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story.lead_photo.caption Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, in Atlanta. Georgia’s top elections official said he will certify that Joe Biden won the state's presidential election after a hand tally stemming from a mandatory audit affirmed the Democrat's lead over Republican President Donald Trump. Raffensperger said during a news conference Friday that he believes the numbers his office has presented are correct.(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's governor and top elections official on Friday certified results showing Joe Biden won the presidential race over Republican President Donald Trump, bringing the state one step closer to wrapping up an election fraught with accusations of fraud by Trump and his supporters.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger certified results reported by the state's 159 counties that show Biden with 2.47 million votes, President Donald Trump with 2.46 million votes and Libertarian Jo Jorgensen with 62,138. That leaves Biden leading by a margin of 12,670 votes or 0.25 percent.

Later Friday, Gov. Brian Kemp certified the state's slate of 16 presidential electors, his spokesman Cody Hall said. Biden is the first Democratic presidential nominee to carry the state since 1992.

In an announcement streamed online, Kemp did not clearly endorse the results. Instead, he said the law requires him to "formalize the certification, which paves the way for the Trump campaign to pursue other legal options and a separate recount if they choose."

The Republican governor hasn't stepped forward to defend the integrity of this year's elections amid attacks by Trump and other members of his own party, who claim the presidential vote in Georgia was tainted by fraud. Kemp has neither endorsed Trump's fraud claims nor backed Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, in his assertion the election was conducted fairly.

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The counties' results were affirmed by a hand count of the 5 million ballots cast in the race, according to results released by the secretary of state's office. The tally resulted from an audit required by a new state law and wasn't in response to any suspected problems with the state's results or an official recount request. Raffensperger said the hand tally confirmed Biden's victory.

Kemp said Friday that he was concerned the audit looked only at ballots, not the signatures on the absentee ballot applications or absentee ballot envelopes.

"As a former Secretary of State, he is the first to know and confirm that a signature is matched twice prior to an absentee ballot being counted," Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in a statement.

In fact, the signatures on absentee ballot applications and envelopes are required to be checked when they are received. The audit is only meant to ensure the voting machines counted the ballots correctly, Raffensperger's office has said.

"Working as an engineer throughout my life, I live by the motto that numbers don't lie," Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said during a news conference at the state Capitol. "As secretary of state, I believe that the numbers that we have presented today are correct. The numbers reflect the verdict of the people, not a decision by the secretary of state's office or of courts or of either campaign."

Raffensperger's office stumbled earlier in the day when it prematurely announced the certification while it was still unfinished. Forty minutes afterward, a corrected news release was sent out saying that certification was still to come.

Now that the results are certified, Trump's campaign will have two business days to request a recount since the margin is within 0.5 percent. That recount would be done using scanning machines that read and tally the votes and would be paid for by the counties, the secretary of state's office has said.

The hand count for the audit produced some slight differences from the previous machine tally, but no individual county showed a variation in margin larger than 0.73 percent, and the variation in margin in 103 of the state's 159 counties was less than 0.05 percent, the secretary of state's office said. During the audit, several counties discovered previously uncounted ballots and had to recertify their results.

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