ATLANTA — As former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. took a narrow lead over President Trump in Georgia, Georgia’s secretary of state said Friday that the presidential race there was so close that a recount was inevitable.
As of late Friday morning, Mr. Biden led Mr. Trump in Georgia by about 1,600 votes.
“With a margin that small, there will be a recount in Georgia,” the secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, said Friday morning at the state Capitol.
He added: “The final tally in Georgia at this point has huge implications for the entire country. The stakes are high and emotions are high on all sides. We will not let those debates distract us from our work. We will get it right, and we will defend the integrity of our elections.”
Gabriel Sterling, an official with the secretary of state’s office, said that a pool of about 4,200 ballots — most of them absentee ballots — remained to be counted in four countries: Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee and Floyd. The largest tranche to be counted was in Gwinnett County, which contains Atlanta suburban communities and has gone from leaning Republican to leaning Democratic in recent years.
The state must also deal with ballots from military and overseas voters, which will be counted if they arrive in the mail before the end of business Friday and were postmarked by Tuesday.
Mr. Sterling said that the unofficial tally of the votes could be completed by the end of the weekend.
Flipping Georgia, a state last won by a Democrat in 1992, and where Mr. Trump won by more than 200,000 votes four years ago, would represent a significant political shift this year, but the state has shown signs of trending blue. When Mr. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, he did so by five percentage points, a far slimmer margin than Republicans had enjoyed in previous presidential elections.
Mr. Biden’s late surge in this year’s count, thanks to his dominance in Atlanta, Savannah and the increasingly Democratic-friendly suburbs around both, transformed the competition in a traditionally Republican-leaning state into one of the closest contests in the nation.
As the count narrowed and it appeared that the two candidates would be separated by the slimmest of margins, Democrats urged voters in the state to fix ballots that had been rejected because of invalid or missing signatures before the deadline on Friday evening.
Those who voted absentee — a group that this year has been heavily Democratic — can check online to see whether election officials have accepted or rejected their ballots. Absentee ballots are often rejected when the voter forgets to sign or uses a signature that does not match the one on file with the state, in some cases because the filed signature is many years old. Election officials are supposed to contact voters in such cases but are not always able to do so.
Voters have until 5 p.m. on Friday to submit an affidavit form to “cure” such ballots. With Georgia hanging in the balance as the last votes are counted, national Democrats — including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — are amplifying the message in hopes of salvaging every vote possible.