 votes. And in 2017, a recount took place in the Atlanta mayoral race between Mary Norwood and Keisha Lance Bottoms, but Norwood did not gain any additional votes and Bottoms remained the victor.

Were recounts to take place, it could mean a few weeks of delay before Georgia’s Senate results — and control of the Senate — are finalized.

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