Nov 12, 2020
Georgia Press Conference on Election Count Updates Transcript November 12
Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling held a press conference on November 12 to provide updates on the election process and vote counts. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
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Gabriel Sterling: (00:00)
My name is Gabriel Sterling. I’m the Statewide Voting System Implementation Manager for the State of Georgia, here to give you an election update as we get closer to finding who will win Georgia’s 16 electoral votes for President of United States. As of right now, we have, let’s see, 108 counties have certified their results. And the margin, and as you understand, when we get closer to the certifications and the counties do the reconciliations, they find those onesy twosy votes that are still out there.
Gabriel Sterling: (00:26)
So yesterday, when Secretary Raffensperger was out here, the total difference was 14,111. As of right now, about 17 minutes ago, the difference is 14,072. So, as you all know, he announced yesterday that we will be doing a risk limiting audit, which is the next step in the legal process that is outlined on this. And as I’ve said since Tuesday night and Wednesday, that this is all about process, process, process, and following the law as written.
Gabriel Sterling: (00:55)
Now, risk limiting audit is something that maybe 12 people on the planet can explain in a way that actually might make sense and that everybody can understand it. It is one of those scientific things where you can use math to get to a confidence level that the outcome of the election is correct as measured through the system that is built out to get the votes in.
Gabriel Sterling: (01:12)
In this particular case, the decision was made to do the presidential election. The press in many time has mis-characterized the rationale behind this as caving to Trump and their campaign. There’s nothing that can be further from the truth, because even before the Trump campaign was talking about the possibility of a recount or do some re-canvassing, we knew that there was a specific purpose for an audit in the law. And a specific purpose was to instill confidence in the outcome of that election.
Gabriel Sterling: (01:42)
If we had chosen to do what would have been an easier risk limiting audit, in this case there was only one in the state that could have been easier, and that was the jungle primary for the United States Senate. It would have probably undermined confidence in the outcome of the presidential election. And let me be perfectly clear on this. If it was 14,000 votes, the other way we would be doing the exact same thing. This is very important to understand, because right now there’s a swath of voters in this state and around the country, that’ll say those machines cheated. Those machines, miscounted. Somebody hacked them, something happened, because there’s no way that that guy won. There’s no way that guy lost.
Gabriel Sterling: (02:20)
So understand when you are really emotionally tied to the outcome, anything you see that feeds your belief is believed by you. That is the rationale. That is the reason we’ve chosen to do this audit in this time, in this way. This will be the largest hand retailing by an audit in the history of United States. We understand that. It is a heavy lift. It will be, as I said, when we were talking about the traditional recount and understand these are two separate and apart things. There is an audit and there is a recount. Two separate statutes, two separate sets of rules.
Gabriel Sterling: (02:57)
So we’ve chosen to do this audit to instill confidence because as Emil Moffett asked the question yesterday, “You have been telling us now for over a year that we can trust the counts of these electronic voting machines.” And guess what, we stand by that statement because it is the truth. We anticipate this audit will bear that out. And yes, is there a risk involved with doing this? Of course there is. As I said, very plainly and very clearly human beings are the most flawed part of this process. I guarantee you, the numbers will be slightly different.
Gabriel Sterling: (03:29)
But as a perspective, let me give you some historical data from something that’s not exactly the same, because it was a recount in the state of Michigan in 2016. They were doing a manual recount on all hand marked paper ballots. And the court stopped them partway through, they got through a little over 2 million. And through that President Trump picked up about 750, Hillary Clinton picked up about 850. So the marginal difference was about 100 out of two to 2.5 million votes cast. And those were all hand marked paper ballots.
Gabriel Sterling: (03:59)
In this particular situation, we are in a better situation because you usually see changes mainly on hand marked paper ballots, because that’s where human beings tend to make mistakes. And in this case, it’s only about 25% of our votes, about 1.3 million. So we anticipate there will be some changes.
Gabriel Sterling: (04:16)
This has also been a logistical issue for especially our large counties. So we have hired some outside groups to help with the logistics side. And another outside group, which has really designed the procedures and processes we’re going to use and giving out the instructions, which either if they’re going out either right this minute, or they went out earlier. We had our first training call with the counties this morning at 11:00 AM. I believe about an hour and a half. It with well. Counties have a very good understanding of this. And let’s give some of the other outside rules around this.
Gabriel Sterling: (04:44)
They are to begin tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM. They are to end at midnight on Wednesday the 18th. So it’s all the way through Wednesday at midnight, not midnight Wednesday morning, midnight of going from Wednesday to Thursday. So they have that amount of time.
Gabriel Sterling: (04:59)
We have figured out the amount of auditing teams they need, and these will be auditors. I know there’ll be questions about this. If you want to be an auditor, you must be a state of Georgia resident, and then you have to contact the county. If you want to be an observer, you can contact either your local party, if they are organized. And if there is no local organized party in your county, you can contact your state party to be an observer. This will be open to the public. There will be observers from both parties. And one other key distinction, as the audit teams are going through the ballots and making their stacks, and they’re going to do the thing where they do this stacks. And if there is a ballot they’re looking at and they cannot discern the voters intent, it will be handed to an adjudication team. They’ll be made up of both Republicans and Democrats to make the decision as to what that voter’s intent was. So there will be a re-adjudication of those ballots.
Gabriel Sterling: (05:48)
Now, we do not anticipate a high number of those because there were not a lot statewide. And the vast majority of the ones on the hand marked paper ballots that needed to be adjudicated mainly for over votes was in the United States Senate contest. In the United States President’s contest, there were very few where there seem to be any issues. Either people knew who they were voting for, or they didn’t.
Gabriel Sterling: (06:07)
Now a few other things to talk about, numbers. And this goes back towards the misinformation disinformation situation, we see both in Georgia and across the country. There are about 24,000 people who just chose to skip the presidential race. That is not surprising. In fact, it’s a very low percent, lower than we anticipated. People are talking about a differential between Biden only votes or Trump votes, and then the difference between the Senate. If you go county by county, you see different differentials. As in Fulton County, as one example, there were, I believe, 9,000 more voters for Senator Purdue than there were for the president. So all these things will even out over the state. If you look individually, there’s nothing that’s very odd or ambiguous about that.
Gabriel Sterling: (06:44)
Another thing that we’ve heard about before is there’s 132,000 voters on the rolls from the national change of address. Federal law prohibits any mass list maintenance during an election year. So guess what, we know they’re there. NCOA says that they’re there. And there’s nothing we can do because of federal law. And if some senators would go, maybe look at this and help states clean their lists this could help to make that a process that could be a lot cleaner and a lot smoother. We have joined the Electronic Registration Information Center, which will allow us to do a little more consistent list cleaning to make sure that we have a clean voter list because a clean voter list is the beginning of the bedrock of the foundation of trusting the final outcomes.
Gabriel Sterling: (07:25)
I know that there’s many other bits of misinformation out there talking about flipping votes and changing votes. I’ll say this again, the hammer and scorecard that I was quoting when I talked about this before, Chris Krebs, who was the director of the cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency under Homeland Security, hammer and scorecard, this is him talking, not Gabe talking, “Is nonsense and a hoax.” So anybody’s claiming that things are being flipped by a super secret computer developed by the CIA is just not speaking, well is speaking nonsense, I guess. I won’t quote Chris on that one.
Gabriel Sterling: (08:04)
So the procedures around the audit, is we have to get through by those days, there’ll be multiple audit teams, we will have observers from both parties, there will be re-adjudication, and the outcome of this will be the certified result. So with that, I’ll take any questions.
Gabriel Sterling: (08:25)
Two questions. Are you going to in your audit [inaudible 00:08:32] between votes cast by the machines to votes cast absentee? Do you actually keep separate records?
Gabriel Sterling: (08:38)
Well, when they made the ballot manifest, they already do that. The absentee ballots, which are all hand marked paper ballots, are kept separately and they’re in smaller batches. So, you’ll already know those. And so the reporting at the end will be here’s mail-in absentee, here’s absentee in-person… Actually I don’t think they’re separate there, but the batches should be able to do that on the final number. And then provisionals is the last one on those, where we can separate those out.
And then the second question is are you inviting a second recount event on the Trump campaign by conducting this audit [inaudible 00:09:09].
Gabriel Sterling: (09:10)
Under the law, any person who comes in second by less than half a percent can ask for a recount. I would hope that common sense would prevail. And that if it’s very close to the first time, that’s the possibility of the computer recount being changing the results would be slim to none.
Gabriel Sterling: (09:25)
One concern I hear all the time is, that I know there’s a midnight Wednesday deadline for this to get done. The concern is everybody wants this count to be done accurately and on time before the certification deadlines, how confident are you that our county and state election officials will be able to get it done in a timely manner?
Gabriel Sterling: (09:46)
We’re pretty confident. We’ve been doing running the numbers and we do have Voting Works here who has done this before. In fact, I got those Michigan numbers from one of their employees, who’s here on the ground with us. And they have the expertise in this. We’ve worked through it. We’re working with the counties to make sure they have the manpower in place. We feel very confident we can get it in before the 20th, but we’re aiming for that 18th. And let me set a level of expectation, we are not going to be releasing the new result counts as they come in. We will be releasing, this is the percent of ballots they’ve gotten through, this is the percent of batches they’ve gotten through, because when you’re looking at these batches, it’ll be similar to what we saw before. We’re going to start with the absentees because those can be the most problematic because those have the most human interaction.
Gabriel Sterling: (10:22)
And what’s going to happen, I can guarantee you, on day one, we’re all going to look at each other and go, “Oh, I don’t know if we can make this.” But as time passes, we get through those, it would be a lot easier and the speed will pick up as people get more used to doing it. Then we move to the second round of this, when we get past the absentees to the hand marked paper ones, you’re moving to the ballot marking device ones, which are a lot easier because it’s a name you stack and you go, it should be a lot easier after that. But there are procedures in place. We are going to have what we call sanity checks throughout to make sure there’s nothing going really crazily off the rails. We have timelines set for everybody. I feel very, I know the small counties will get through it, and the big counties have resources.
Gabriel Sterling: (10:58)
We’ve brought in another logistics firm to help some of these medium-sized counties that have a decent amount size of ballots and a decent amount of resources to make sure there’s an ability to do that. And yes, the costs are going to be born by the counties. Right now, we’re looking at a way to move to some cost sharing using the state’s federal Hava Dollars to help take some of that burden off the counties. But that formula has not been worked out yet.
Gabriel Sterling: (11:19)
Speaker 4: (11:20)
Is the process for challenging ballots in the audit the same?
Gabriel Sterling: (11:23)
There is no process for challenging balance in the audit. There’s only going to be the adjudication done by the Republican and Democrat adjudicators. If the audit team cannot come to a decision on what that is, there is no ballot challenge.
Speaker 4: (11:35)
Is that the same as the rules in the recount?
Gabriel Sterling: (11:36)
As I understand that these rules are different, but I don’t know the recount rules that well. I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the audit rules. Steven?
Can you describe the security measures in place and the paper trail to make sure that ballots don’t go missing or there’s an accountability [inaudible 00:11:51]?
Gabriel Sterling: (11:50)
Everything of these things had to be sealed. There are sealed numbers to look at. Even when they’re doing the ballot checks themselves. When they bring in, every person who is moving ballots will not be an auditor. There’ll be people who specific jobs are these things. When the auditors get there, they will have a ballot tally sheet. And on that, they will say box sealed and they already have, there’s a record of the box being sealed before. And then we’ll reseal the box on the way back out.
Gabriel Sterling: (12:13)
The only outside difference on that one is if anything goes to adjudication, which would include if there’s a qualified write-in presidential, if there’s a blank ballot, if there’s an adjudicated ballot, those will go to the adjudication teams, but they will be kept in a separate envelope. That’ll be tied back to that original box of ballots so they can be married together again, after the adjudication is done. But all of this is documented. All of this is put down on those tally sheets and all these will track back to a master log of the ballot manifest. Yes, sir?
Speaker 6: (12:39)
The complaints of fraud that have been brought up are double voting or deceased people voting, there have been claims of [inaudible 00:12:47], flipping votes, will the audit be able to identify and weed out any of those issues?
Gabriel Sterling: (12:55)
No, this is a audit of the ballots that came through legally. It’s going to have to be a post election situation to look for individuals who may have violated the law, and double voted, and if anybody has cast a ballot for a dead person. That’s a violation of the law. However, in Georgia, the state constitution requires, that there’s a privacy of the ballot. So there’s no way to tie an individual ballot back to an individual human being. Because if there was a way to do that, that could lead to vote buying, which is why you can’t take a picture of the ballot inside the voting booth. So you can take that to get paid by whoever wants to pay you. Anybody else? Mark, again? I’m going to get you a better mask next year. So you have to go through all this.
So my understanding is this audit, you aren’t comparing specific ballots to specific votes reported previously, we’re just starting over with a new count, correct?
Gabriel Sterling: (13:43)
We’re starting out with a new count and some counties, the batches match the ballot boxes and some counties they don’t. Which actually is a good thing as a verification because they’re not aiming at a target. They’re not saying, “Oh my gosh, we’re off on this.” It’s going to be a cleaner way to get to a final result. And the main thing we’re trying to do is show that the equipment, print, scanned the ballot properly. The counts we got were the right counts. And the ballots we have are the backup trail to that.
Gabriel Sterling: (14:08)
So is the ballot, is it going to change some, as I have said in every conference, when this has come up, yes, the outcome will change slightly at the end, more than likely, at least the final numbers. If we see something along the lines of 14 or 15,000, we have bigger issues to worry about that the machines probably didn’t count themselves right. So, that’s a very important distinction of this. The point of the audit is to show the machines counted the ballots fairly. And what we’ve said from the beginning every single day, we want to get it right. We want to make sure this is accurate. And we want to give those people who believe that there is something flipping a ballot from a dominion system, it’s not happening. And this is the reason or rationale for an audit to begin with. Yes, sir.
Speaker 7: (14:48)
Can I ask about the elephant in the room? The Secretary of State. So the Secretary of State we understand his wife may have tested positive to COVID-19, is that correct, and is the Secretary of State in quarantine, and what about you?
Gabriel Sterling: (15:07)
I’m not going to speak to the health concerns of family members of anybody, either elected or on our staff right now, I’ll leave them to speak for that for themselves. I’m probably going to get tested, but I’m not going to say, “Well, I’m going to go get tested.”
Speaker 7: (15:18)
Well, can you confirm-
Gabriel Sterling: (15:19)
It’s not my place to confirm. At this conference I’m talking about the voting election.
Speaker 8: (15:22)
Will they stay [inaudible 00:15:24]?
Gabriel Sterling: (15:25)
If that’s the case, then no will not impact. We have a wide staff. We have outside consultants here and let’s remember something. The work of this recount is being done at the county level. That is where the boots on the ground are. And as the secretary pointed out yesterday, the men and women who stood behind him at that conference, where he made this announcement, they are the ones who are having to do the real work. They have to get up. They have to staff. They have to train to make sure people are there. And to make sure they have the six by 10 tables ready to go. They have to make sure they get the notices out. Another thing we’re asking them to do is if they can please stream this thing live so people can see the process as it happens. We are working every day to be as transparent as we can.
Speaker 8: (15:59)
[inaudible 00:15:59] impact along county level and I know it’s their responsibility, could we see deadlines [inaudible 00:16:07].
Gabriel Sterling: (16:08)
My hope and prayer is we cannot move deadlines. We have a federal drop dead certification deadline, and we have potential backup plans in place to make sure that the ballots for January 5th, go out for the [inaudible 00:16:20], military and overseas on time on Saturday the 21st. I’ll give Doug this one.
Will the folks who are auditing the votes coming out of the Dominion machines be able to not only eyeball the bubbles on one side but also re-scan the barcode?
Gabriel Sterling: (16:36)
There’s no need to re-scan QR codes because you’re looking at the name, the word Donald Trump is there, the word Joe Biden is there, the word Joe Jorgensen is there. That is what they are stacking. They’re not looking at bubbles or anything on that on the ballot marking device created ballots.
To test the validity of the [inaudible 00:16:51]?
Gabriel Sterling: (16:51)
Well, the whole point is if you count it out and it comes out about the same, that kind of speaks for itself. That’s the whole point of the audit. Yeah, Mark.
Just going back to yesterday and starting this whole [inaudible 00:17:02] live audit, to accomplish that do you set the risk on it to zero and if so, why?
Gabriel Sterling: (17:08)
There’s two ways to do this. If you go back and listen to the individual, I don’t want to, what’s a good word to say, academics, who discovered this. Because it’s math. You discovered math, you don’t invent math. They basically said, if you get to a point where you’re pulling 10 to 15% of the ballots, you need to go ahead and move to a full hand re-tally. They have said that on the record, as late as last week. You can check with Monica Childers from Voting Works, who knows about these things much more specifically than I do. We could have set it at zero, when it got… I mean, let’s give some perspective, if you set it at 10%, we would’ve had to pull a little, I think nearly 1.5 million ballots. If you set it at 5%, you’d had to pull 2.5 million ballots. It is just functionally and logistically easier to go, I’m going to do every single batch then pull number 17 from batch 37 and do that all around the county and try to keep up with all those things. As this is functionally an easier thing to do, even though it may not sounded like it, it is a lot easier to do.
Gabriel Sterling: (18:00)
If we want to, we can set it to zero and it will absolutely get us there. But the realities of the way a risk limiting audit works is, and even the discoverers of the science behind this said, if you get past 10 or 15%, you may as well do the whole thing, which is kind of what we’re looking at here. And it was part of the discussions we had pre anything from the Trump campaign. As I said, at the beginning of this conference, we would have chosen to do this had Biden been the one who was behind by 14,000 votes, because let me guarantee you of all the people who are yelling right now about these machines and these margins being close that are supporting Donald Trump, if the situation was reversed, the same thing would be happening on other side.
Gabriel Sterling: (18:35)
I think we’ve all seen that over the last few years, the social media puts us into our own bubbles where facts sometimes get a little diluted because we want to believe and see the outcome we want, because it’s very important, because to many people and even to me, to a degree this is the fate of the republic in their minds, they’ve been told it’s the most important election of your lives. Because we heard that every year since I’ve been alive, but that always seems to be ratcheting up that way.
Gabriel Sterling: (18:57)
Speaker 9: (19:12)
There are people in your position in other states who have received death threats. Is the office currently receiving any and if so [inaudible 00:19:12].
Gabriel Sterling: (19:12)
In an abundance of caution, we will always make sure that our office and our employees are secure. I know that there was a situation yesterday with WSB-TV reporter and his camera man who are put into potentially harms way, and that’s a terrible thing, and it shouldn’t happen. And we shouldn’t be in a situation where anybody from the Right or the Left puts out the idea that it’s okay to try to intimidate people or change people’s minds.
Gabriel Sterling: (19:35)
This office has a responsibility and one responsibility only, which is the voters of Georgia to give them the right and accurate result and make sure that the intent of the voters and the will of the people have been met, regardless of outcome.
Gabriel Sterling: (19:46)
At the end of the day, you just want people to trust the system and trust the results. I guess, what would you say to somebody who doesn’t follow politics, doesn’t follow risk-limiting audit, doesn’t necessarily watch the process, what would you say to somebody and have them trust that at the end of the day, November 20th, Georgia’s results are true and correct?
Gabriel Sterling: (20:10)
It’s going to be difficult, if anybody doesn’t follow anything to convince them. But we’ve got a lot of safe guards in place. We have a lot of processes in place, the security and all cyber security is one of the things we’re talking about here, begins with physical security. To get into our voter registration system, you have to have a unique user ID, a unique password. You have to go through a multifactor.
Gabriel Sterling: (20:31)
We have the poll pads come in that get that data to check people in. Our BMDs and our scanners never touch the internet. The election management systems that are used to tally and do the final tally, never touch the internet. They’re all [inaudible 00:20:47]. We have for our registration system, we have an Albert Sensor. We have partnerships with Department of Homeland Security. We have our own outside vendors to go in and look at penetration testing and make sure there’s nothing happening and look for bad actors and look for bots.
Gabriel Sterling: (20:59)
It’s always changing every day. This office spends a heck of a lot of time on making sure that the equipment involved is secure. We spend a heck of a lot of time with the county’s training people. The decentralized nature of votes in Georgia is a security measure in and of itself. It’s a 159 counties, there’s not a single target. And one of the situations we’re worried about going forward in the January 5, election is that we’ve gone from 50 state targets to one. So we fully anticipate that the potential threat level in the state will increase.
Gabriel Sterling: (21:31)
And while I’m at it, there’s another thing we need to talk about that is going back to the nature of our law when it comes to registration. I know there’s been discussion about people coming in from out-of-state Andrew Yang, being the most famous to come and help Georgia see the light and do the right thing. I want to remind everybody in order to have the ability to register to vote in Georgia, you have to be a Georgia resident, which means you have to believe you’re staying in Georgia. You can’t be a canvasser for Bloomberg. You can’t be a canvasser for the Koch brothers and decide, “Hey, I’m going to vote here while I’m here.” If you do that and you leave, the attorney general office reminded us of this yesterday, they put it online. It is a felony that is charged up to 10 years and I think $100,000 fine.
Gabriel Sterling: (22:12)
Let me be clear about this. If you want to move to Georgia and be part of the number one state in America to do business, we are happy to have you. It was great to have you come in, but if you are here for the sole sake of politics, if you voted for senate in one state and move here to another state, I know that’s another thing that could potentially be billed before the courts, because you’ve already cast a vote for a body that’s going to be seated in January. Don’t game our system.
Gabriel Sterling: (22:40)
The secretary of state’s office will stand with the attorney general’s office and local DA’s. If you were gaming our system. Come here, campaign, go door-to-door, it’s your First Amendment right, but don’t try to game our system. All right.
Speaker 10: (22:56)
Are you aware of any counties getting a head start on the audit today?
Gabriel Sterling: (22:59)
No, I think they’re going through training. They’re going to, like I said, the final instructions just went out. So it’d be a bit difficult. We’ve given them a lot of things they have to print. This is a very open process. There’s very large signage so that they can see what’s going on. We know there’s going to be observers. We know there’s interest. Everybody’s a little bit of time to make sure that they need to have, make sure the observers there. They need to follow the rules on this stuff. And I feel confident that our counties who have executed everything so well since June and frankly, 95% of them it great in June. We had a few, I’ll remind everybody again, we had 70% of the issues in June were in one county. And we saw some issues with them. Like I said, I had to go after the Georgia game to State Farm myself because they uploaded their results without doing the reconciliation.
Gabriel Sterling: (23:44)
It’s silly things like this that undermine confidence, which is why you have to follow the processes and procedures we lay down. It’s boring. It’s tedious, but it is vitally important. Yeah, Doug?
You said that human beings basically are the weak link here, how do prevent the folks who are doing the hand count from becoming the weak link.
Gabriel Sterling: (24:05)
Oh, no, they’re going to be the weak link. There’s no way to prevent it necessarily. All you can just try to mitigate it. By doing them in batches, by keeping the sanity checks in as we go to make sure that things are looking relatively normal. That’s how we’re going to be able to look for those kind of things. But if there’s something that’s way wack-a-do out of place we will have to address that as it comes.
Gabriel Sterling: (24:21)
Like I said, they’re going to make mistakes. They’re going to make more mistakes than computers, but there are people out there that just fundamentally will not believe the outcome unless they say I don’t trust those computers. So I need a human being to have looked at that to make sure it was right. Yeah.
Speaker 11: (24:35)
What happens if the counties don’t make the presidential deadline?
Gabriel Sterling: (24:39)
That’s a hypothetical. I’m not willing to entertain just yet. All right. Anybody else?
Speaker 12: (24:44)
Gabriel Sterling: (24:45)
Speaker 12: (24:46)
I’m sorry. I’m curious about the timing, you said all counties will begin on counting on [inaudible 00:24:50] or is it up to them?
Gabriel Sterling: (24:51)
No, no. The audit shall begin tomorrow at 9:00 AM. If you’re putting stuff in boxes to go to the place you’re going to go, your county, you’re starting your audit. This is more, essentially, we don’t want people waiting till Monday. We want them to get the show on the road because we are burning daylight every hour.
Speaker 12: (25:07)
Audit and recount.
Gabriel Sterling: (25:09)
This is an audit.
Speaker 12: (25:10)
Gabriel Sterling: (25:11)
That has moved to a point of a hand re-tallying. It’s a re-tallying. It is not a recount because that is a separate statute. All right. Is that it? All right. Thanks, you all.
Speaker 13: (25:21)
Thank you. [inaudible 00:25:41]