image captionPresident Trump’s supporters staged a rally against the election results outside the Georgia State Capitol
Accusations of voter fraud, corruption, and Republican party squabbling – it’s all happening in Georgia right now.
This year, the state went Democrat for the first time in decades, handing Joe Biden a valuable prize in the South. But with a recount under way and two critical Senate races to come – which will determine the chamber’s balance of power – the state’s political battles are far from over.
Here’s what you need to know.
What’s the background?
The election count in the Peach State was tight. From nearly five million ballots, Joe Biden had a lead of just 14,000 and a full manual recount was ordered.
image captionAll eyes were on Georgia as the manual recount took place
The Trump campaign launched lawsuits in several states alleging irregularities or in some cases – without evidence – electoral fraud.
In Georgia a lawsuit was filed on 4 November in Chatham County to pause the count, alleging problems with ballot processing. Republican party observers said they had seen a woman “mix over 50 ballots into the stack of uncounted absentee ballots”. The next day a judge dismissed this lawsuit, saying there was “no evidence” of improper ballot mixing.
The official overseeing the recount, Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, told reporters that with the process almost complete, the outcome would likely be unchanged.
On Monday, around 2,600 ballots were found in Floyd County, located in the state’s northwest, that had not previously been counted in the state’s tally. These newly found votes netted approximately 778 votes in favour of Donald Trump. Still, election officials have reported few issues otherwise.
The recount should be completed by Wednesday, according to state election officials. Barring any major changes before then, this means that Georgia voted for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in 28 years.
How is Lindsey Graham involved?
Mr Raffensperger has said that he has faced pressure from a fellow Republican to throw away legally posted ballots in certain counties.
That Republican was Trump ally and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.
image captionBrad Raffensperger has found himself under fire from fellow Republicans
In an interview with the BBC’s US partner CBS News, Mr Raffensperger said that in a phone call, Mr Graham had suggested that absentee ballots from counties with high rates of non-matching signatures be disqualified. When voters return an absentee ballot they are required to sign an oath on the envelope, with the signatures being checked against other documents.
“Senator Graham implied for us to audit the envelopes and then throw out the ballots for counties who have the highest frequency error of signatures,” the election official said. Mr Raffensperger said he sought legal advice about the call, after which he decided he would not “re-engage” with Senator Graham.
Mr Raffensperger’s account of the phone call did not go down well with Senator Graham, who called it “ridiculous”.
“I thought it was a good conversation,” he said. “I’m surprised to hear him characterise it that way.”
image captionSouth Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is a close ally of President Trump
Senator Graham said he had wanted to learn more about the signature verification process in Georgia, adding: “If he feels threatened by that conversation, he’s got a problem. I actually thought it was a good conversation. I learned a lot about it.”
Democrats in Congress and rights groups condemned the senator’s reported comments.
“Under the guise of rooting out election fraud, it looks like Graham is suggesting committing it,” said Noah Bookbinder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Crew).
New York Representative Kathleen Rice said his remarks were “morally reprehensible, and possibly a federal crime”.
What’s the other Republican fight about?
Mr Raffensperger’s defence of Georgia’s electoral process also attracted the ire of other Republicans.
The state’s two Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, took the extraordinary step of issuing a joint statement calling on him to resign. “The secretary of state has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections,” they said. “He has failed the people of Georgia, and he should step down immediately.”
Both senators face run-off elections in January to keep their seats (more on that later).
What’s been the impact on Raffensperger?
Amid the febrile atmosphere over the recount, Mr Raffensperger said that both he and his wife, Tricia, had received death threats.
One message read: “You better not botch this recount. Your life depends on it.”
And as if that wasn’t enough for the Raffensperger family, Mrs Raffensperger tested positive for coronavirus last week. Her husband tested negative but was self-isolating as a precaution.
Why are Republicans fighting so hard for Georgia?
While the presidential election results were full of disappointments for Donald Trump, appearing to lose in Georgia may have been the unkindest cut. Like Arizona, the state hadn’t been carried by a Democrat since 1992. But unlike that desert state, Georgia wasn’t considered an electoral battleground until the campaign’s final weeks.
What’s more, the consensus swing states in the region – Florida and North Carolina – both went to Trump, leaving Georgia a blue beacon in a sea of Republican red.
That, along with the narrowness of the Biden lead in the state, may be why the Trump team is fighting so furiously to flip the state to his column – even if it means going to war with local Republicans in charge of overseeing the state’s election.
Georgia’s 16 electoral votes aren’t the difference between overall victory and defeat. Joe Biden’s win is more comfortable than that. But reversing the results in the state would be at least a moral victory for Trump – a result he could point to as evidence that the verdict presented in the days after the election was wrong.
Reversing the election results is a battle that is almost certainly futile, but the Trump campaign seems determined to wage it on every front available.
When will Georgia’s results be confirmed?
- Counties have until midnight on Wednesday to finish the manual count
- Certified results are vote counts that have been verified and finalised as the official outcome
- Counties in Georgia will certify their hand count results, and then the state will certify the county-level official tallies
- Georgia’s deadline to certify results is 20 November
- Once the whole state’s results are certified, candidates can request another recount if the margin is within 0.5%
- This process always takes several weeks to complete in presidential elections
- Each state has its own specific process and timeline, but all 50 must certify a winner before the electoral college votes are sent to Congress on 14 December
What’s happening with the Senate?
Georgia has also found itself holding the balance of power in the US Senate, with run-off votes for its two seats to be held in January. Election officials can begin mailing out absentee ballots for the run-offs on 18 November.
Voters have until 7 December to register, and in-person voting will begin on 14 December.
That is important.
Currently, Democrats control the lower chamber – the House of Representatives – and Republicans have a majority in the upper chamber- 53 to 47. In the 3 November election, the Democrats had high hopes of gaining enough seats to take control of the Senate, but most Republican incumbents held on.
But it’s not over yet. If Democrats gain both seats in Georgia in January there would be to a 50-50 tie.
US vice-presidents have the power to cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate, so with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris on board, Democrats would effectively control both chambers. That could make all the difference as the Biden administration seeks to work through its agenda.