Nov 17, 2020
Georgia Press Conference on Election Recount Updates Transcript November 17
Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling held a virtual press conference on November 17 to provide updates on the election recount. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
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Gabriel Sterling: (00:00)
I think again, kind of got lost in all this, but we did open up two investigations into Fulton County. And with that, we are going to… Let’s see, we’re going to be putting the new results in, which should be aggregated into the results you see on the actual SOS site. That will hopefully happen today. Real quick, Ari, on the chat side, allow recording yet? Ari, have you been able to accomplish that?
Ari Schaffer: (00:36)
Not yet. Still looking into it.
Gabriel Sterling: (00:38)
Ari Schaffer: (00:40)
We’re recording on our end though.
Gabriel Sterling: (00:42)
[crosstalk 00:00:42]. You’re a host. I know we can, let me see one second. Let me do something. I think I have the ability to do that. This is technology. Hold on. Was that Myles, maybe he knows a button to press. He’s been waving his hands a lot. Myles, you can unmute now, what do you got?
I feel very special. Thank you very much. Would you go to your participant list. You have to individually allow recording for each of the participants. There’s a series of dots there that you can pull in. It’ll give you allow recording to each of us and we can all record. Okay?
Gabriel Sterling: (01:22)
Okay. Ari, Walter, can you [crosstalk 00:01:25]?
Who’s the host? The host has to do this by the way?
Gabriel Sterling: (01:27)
Or am I-
Ari Schaffer: (01:28)
Yeah, I can do it. If you want it for recording, post in the chat and then I’ll go to your window and allow you to record.
Gabriel Sterling: (01:35)
Let’s just let everybody record.
We all want to record. I think that’s a given.
Gabriel Sterling: (01:39)
I just let everybody go. There’s 80 of you all right now?
Ari Schaffer: (01:42)
It’ll take a bit.
Gabriel Sterling: (01:46)
I’ll start over again. I apologize trying to get through pandemic style, press conferences is kind of annoying. We get that. But thank you for the heads up on how to do that Myles.
Gabriel Sterling: (01:58)
Us guys with the gray hair do know things sometimes. I’ve renamed myself because I’m under him, I’m a executive assistant’s name right now. How do I do that? I did it yesterday, beforehand. There we go. Little weird for people to see her name under my name. Boom. I did something technological. All right, good. All right. Where are we getting ready to recording stuff? Does everybody have it yet?
Ari Schaffer: (02:37)
Not yet. It’s taking a bit.
Gabriel Sterling: (02:39)
Okay. I apologize. We’re all getting through these things. Yesterday we only had 15 of you all and we’re 85 today so it’s a lot more. But I will start over again once we get through that process. In the meantime you can be thinking of your really penetrating questions that you want to get to. I did it take somebody down who was running an old episode of, In the Heat of the Night, which I was worried they were trying to bomb our things. I couldn’t tell. I’m not sure who that was. Ari, how are we coming?
Ari Schaffer: (03:22)
Slowly but surely.
Gabriel Sterling: (03:25)
Again, we apologize. Our goal in this office is to make elections boring again. Right now, it’s not obviously, hopefully I get to see the dogs play this weekend. Because it could cause some problems. I think this weekend is South Carolina and my fiance to [inaudible 00:03:45]. That’s always a fun game, especially after last year when they beat us in the surprise upset. All right. Let’s see. Ari, word up.
Ari Schaffer: (04:04)
If you want to start off. I’m still clicking through these. I think I got most, but they also move around a bit. I might miss some here and there.
Gabriel Sterling: (04:11)
It’s like a game of Whac-A-Mole?
Ari Schaffer: (04:13)
Gabriel Sterling: (04:15)
Okay. Well, maybe sort out for a second so I can get this cleaned up, I’ll start over again. Basically, in a much more clean way explained that the situation in Floyd County is being addressed. They are working to pull their elections board together to allow for the re-scan of all of the early votes. They will back out the results that they have in watching and reporting and to RTR, which is the Results Tally Reporting, and then put the new results in, add that to the Election Management System, pull that out and add it to the Election Night Reporting System or ENR. That will even out those numbers. Now, what will happen there, since we’ve seen the raw numbers and those are unofficial obviously, was 14,156 was the deficit that president was facing against former vice president Biden. There was a net pickup of 778 votes, it appears on this one. The new deficit will be 13,378. That’s the outcome of that. It does not affect the runoff.
Gabriel Sterling: (05:16)
The number of votes are actually very similar to the president and Senator Purdue as to what they need to avoid the runoff or win the election. They’re kind of track very close together. It’s about the same differential now, that Senator Purdue would have to get to meet that issue. That is that particular thing in Floyd County, it is being addressed. The audit worked, it found the issue. They were very troubled on these things. There was an additional issue with how re-scan the provisional ballots. It looks like they had two batches and they scanned three batches, which means we have a third more provisional ballots in the Election Night Reporting and they should, we don’t know the outcomes of those, but those will also be re-scanned.
Gabriel Sterling: (05:57)
I don’t think I mentioned yesterday, it’s kind of overshadowed by the Floyd County issue, was in Fulton County, where we’re opening up two specific investigations. One was, how they handled the toilet leak, water leak, whatever you want to call it at State Farm Arena, what was done, how that was handled, chain of custody, all those items, because there’s a lot of confusion around that. Secondarily, how they were dealing with monitors and people along those lines. There’s a lot of specific issues that we had a consent decree with them and our monitors had some issues that they wanted to point out. There were some chain of custody issues surrounding the absentee ballots. Let’s see, there were bounced around rooms and it’s just generally bad management, the same things we saw in Floyd with bad management.
Gabriel Sterling: (06:43)
We see similar things in Fulton where we’re investigating it. In the hour and a half, it looks like we pulled the videos from State Farm Arena to see if there was actually a time when they were scanning and processing when the monitors had either been told to leave or understood there were supposed to leave. We’re investigating that as well. It looks like they’re violating the consent order that we had already entered with them by not giving credit for voting in a timely manner, which caused some more confusion on election day and prior to election day. Fulton County will continue to be investigated for those fronts and for any potential violations of the consent order we entered into after the June election but prior to the November election.
Gabriel Sterling: (07:21)
I want to go over some of this statistics again that we saw concerning absentee ballot and signature matching. The State of Georgia under consent decree, they essentially did one thing and one thing only, it allowed for 11 days from an election, instead of giving three days to inform a voter there was an issue with their ballot. Is down to 24 hours when you’re within 11 days of the election. That is the one and only thing that consent order addressed in any real way. Just to give you some context around this, in 2016, there were 580 ballots that were missing or had inaccurate hosting, which is a signature basically out of 246,000. In 2018, there was 454 out of 284,000. In 2020, as 2011 out of 1.3 million, they all bounced about 0.15%. So this is pretty consistent on this.
Gabriel Sterling: (08:15)
One of the numbers you’re seeing out there is that a 3% rejection rate versus this 0.5% rejection rate, but they’re comparing it to apples to oranges. That is including ballots. The biggest chunk of ballots are rejected or counted as rejected showed up after the 7:00 PM deadline. That is where the majority of rejections come from. But for signature matches always run around 0.15 to 0.2%. That is the normal thing we’ve seen in Georgia for years and we also have a new situation now where Republicans and Democrats alike get these lists of people who have absentee ballots to cure. They send teams around to help them cure their ballots. We saw a lot of that, especially in Fulton, because there was concerns that just suddenly showed up, but they have the photo ID, they have photocopies of the photo IDs, they matched up so we saw a lot of that curing occurring.
Gabriel Sterling: (09:06)
But it is unfortunate. We’re still saying management issues. They did better, but they still have some major issues that are very big concerns for us. Another thing that we wanted to make sure, we’ve been talking about we’re working on certifying this election and then we’re going to have to move into… We have to do this so we can get the [inaudible 00:09:25] ballots out on Saturday to follow the federal law, to be the 45 days out from the January 5th election. We’ve got to get this thing certified. We feel like we are on a good schedule right now with the audit, we’re following the law. We are following the process. This is what I’ve been saying from the beginning. The secretary has instructed us, “Follow the law.” It’s just process, process, process.
Gabriel Sterling: (09:47)
I mean, this is a very well-defined item we’re going through. The audit was in the law. We’re following that and it allows us to do a hand count. Let me again, on the hand count, there are people out there conspiracy theorists are saying, the QR code is flipping votes and everything. The whole point of the hand count is you look at what’s on the ballot. Either the hand marked ballot, the 1.3 million or else or the 3.7 million so the ballots came from [inaudible 00:10:12], the QR codes, you’re looking at the name. Those counting are looking at the name, they’re handing it to the person sitting next to them, I’m saying, they’re looking at the name that putting it in the stacks and they are physically counting them as human beings to assure that what was scanned is actually correct. So far we’re seeing that in the vast majority of the counties, some of them are off by one or two, which you expect when human beings do this.
Gabriel Sterling: (10:34)
The audits going well, we’re at 4.7 million out of the little over five million votes that were cast. It is Tuesday. We got till midnight on Wednesday. Now, the first step is this physical counting process. They have to get through that process, then we have a quality control process to make sure, did you put your data entry in correct? Are your tally sheets correct? There’s a lot of moving parts to this, but voting works is here on the ground. We have a lot of people who are helping to make sure it’s a tight process. Many of the counties are coming back at spot dead on that. They have no more votes, no less votes and the vote counts are coming out the same.
Gabriel Sterling: (11:10)
Other counties, that one thing I’ve seen for a lot of these elections directors is they are perfectionist. If they’re off by three, they want to dig in and figure out why they’re off by three. It could be as simple as, if you had an absentee ballot and two of them stuck together and went through the machine together at one time. You’re never going to necessarily be able to know the difference on that because those are the kinds of things you see in an election.
Gabriel Sterling: (11:30)
Another thing I want to make clear, there will have been illegal votes cast. We know that. In every single election, in the history of mankind, there will be illegal votes cast. We have not seen any evidence of 13,378 of those casts. We know that there are some double voters. We dug into some of that and realized that it was entries was by counties, where they tag people the wrong way. Another thing that we’ve seen is potential felon voters, but some of those people might be in a position where their rights are fully restored to vote. We’ve got to have investigators, physically tracking those down. Understand when we have these things, as an example, when we found the double voters in the June and August elections, we send investigators to interview. That’s 1200 interviews. We have 24 investigators. Two of them are specifically tasked with just election stuff under this State Election Board. It’s going to take some time to get through all of this, but again, we’ve seen nothing that indicates that there is such a high percentage that it would change the outcome of the vote.
Gabriel Sterling: (12:35)
Our goal is to have the cleanest possible election. If anybody has any reports of actual irregularities, our investigators will investigate. Another thing that I want to make sure that the secretary is clear on with everybody is we’ve, again, seen more Democrats and people, even in California, talking about coming to Georgia and voting in our elections. I understand, if your goal is to come here just to vote in the election and go back to your home state of residency, you’re violating state law. Secondarily, this is another potential case I know may come up. If somebody moves from one state where they cast a vote for Senate into another state to try to cast another vote for the same body, there’ll be seated. That would violate the United States constitution, because you can’t get two different sets of votes to seat a body that will be seated in January. They’ll potentially be some issues along that front as well.
Gabriel Sterling: (13:29)
Our goal was to have the cleanest and fairest selection we can and give people the understanding and faith that the outcome is actually the outcome. That the winner is the winner and the person who came in second place came in second place. Now, to get ahead of some of the other questions, this hand audit we’re doing right now is for the state to remove the certification. Under our state law, the second place finisher, if they are within 0.5 or lower percent of the vote of the first place finisher, may ask for a recount and that recount would follow our State Election Board rules. Essentially, we’ve already procured a high-speed high-capacity central scanner for every single county because we did a pretty good job of negotiating and getting the prices down in the original deal that we did to get our new voting system, to bring paper to Georgia. What they would do is they would create a test deck. As an example, you’d say you’d have 50 for Trump, 40 for Biden and 10 for Jo Jorgensen. You do a mix of ballot marking device and hand marked ballots.
Gabriel Sterling: (14:30)
You would run those through that scanner. You get the report, the hope and intention of you’re verifying that the scanner is counting properly. It would be 50 for Trump, 40 for Biden and then 10 for Jorgensen. Then you clear that up. You put your tally back to zero and then you scan every single ballot again through those things. The large counties have multiples of these. One of the thing, I want to go back, we are sending some additional high-speed scanners to Floyd County so they can get to the process of re-scanning more quickly than just doing it on a single scanner. We are getting the logistical part of that done to help them get their results more quickly, because we know we want to get these things done. We feel like we’re on a good path. The audit is moving at pace.
Gabriel Sterling: (15:11)
By the fact that we’re down to the last 300,000 or so of the hand counting, we feel very good that we can look for any issues with any anomalies, find where they might be, correct them on the data side, correct them on the counting side and then have the full audit available by our deadline of Wednesday at midnight and then be able to move to the certification phase going into Friday so we can get those [inaudible 00:15:32] votes on Saturday. With that, I will open up to your questions and the way we’re going to do this is Walter and Ari are kind of going to go through your chat or look through your raised hands and we’ll try to unmute people one at a time because we don’t want people to kind of talking over each other. Let’s start off with that. What have we got Ari or Walter?
Actually, it’s a little quicker if people raise their hand, just a little, raise their hand up.
Gabriel Sterling: (16:05)
I see Myles physically raising his hand, maybe you can unmute him. Oh, Steven, Steve he’s first. He got it. Can you unmute Steven?
Oh, see, I got Myles. You have to unmute yourself.
I just did it. Can you hear me?
Excellent. Excellent. Gabe, if you just clarify a point for me.
Gabriel Sterling: (16:29)
The risk limiting audit which became, it’s been called a recount, but it really is to recount, et cetera, but you’re still calling it an audit, correct?
Gabriel Sterling: (16:39)
Do the hand audit. Yes.
Okay. Will the numbers that you get to by midnight tomorrow, will they in any way impact or change the numbers you certify on the 20th?
Gabriel Sterling: (16:50)
The intent right now as you know, an audit is there to verify the results that were recorded through the Election Management Systems. Knowing that human beings are the flawed part of this process, the intent would be, we would say the numbers and also state law requires me to report by precinct and there’s no way to get precinct level data out of the Arlo tool. We are not changing the results based on the hand count, but it is verifying the results that have been reported. That is the intent we’re following right now because I follow state law and it keeps us in a clean way, able to have the precinct level results still as our final certified results.
So it won’t change the actual certified number?
Gabriel Sterling: (17:28)
Correct. Now, there are people who are still doing [inaudible 00:17:30] these things, obviously the Floyd County thing will do that. They have the ability to go through, make sure they have all their provisionals and everything’s done right. But for the most part, we’re not going to see any real changes moving forward other than that Floyd County thing, more than likely.
Gabe you’re good at explaining this. I think that the thing I heard most frequently as I ran into observers, as I went around the three or four counties over the past few days is why aren’t they verifying signatures? I tried to explain to people, given my limited knowledge of all this, that that happened a long time ago and that there are no signatures on ballots. Could you just explain and clear this up because there seems to be a lot of confusion on the secrecy of ballots and whether ballots have any identification on them.
Gabriel Sterling: (18:13)
Okay. Thanks for the question Myles. Essentially the process is this, you make a request. There’s, basically two things for verifications or an identification verification that happens. You make a request saying you do it on paper. You were signing that request, that gets mailed in, elections officials accountable, look at your signature and they look either in the ENR system, because there are signatures that are stored there to verify it or if they can’t have a ENR system, they have a local drive where they scan signatures that are attached to the voter file there and if they don’t have either of those, then they literally will go to the old paper records, that they keep on file essentially forever, to compare the signatures. That’s step one. That’s for the request side. The other identification side is that if you use the absentee ballot portal, you’re using your driver’s license number, it’s a unique pin identifier that allows us to say, “Yes, this is a person. We know who they are.” If their driver’s license was attached to the voter registration form. That’s the other way you can get the County to send you an absentee ballot.
Gabriel Sterling: (19:14)
Step two is, you get that ballot and you make your choices, you fold it up, you put it in the secrecy sleeve, then you put that secrecy envelope into the actual return envelope. On the outside of the return envelope there is an oath. The oath saying, “I am who I say. I’m following the law. And this is… I’m not committing any fraud.” They sign that. That gets sent back to the county. The county, they have the new request form signature you just sent them. Plus they have all the other signatures to compare that to. That is where that verification takes place at that time.
Gabriel Sterling: (19:49)
Then they go into the Voter Registration System, if the signatures match and say, this is a match we have now accepted this ballot, they then removed the secrecy envelope from the ballot. They are separated at that point because Georgia state constitution requires ballot privacy and ballot secrecy. There’s no way to tie the actual ballot back to that original signature anymore because Georgia law does not allow for that. Now, they do keep those envelopes on record for two years. They keep those requests on record for two years to do, to go back and look if there’s anything on discovery. If somebody wants to file a lawsuit and go look at those things, there’s nothing stopping them from doing that, if they can show it any evidence to do that. Right now there’s nothing in the law for this office or the counties to go back and re-certify signatures that they already certified. I think that I hope that there’s a good enough explanation to people understand where we stand on this.
Gabriel Sterling: (20:39)
One of the things we did this year is we brought in representatives of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to come in and do additional training for the County elections officials on how you do signature match. But one of the things that the secretary wants to look at is a less subjective way to identify voters, because it is subjective. I really liked the portal. We like the portal because that is objective is, do you know this driver’s license number? Do you not know this driver’s license number? Is it in your pocket? Is it not in your pocket? It’s a really good way to do those kinds of things. We have to look at ways to potentially tighten it up and take away the subjectivity of this in the longterm. But thank you for that question. Who’s next?
Quinn Scanian has got her hand up.
Gabriel Sterling: (21:17)
Quinn Scanian: (21:19)
Hey Gabe. I think I have a question that many others are having as well. I’m pretty positive that the Secretary of State’s office has been saying that the results of the audit is what would be certified. Is this different now that it’s going to be the original results and last-
Gabriel Sterling: (21:35)
It’s a little bit different now because we are looking at the law, trying to understand the best way to follow the law and make sure that we got the results in, that would be there and follow the law. There’s not really a way to say with the [inaudible 00:21:49], other states have specific things saying the outcomes of the audits will be the new certified results. We don’t have that in Georgia right now. That may be something we look at doing, but if you do a recount like this or necessarily a hand audit like this, that this may be the final number, but right now the whole intent of an audit is, it’s going to verify the results we already saw. Especially just logistically, there’s no way to get these results out of [inaudible 00:22:11], which is the tool we’re using, at the precinct level, because that’s where you need to report your results to, is the precinct level. That’s going back and forth with lawyers. This is the first time we’ve done this. First one, we had mail in 20 years. There was an opinion. We thought we’re going to go down a path, then we kind of rethought and said that the more legally stable way is to do it this way.
Quinn Scanian: (22:31)
Okay. Then just one quick follow-up just, I think, based on what you said previously, I’m understanding correctly, but you’re sending more scanners to Floyd County because they are not hand counting again all the early voted ballots. They are re-scanning every single vote.
Gabriel Sterling: (22:46)
New audit. They have done the physical part of their audit. Right now, we discovered an issue so we’re scanning those ballots, all of the early ballots back in. It looks like all of the provisional ballots back in. That will back those two things out of the Election Management System and put these results in as the final results, because obviously they need to be correct. The audit found this issue, the fastest way to do that is to throw some additional scanners out. They should be able to do it today, but they have to have their own apps. They have to have their elections board say, “Yes, do that.” They’re trying to pull those people together right now.
Quinn Scanian: (23:19)
Gabriel Sterling: (23:20)
I don’t know where they stand in terms of timing.
Quinn Scanian: (23:22)
Okay. Just by early voted ballots, you mean the in-person ones, correct? Not the absent ones?
Gabriel Sterling: (23:26)
Yes. Understand when I say early boat, that’s absentee in person. That is the balance that we’re done on the ballot marking devices, in-person in the three week plus one mandatory period of time.
Quinn Scanian: (23:38)
Got it. Thank you.
Gabriel Sterling: (23:39)
Thank you, Quinn. Who’s next?
Okay Am Walker. She got a hand up.
Amara Walker: (23:45)
Yeah. It’s Amara Walker with CNN. Hey there, Gabe.
Gabriel Sterling: (23:47)
Amara Walker: (23:48)
You were mentioning that the vast majority of counties are basically going to be reporting minor to no discrepancies with their hand recount, will the Secretary of State be releasing the numbers, say, “Hey, the overall number discrepancy is 600 votes or 600 margin?”
Gabriel Sterling: (24:06)
We will add that if I can do this, once at a time, we will be releasing all the results of the audit. In fact, we’re getting them to scan and our tally sheets so that everybody can go look at them. We’ve been incurred for the transparency of so many counties live streaming. It’s putting on Facebook live and flooding into as many monitors, as physically can work while still having the room be functional.
Amara Walker: (24:32)
Gabriel Sterling: (24:32)
We think we possibly can with that. There will be a county by county level, plus a space statewide level where you’re off. There’s two things to be off on, number of ballots and then there’s also the potential to be off within the count itself or the presidential race. Those are two separate numbers that will both be reported at the end of the process.
Amara Walker: (24:51)
If the county is all finished today with uploading the data entry, I mean, when do you anticipate we could see these numbers that let’s say if they finished-
Gabriel Sterling: (25:00)
I think we’re trying to get to the quality control process of the audit. We will probably push into tomorrow, but my hope is we can… We might need every minute of that midnight deadline, we may be will be done by dinner. Because it is a lot of counties with a lot of ballots. Like I said, a bunch of the candidates, often cable, they’re good to go, but some of the larger ones, they’re going to be some discrepancies. They’ve got to figure out why they’re there. Mostly when you see these kinds of things, you’ll see as an example, there’s one county right now that I think they’re under counted by 394, which just happens to be two batches. That’s the exact number of them when they’re doing it. They’ve got the two batches, they’re going to hand count those and add them to the totals, but that’s the kind of stuff you see after you do your data entry. We saw a couple of places where they inverted the data entry and we easily saw that so we fixed that, but it takes time. It’s just a process and we’re going to continuing to follow the process, follow the rules and follow the law. But once we get to that final number, we will release all that plus all of the backup data, the tally sheets, everything.
Amara Walker: (26:00)
Could you say though, right now the majority or 60% have come back with spot on no differences at all?
Gabriel Sterling: (26:08)
I’ll have to go pull up the Arlo tool to see where we’re at right now, because it changes over time. I don’t have an answer to that, but maybe buy at a four o’clock, I might be able to give you a better answer for that if that works.
Amara Walker: (26:18)
Gabriel Sterling: (26:19)
All right. [inaudible 00:26:22] has his hand up.
Gabriel Sterling: (26:24)
Speaker 7: (26:27)
Gabe, technical question. Right now on the website, the counties had to certify the results by last Friday. There’s still 10 counties. Is that just a matter of it not being in the tool yet? Or do you have 10 counties that have not certified by Friday?
Gabriel Sterling: (26:43)
Yes, ten counties that didn’t get their stuff done. As you noticed yesterday, we had a bunch of them finish up because for a lot of them, they’re all doing a lot of things at once.
Speaker 7: (26:53)
So you can say all 159 counties have certified?
Gabriel Sterling: (26:57)
I actually can’t say that yet because we’ve tried to talk to them to make sure they have, before we say that.
Speaker 7: (27:02)
Gabriel Sterling: (27:02)
That’s what we’re trying to get to.
Speaker 7: (27:04)
When those results are in, your expectation is Floyd is going to pull their numbers back, reload, then when that number, that certified 159 pops up with Floyd done. Those will be the results for the state of Georgia that you will certify later this week?
Gabriel Sterling: (27:20)
That is the intent right now [inaudible 00:27:22]. But I’ve got a quick question. Are you in COVID quarantine? Because you got that hair, man. Come on. It’s going.
Speaker 7: (27:30)
I’ve got two virtual classrooms behind me going right now. And my wife on a conference too.
Gabriel Sterling: (27:37)
Okay. All right. Who do we got next?
Stephen Fowler, [inaudible 00:27:42] for a long time.
Stephen Fowler: (27:45)
Gabe, Risk Limiting Audits are supposed to prove that the correct winner one, not look at the exact margins. Just so I’m clear the rationale for why the original county certification totals will stand because an RLA doesn’t examine margins, but rather the correct winner.
Gabriel Sterling: (28:06)
It’s really threefold. What you just said. The whole point of an audit is to prove the outcomes correct. Two, our law requires that we report by precinct, which you cannot do in the Arlo tool. This logistically is more defensible under our law and physically easier to do because the RTR, which is the Returns Tally Reporting System and our ENR which is the Election Reporting System are built to give that precinct level data that we need to have for everybody to follow our law. That is the rationale behind that. Yes. There are several rationales, but those are the three basics. Who’s next?
Wes Bruer: (28:49)
This is Wes Bruer with CNN. Thanks so much, Gabe. I appreciate it. Regarding what Secretary of State Raffensperger said yesterday regarding his conversation with Senator Graham about invalidating absentee ballots, Mr. Raffensperger said that staffers were on the call with him. Were you anybody else present on the Zoom meeting?
Gabriel Sterling: (29:11)
Yes, I was. [crosstalk 00:29:11], it was a phone call.
Wes Bruer: (29:14)
Can you tell us what you heard Mr. Senator Graham said?
Gabriel Sterling: (29:17)
[inaudible 00:29:17] the back and forth, I was on and off a part of it, I didn’t hear it all because I had to go do a CNN interview with Aaron. What I heard was basically discussions about absentee ballots and potentially, if there was a percentage of signatures that weren’t really truly matching, is there some point where you get to where you could say somebody went to a courtroom, could say, [inaudible 00:29:40] all these ballots because the ballots are separated. That was partially what was going on. You could see how Senator Graham viewed it one way and Secretary Raffensperger viewed it one way, but our job in this state is to follow the law and follow the process. That’s what we continue to do. There’s no physical ability for this office to do anything along those lines, if somebody wanted to go that route, they could go the court route.
Wes Bruer: (30:03)
Would you say, I mean, how would you characterize his request? Is that something that was insanely off the process or you said he saw it one way and you all saw it another way?
Gabriel Sterling: (30:11)
I’m not going to get into Senator Graham’s mind and I’m not going to get in Secretary Raffensperger mind. I think they are both discussing. I can see how both sides of that could potentially be correct, but I mean, the president’s going to continue to fight. His supporters will continue to fight, our job is to continue to follow the law. We were answering process questions. That’s what we were doing on the call.
Wes Bruer: (30:30)
Okay. On next to the Julia Jester, excuse me.
Julie Jester: (30:37)
Hi, thanks for getting this call. My question is have any other Republicans, either within Georgia or outside the state reached out to Secretary Raffensperger with concerns or privately in support of the actions he’s taken in Georgia?
Gabriel Sterling: (30:57)
I don’t keep up with the secretary’s correspondence. I do know that there are many Republicans who have thanked us for staying true to the process and following the law because we are a nation of law, not a nation of men. We will continue to do so. Right now it’s a time when I know that emotions are high. The president is obviously a fighter, he has every recourse to follow the due process afforded to him under our constitution and under state laws and the federal law. I anticipate that we will see lawsuits. I know one was just dismissed in the Southern district of Georgia yesterday. I believe. [inaudible 00:31:33] has a lawsuit in right now. It will go through the process. I don’t believe that it will necessarily yield anything, but I’m not a lawyer. We will allow the courts to do their business and we will continue to follow the state law until the court says, deviate from the plan. As per plan right now is, finish the audit, certify the results, get the [inaudible 00:31:56] ballots mailed out for January 5th and then really look out for anybody coming from California or New York or Florida or anywhere else to coming to our state to try to vote.
Gabriel Sterling: (32:05)
Because that’s the next big step that’s going to be happening. We’ve seen, social media and other people trying to do those kinds of things. As I said before, if you come and do that, it is a 10 year prison sentence potentially and a hundred thousand dollars fine. It is a felony and it was a big one. I wouldn’t recommend risking it. I think once we talked about that, Mr. [inaudible 00:32:28] kind of backpedaled from his original, Moving to Georgia, going to, I’m Just Going to Campaign in Georgia. It is everybody’s right to come and campaign. Like I said, in the conference the other day, if you were moving to be part of the number one state in Georgia, you’ve come to do business with the State of Georgia. We are happy to have you. If you want to rent a house, start a business, buy a home and be an actual resident here. That’s fine. But don’t come here to try to game our system.
K. Tobin has had her hand up for a while.
Gabriel Sterling: (32:57)
K. Tobin: (33:00)
Hi. Can you hear me?
Gabriel Sterling: (33:01)
K. Tobin: (33:02)
Okay. Excellent. Okay. I just want to make sure I understand the county and the state sort of certification rules here. Floyd certified their results last Friday and now they have turned up these additional ballots. There’s an established process for them to amend their certification with new numbers. Now, Georgia is going to certify on Friday. Is there also a process in place for you to amend your numbers if another County turns out to have had a problem or if your Fulton investigations yield something? You can update your numbers after Friday?
Gabriel Sterling: (33:45)
As I understand it, once we certify and get those ballots out, I don’t know of a path that allows for that, but I’m not the lawyer, that might be a better suited to general counsel but our intent is to follow our rules, which is everybody ought to be done. Everybody ought to have their stuff certified and then we will certify their final numbers. I don’t foresee a situation that would potentially change a thing or have us not certified by Friday, barring a court telling us don’t certify by Friday. That is the intent. That is the goal.
K. Tobin: (34:16)
Okay. Under normal circumstances, state certification is it, once you certify that, that’s that.
Gabriel Sterling: (34:22)
Have you just thrown the word normal out? I mean.
K. Tobin: (34:26)
Not these circumstances, but in the past, when you’ve certified, you’ve certified, that’s the end.
Gabriel Sterling: (34:31)
K. Tobin: (34:32)
I understand. Thank you.
Emil Moffatt: (34:39)
Hey, good morning, Gabe, question for you regarding Senator Graham’s claims, wouldn’t a higher rejection rate mean that the system of signature verification is actually working?
Gabriel Sterling: (34:50)
One would potentially think that yes. I mean, what we saw is in Fulton, they did have a higher rejection rate this year than they had in ’18 individually. We saw on the provisional side, it’s a similar thing. We can tell the system is working the way it’s intended in a potentially maybe what they were really thinking was a lower rejection rate compared to what they thought might’ve been necessary. That’s a sort of backwards math on that. I think you’re right of a higher rejection rate would probably show the system is working the way it’s supposed to.
Gabriel Sterling: (35:23)
An incredibly low one, will show that there might be a problem. But the thing is it’s incredibly low in general because most people are getting their signature matches done and the counters are doing their jobs properly, as we can tell, we’ve had no specific instance of people saying, “I know signature match was being done improperly at this point.” If any evidence of that does come up, we will obviously, vigorously go after that and try to bring it before the State Election Board with our investigators, because the whole point of this, we want evidence. Going on Twitter, going on Facebook and making claims is not providing evidence under a nation that is directed by laws. There is due process in this country. If people want to go through a discovery process and they have evidence, they can file a suit and do those things. We’re still in that time, the president has every right to follow all of his… In a due process to come to a point where, he can say, he’s exhausted his efforts on this front.
Emil Moffatt: (36:20)
Gabriel Sterling: (36:21)
Nicole Carr: (36:26)
Hi there. Do you all have any active investigations into election worker harassment or intimidation in any of the counties?
Gabriel Sterling: (36:35)
I can’t speak to that directly. I do know that we had some people who were… I know one particular one in Fulton, but again, that goes down to a more local level of the Sheriff’s office, providing security on some of those fronts. We investigate things around the State Election Board rules and around election law, harassments and intimidation is really more strictly law enforcement kind of scenario. I would direct think most of those questions will be directed down to the local Sheriff who’s supposed to provide security for the elections themselves or the police departments where the people are residents.
Nick Wooten: (37:19)
Hey, Gabe had a process question for you process.
Gabriel Sterling: (37:23)
Nick Wooten: (37:26)
You’ve mentioned that this audit is not going to change sort of the actual vote tally or a vote count. We’re going to certify whatever the counties found, right? Floyd County seems like an exception because they found such so many ballots that were sort of left. What’s the certain threshold for when a county sort of, has to come in-
Gabriel Sterling: (37:47)
The whole point of the audit is to find issues. What they’re doing is they’re going to go through and re certify this one, because they’re missing those balance from the totals. If it gets to a point, I don’t have… I think it’s kind of like just blacks and you all are going to see it. This particular one was obvious. It’s obvious they have to get those returns and it’s obvious they have to get those put into the Election Night Reporting so we can split them over the precincts and follow state law. I don’t foresee anything along these lines, like I said before it’s one or two. The thing is we don’t necessarily know from what precinct those are, because they’re not tied back to those things originally. That’s kind of the issue you’re at with those right now. Again, we know when we see it, this is obvious and we will work with Floyd County to get the re certification done in time for us to do our state certification so that his final tallies will be part of the final certification state results.
Nick Wooten: (38:44)
Okay. Thanks. Perfect.
Gabriel Sterling: (38:46)
I think Justin’s up next. Isn’t he? Walter.
Justin Gray: (38:51)
Just to be very clear about these Fulton investigations. Can you describe if there is any evidence of significant wrongdoing and fraud, we’re hearing so many kind of conspiracy theories out there. I want you to be very clear about what you’re seeing in Fulton and what you’re actually investigating?
Gabriel Sterling: (39:06)
What we’re seeing in Fulton right now is managerial sloppiness, which opens the door for potential problems. If you’re not doing your chain of custody properly, that’s the kind of thing that can lead to potential issues of somebody saying, “Hey, these ballots were left alone.” Or, “Who knows what happened with those ballots?” Similarly with the issue around the State Farm toilet leak, water Lake, whatever you want to call it, how that was that handled on the chain of custody side to beginning of the morning? Because we knew about it at 5:30 that morning kind of broke that night. There are stories out there where this sort of combined the water leak story, with it they asked the observers to leave, which really, I think about 17 hours apart. They don’t really tie together on that front, but managerial sloppiness, failure of attention to detail. Those are the things that opened the door to issues.
Gabriel Sterling: (39:58)
I mean, one of the things that I talked about here for specifically in the consent decree, is I said, there were inter credit for voting in a timely manner. I’m not doing so. They up the provisional votes and people were confused is that I don’t know if my ballot was received or not. It leads to confusion. It leads to problems. That’s where that’s coming from on that front. That’s what we’re specifically investigating.
Justin Gray: (40:17)
Just to be clear about the observers. Because I know you and I were talking about it that night. You were saying your people were there, they were watching. Can you [crosstalk 00:40:28] for me again,?
Gabriel Sterling: (40:29)
Marshall there, but the way State Farm was set up, there was multiple rooms for things, in some cases. Our investigator went there once we heard about it. We had an investigator there who had left and we sent somebody back. There may be a time period where not everything was looked at at one time. That’s what we’re trying to get down to. That’s why we’re looking at the video from State Farm and trying to get down to what exactly the timeline was and making sure that there was an observer there, if there wasn’t, then we have to account for, why that was and who made those decisions internally at Fulton to say, “It’s time for you people to go.” That’s what we’re trying to get to right now, is the truth of that. Because as you said, there’s a lot of stuff flying around on Twitter and Facebook that is, touches fact but it doesn’t necessarily have all the facts or the evidence. That’s what we’re trying to get to.
Nicole Carr: (41:21)
Am sorry. I had a quick follow to the question about elections workers. If harassments or threats tie back to observers, does that fall within your office?
Gabriel Sterling: (41:34)
I don’t know. It may, but I have to check with our general counsel, our chief investigator will know for certain. We’ll try to follow up with you later today about that. Okay, Nicole?
Nicole Carr: (41:42)
Okay. Thank you.
Gabriel Sterling: (41:49)
Gabriel Sterling: (41:51)
Speaker 16: (41:51)
Hey guys. Sorry. I just had to restart real quick. We just got a little update from Senator Lindsey Graham. You might’ve talked before. How did the Secretary of State respond other sort of back and forth-
Gabriel Sterling: (42:01)
I didn’t hear what it was. Well, I responded to this earlier. If you want to get the recording on that one. Basically, I was on the call as well and, or process questions, but it looked like they were going down a path to try to say, if there’s a county that has an out of proportion amount of ballots let through or cancel or whatever, you can question the entire count because they are separated from each other. That was sort of the process conversation that we were having. I had to jump off the call part way through because I was getting ready for another interview. But again, Secretary Raffensperger, I know that’s the way he perceived that when he and I talked about that, I’m sure Senator Graham is perceiving it his way but going down the path of potentially saying entire counties need to be redone, there’s no path for this office to do that.
Gabriel Sterling: (42:55)
There is a path within a court of law to try to do that. I think that was kind of the discussion that was had on that front, but it’s not something we would think would be a good irrational way to do election administration after the fact, because these counties, apparently from our point of view, from what we’ve seen, done their jobs, appropriately done. The signature match, which has actually been enhanced by this office with extra tools having the online portal, which has a driver’s license thing, which makes it a objective identification versus a subject of identification.
Speaker 16: (43:29)
Gabriel Sterling: (43:30)
Josh Letterman hadn’t asked a question.
Josh Letterman: (43:34)
Hey, thank you guys for doing this. Can you walk us through how, in Floyd County, if you had not had this unprecedented hand recount of every single vote in this state, if and how this problem would have been detected and how you would have resolved it?
Gabriel Sterling: (43:51)
I’m not sure right now. Because the problem was, they were bad several things that happened to them. Their number one director is on COVID quarantine. Their number two person fell and broke her hip on election day. They’re down to the number three person and a volunteer as I understand it who are running that office right now. How would have been discovered? I don’t have a good answer for that right now. That’s one of the things we’re going to have to look in our own processes and systems, because most counties, they keep track of their memory cards. They keep track of these things. What happened was in October 24th, a scanner had an issue. They replaced the scanner and the plan was to re-scan those ballots. It looks like those ballots were taken. They were segregated. They were put to the side and they were sealed in a box. They had a number on them and apparently they may not have been scanned.
Gabriel Sterling: (44:37)
That’s what we’re trying to investigate to get the real details on, because that’s from talking to our vendor. Some of the basic information on the ground is on October 24th there was a log mismatch, that means the scanner can no longer function properly and normally how it happens is they powered it down wrong. They basically held it down because there’s two memory cards and every one of the polling place scanners. If they power down, holding the button down for too long, basically it writes on one card and never gets a chance to ride the other cards. When you turn it back on the cards don’t match. It says, “Hey, these cards don’t match. Something is weird.” That’s why they had to go through and look at re-scanning all of those things. Because it looks like they probably powered it down wrong, but we haven’t had a full investigation on the log files. Not just yet, but that happened on October 24th and that’s when it was replaced and they were supposed to take those ballots and re-scan them on the central scanner.
Gabriel Sterling: (45:26)
They had issues. I mean, as I pointed out in our conference yesterday, some of you all might not have been on it. This county has some issues in the August runoff where they did not follow the SEB rule of having 10% of emergency ballots in place. They didn’t move to the normal backup plan, which is to use ballot activation codes. Now, we have this managerial issue. There’s problems within that office, which is why the secretary was asking for the director of that elections division to step down, as just managerial issues are just too great at this point. You got a follow up?
Josh Letterman: (46:00)
Yeah. Do you have any indication of whether he’s going to [inaudible 00:46:03] that call to step down?
Gabriel Sterling: (46:05)
I do not. Personally, we’ve been trying to get in touch with him for about two days. Like I said, he is in COVID quarantine, he did not respond to our elections director calls for about two days. We were kind of left to kind of figure it out and have our people on the ground and work with his County Elections Board to get this resolved.
Okay. One follow-up question from Am Walker.
Amara Walker: (46:26)
All right. Gabe, just a couple of quick follow-ups regarding Floyd County, Gabe. You said that all of those early votes will be re-scanned and there will not be a hand recount after?
Gabriel Sterling: (46:41)
Correct. I mean, the audits already been done on the ballots they had, there was no need to do an audit after the fact.
Amara Walker: (46:45)
Okay. Do you expect the Trump campaign to request a recount because you have obviously procured new machines, high-speed machines for all the counties?
Gabriel Sterling: (46:56)
Well, we procured those months ago before that came up, because we kind of looked at what happened in 2018 and said, “There will be a point in the future.” Little did we know it would be this year, where somebody is going to be within a half of statewide. It is their right to do so. Hand audit is unprecedented and it will verify that the scanners put out results that are based on the human readable portions of the ballots which helps to quell some of those thoughts, those wild claims that machines were flipping votes and they weren’t counting votes properly. I mean, right now we’re saying the machines counted the votes absolutely as they were voted by voters.
Amara Walker: (47:37)
Gabriel Sterling: (47:37)
The candidate has their right to ask for this recount. I explained the beginning at the beginning of the call, how that recount would work if it was requested.
Amara Walker: (47:45)
Lastly, on the consent decree, because President Trump has been tweeting a lot about claims that signature verification isn’t happening because the consent decree, it has nothing to do with signature verification happening at the audit level. It only has to do with the time that a voter has to cure his or her signature, correct?
Gabriel Sterling: (48:06)
It’s not even the time to have the cure. It’s the time notification from the county. That’s the main thing that was changed based on that consent decree. Essentially, the historical way the law works is you have three days to notify people. That was pretty consistent all the way through this lawsuit. We settled basically say 20 to 11 days of an election. You have to notify them within 24 hours because you get close to the election, obviously, you have up to three days after the election to cure a vote. If you do it early, [inaudible 00:48:39] in three days, but as you get closer to the election, the intention is to let people know more quickly so they can get it cured as it goes into that logistically tougher time for counties to get done.
Gabriel Sterling: (48:50)
That was the thing that was changed in the consent decree. It did not rig a signature match. It did not say you can only have to go back to the original signature you had because the whole point is the signature on the request is already matched back to the original signatures you have on file. It’s a canard. It’s a rabbit hole. I know people want to find a way to help the president win because they were strong supporters and he’s a fighter till the end, I know. They can follow the the law and all their due process to get to that point. But this particular issue has zero to do with how the audit works, has zero to do with signature… We didn’t change anything, a signature match other than we did extra training and gave people more time to get the notifications, to give them more time to cure their ballots.
Amara Walker: (49:36)
Those absentee ballots, once it’s separated from the envelope on the absentee ballot, there is no way to identify who the voter is. There’s no ID number, nothing. All you see is, what vote-
Gabriel Sterling: (49:49)
Yeah. I mean, literally when you have the outer envelope, that signature on it. Inside that is something called a secrecy envelope. That way, when you take the ballot, I mean the envelope has been signed. You put it over here, you then stack the secrecy envelope over there and there is never a way to go back and find the individual voter attached to that, because that would be against the State Constitution of Georgia, which protects the right to privacy of every vote and every voter. If there was some mechanism by which to do that, we can get to the point of vote buying again. We can’t have that. Is the reason you can’t take a picture inside a polling location, that is the reason that’s done that way, but there is no way to tie a ballot back to the original signed envelope.
Okay. Next we have Amy Gardner.
Amy Gardner: (50:38)
Thank you. Hey Gabe. I have a couple of really small questions. First of all, how many ballots are you thinking were affected by this chain of custody issue that you talked about as well?
Gabriel Sterling: (50:49)
No idea. That’s why we have to do the investigation.
Amy Gardner: (50:49)
I mean, is there an upper limit that it could be, based on what was there?
Gabriel Sterling: (50:58)
Well, let’s see if it’s absentee ballots in Fulton County, I don’t know the number off the top of my head. But those were the ones we’ll be talking about on the chain of custody side right now. The other side of it, it’s not just absentees, there’s two different things that happen at State Farm Arena. There’s also the early vote ballots. I’m not sure if that’s included in the same thing. This is from our monitor. He was tracking a lot of these issues and he has several pages of reports on some of this stuff. That’s part of the concerns we have coming out of that.
Amy Gardner: (51:28)
Okay. Thanks. Then you said earlier that you are hoping to have exact numbers of how many counties had perfect audit numbers compared to the original count. Do you know now, how Fulton did?
Gabriel Sterling: (51:43)
No, I do not. I think they’re still going through their quality control process because obviously they have hundreds of thousands of ballots, that will likely be tomorrow before we’re finished with them.
Amy Gardner: (51:51)
Okay. Then following up on the question, I think that Myles asked about what would change and what would it change in the certified numbers based on the audit. I just want to make sure I understand correctly, then you’re not going to change numbers if it’s a discrepancy of one or two votes because you can’t segregate it by precinct, is that correct?
Gabriel Sterling: (52:13)
That’s part of the rationale and also our law doesn’t allow for it, in some states, the audit results, if it moves to a full hand audit, they become their final results. In our state law it doesn’t contemplate that. Now we may look at changing that with the legislature in January, but as of this point, it does not. That’s one. Two, it does report by precinct in the Arlo outputs do not have precinct level data. It wouldn’t be able to certify the way we traditionally certified. It makes more sense to have the audit, do it’s job, which is to verify the winners of the contest.
Amy Gardner: (52:46)
What do you do about the number that you do want to change in Floyd? If it can’t be-
Gabriel Sterling: (52:48)
Oh, they’re going to re-certify inside of our system.
Amy Gardner: (52:51)
But not by precinct?
Gabriel Sterling: (52:53)
They’re going to re-scan all their stuff. Then they’re going to back out the stuff they put into Election Night Reporting and RTR and put it back in with a new results. They will then certify that and then we will certify that final result.
Amy Gardner: (53:07)
But can’t they do that by precinct level? Do they have multiple precinct, Floyd County?
Gabriel Sterling: (53:11)
Yes. Because, when you have early votes, they’re done with the ballot marking device. We know from whence the ballots come.
Amy Gardner: (53:24)
Gabriel Sterling: (53:24)
That’s how it works. All the early vote is done that way. There is a code inside of the QR code, but it’s just the ballots tie back to precincts, those feed into the election management system, which then feeds it back out to the Election Night Reporting System by precinct. Does that track for you?
Amy Gardner: (53:39)
We’ve got time for one last question. Kellie Meyer has her hand up.
Kellie Meyer: (53:46)
Thank you. I appreciate it. Hi, I’m Kellie Meyer. I’m with Nexstar Media Group as well, but here in the DC Bureau. I’ll focus this one back to conversations around Graham. I just wanted to ask, should this conversation or call even be happening with the senator from South Carolina, should a Senator from South Carolina be involved in Georgia’s election affairs and results and conversations like this?
Gabriel Sterling: (54:12)
I think that in the United States we have our freedom of speech. If Senator Warren called, I think we’d probably take the call to have a conversation, to answer questions about our process and what’s happening in Georgia. There’s no need to not have this kind of questions. Everybody on that call will be a Republican probably, but I answer questions from Democrats all the time and I don’t see anything necessarily wrong with that. Senators, I believe, they represent their people and they are trying to understand the processes here. He asked some questions that might’ve gone a little to the edge of something that people might have say, “Well, why is he asking this kind of questions?” The secretary heard it that way. There were process questions. We did suggest that there was nothing within our law, anything going to happen, but they can go do their due process and go to a court to ask for those kinds of things.
Gabriel Sterling: (54:59)
That’s where the president has every right to go to court to figure out what is the best path to make sure that their vote is protected. We understand that, there’s nothing wrong with going to court on some of those things, but you need to have evidence. So far, we haven’t seen that kind of evidence that would require anything to be done, to not certify our election results. Our intent is to continue to follow state law, get the audit done on time and then certify our results and get the military and overseas ballots out the door on Saturday.
Kellie Meyer: (55:29)
Did what Graham had to say concern you or alarm you at all or he was seemingly to go down-
Gabriel Sterling: (55:35)
I don’t get that alarmed. I mean, right now we’re answering process questions. I’m answering all of your process questions. We were answering his process questions. The whole point we’ve been saying since really Tuesday night and Wednesday day, “We are going to follow the process. We’re going to follow the law. We are going to be transparent. If somebody has a question we’re trying to answer.” That’s true of Senator Graham and that’s true for you. We are here trying to do our jobs as openly and transparently as we can. As you all might’ve seen my first press conference on Wednesday. I basically said, I can’t believe I punched you all out. [inaudible 00:56:07] that we answered every question that was asked. We’re trying to do that still. We have another conference coming up at four o’clock. I did want to thank everybody for being on the call today.
Gabriel Sterling: (56:15)
If you have any follow-ups, please follow up with Walter or Ari. We’ll try to get you any answers. I know we said we had a couple of questions we’re going to try to answer by the four o’clock call, that we’ll do our best to get those answers together. I know Nicole had one on that. Amy, I saw you raising your hand, we’ll try and get back with you. But again, thank you for what you do and please we’ll see you at four o’clock and get your questions ready for another exciting Georgia election update. Thanks a lot, guys.
Gabriel Sterling: (56:39)