Nov 5, 2020
Georgia Press Conference on Election Count Updates Transcript November 5
Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling held a press conference on November 5 to provide updates on the vote counts in the state. He said he anticipates “getting through this process today.” Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Sir, can you move this way just a little please? Make some room, clear path. Okay? A little bit more would be great, but that’s fine too.
Gabriel Sterling: (00:11)
Good morning. I’m Gabriel Sterling and former Chief Operating Officer for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. He’s in meetings right now. I am currently over the last year been the Statewide Voting System Implementation Manager for the state of Georgia as we launch a new secure paper ballot voting system. I wanted to give you a little update and talk more about process and where we stand right now, and get some context to the time is taking for the results to come out here and really around the rest of the country.
Gabriel Sterling: (00:39)
As many of y’all know it’s counties who run elections and there are 159 counties in the state. Some are more resourced than others. There are counties in the state that have a part-time employee be the director of their elections and it takes time and effort to do these things. And then we have counties that have over 800,000 registered voters and it all takes time to process those things.
Gabriel Sterling: (01:00)
So as we move forward, another couple things I want to put into context for you is people have asked, “Why has the number not move more quickly?” Well, as y’all know, the law calls for all absentee ballots to be accepted by 7:00 PM on Election Day. So obviously on Election Day itself, election officials are very, very busy actually running the Election Day voting. So normally we’ll do, we’ll have to come back in that evening and into the next day and accept those ballots. And by accepting them, they have to go through signature match and all the other processes to confirm the validity of those.
Gabriel Sterling: (01:31)
And in our case in Georgia especially when they come in right before or on Election Day itself, we have to get notifications out to those people that they have three days to come in and cure their ballots. That all takes time. It all takes effort. There’s only so many people who are involved in these processes in the 159 counties in this state. I know there’s been questions about numbers that move around. I’ve heard 25,000, 50,000, 60,000.
Gabriel Sterling: (01:58)
The reality is it’s about 60,000 votes that are out right now. And we’re working with the counties to make sure that they have properly put their stuff into their system and uploaded. Like many of y’all during this election cycle, they are tired. Sometimes they’re going to forget to press the upload button. So we’ve recently this morning done an extra email and follow-up phone calls through our liaisons and the elections office to make sure they have uploaded everything. And with that, we just had a new tranche of votes come in from Sumpter County, which is lower the overall.
Gabriel Sterling: (02:28)
I’m going to give you what we have with every caveat in the world we believe the best numbers are right now for the state, knowing that there’s going to be a handful of those ballots in small counties here and there that will be slowly aggregated into the system over time. But these are our big tranches that could affect the outcomes overall. And some of you might have start seeing some of these already, and we’re working to get these done today if possible. And we’re working with the counties who might be having questions about how to do this properly, because the main thing we want to do fast is great. And we appreciate fast.
Gabriel Sterling: (03:02)
We more appreciate accuracy. Accuracy is going to be the bedrock upon which people will believe the outcomes of these election be they’re on the winning side or the losing side. So accuracy is vital and it’s the key to all of our processes. And I want to make sure we told everybody in this room and in this state and around the country, this is the first time Georgia has used paper ballots in 20 years. We told people they could expect some results on Election Night and we got a lot of them out there.
Gabriel Sterling: (03:31)
In fact, we got down to 250,000 yesterday. We were down to about 60,000 today. So let me go through what we know we have right now. I brought my computer so I wouldn’t screw it up. Bryan County 3027, Burke County 494, Chatham County 17,157, Clayton County 7,408, Cobb County approximately 700, Floyd County 682 Forsyth County 4,713, Fulton County 11,200, Gwinnett County 7,300, Harris County 3,641, Laurens County 1,797, Putnam County 1,552, Taylor County 456 for a total right now of approximately just over 60,000 votes.
Gabriel Sterling: (04:35)
The anticipation as we will continue to go through the process throughout the day and into the evening if necessary. I know there are large counties in the state that stayed overnight, Fulton County being one of those to process these. And they’ve knocked their numbers down to 11,200. We anticipate getting through this process today. One of the reasons that our friends in Chatham County take a little bit longer is they have a unique system where their board of registration is separate from their elections division and the handle different sides of the absentee ballot and the reporting process.
Gabriel Sterling: (05:05)
So that’s one of the things that held them up. But I think we’re through that process today and I anticipate getting the majority of those 17,000 in today as well. So with that, I want to thank y’all for being here and I’ll answer any questions. We’ll start with Justin over here.
Yeah. Can you explain to us why that number seems to be such a moving target with the number of absentee ballots?
Gabriel Sterling: (05:24)
As I said earlier, all the ballots that come in by 7:00 PM on Election Day had to be logged in. Now at the same time, they’re making reports on the other side. So they’re drawing from the, let’s say there’s 10,000 ballots. They report 2000 ballots. They add a thousand ballots. That means you have 9,000 ballots. And that’s why the number of potential votes that are available will continue to grow and changing. What we’ve essentially seen now is that number stopped growing, which is why we moved from 250,000 yesterday about this time to 60,000 today.
Speaker 4: (05:56)
We’re seeing a lot of people online were saying you’ve been taking so long because [inaudible 00:06:00].
Gabriel Sterling: (06:10)
Well, there’s several things that work on this system and the biggest one of all is we have paper ballots. So there’s going to be a record of what has occurred here. As any questions, you can always go back to do an audit and a recount. In many places, everything is open to the public. We have poll watchers in many of these places. In places like Fulton County, the state has placed a monitor and we’ve had investigators gather any the questions about how these ballots are being handled and move forward. It’s frustrating.
Gabriel Sterling: (06:36)
Time when everybody else is done. Here’s the other thing. Florida has more to count than we do, but their margin’s wider so it doesn’t matter as much. We have a much smaller margin and we’re aware of that fact and the county elections officials feel that pressure. They understand. They are working hard. My hats are off to them having to go through this process and be under this level of scrutiny. They’re all doing extremely well.
Gabriel Sterling: (06:58)
These are 159 elections directors and employees who are here to do the job of protecting democracy. When you go to talk to them, they think about that. They think about the votes of every person in this room and around the country. These are people who are not involved in voter fraud. These people are not involved in voter suppression. I’m telling you, they’re doing their jobs every day, it is hard and we are thankful to them for it. And we’re going to work with them to make sure that every legal lawful ballot is counted.
Speaker 5: (07:31)
Mr. Sterling, on risk-limiting audits, can you tell us the criteria if you would and what page do we look at and has that decision been made?
Gabriel Sterling: (07:41)
The decision hasn’t been made yet. The exact criteria is defined in the state election board rule. It’ll be decided probably after we get the county certification and not long before. The secretary is the one who solely gets to make that decision. So I won’t speak for him here.
Speaker 5: (07:57)
Gabriel Sterling: (08:01)
Sir, I just said, you can look at the STB rules and that outlines the definition. I’m not going to be able to answer that. Yes, sir.
Speaker 6: (08:07)
[inaudible 00:08:07] Chatham County [inaudible 00:08:12]
Gabriel Sterling: (08:17)
It’s a lawsuit to be handled at the county level. As I understand it, it may only affect 50 ballots, but I’m sure that their legal counsel will give them the advice they need to get through that process. Mr. Fowler. Hold on one second. I can’t hear anything with that. Whatever they’re doing up there.
Mr. Fowler: (08:31)
After the 60,000 absentee ballots [inaudible 00:08:36]
Gabriel Sterling: (08:49)
We are working with the counties to try to get a full understanding of how many provisionals might be available. Mr. Fowler, who’s done a good job reporting on this election makes a very good point that the election is not over just in the absentee ballots. They’re absentee ballots from our overseas military voters. That if they are postmarked by Tuesday, have to be accepted by Friday. There are provisional ballots that need to be verified by Friday. And if you have an absentee ballot with an issue like missing a signature or something you have until Friday to cure those. Yes ma’am.
Speaker 8: (09:19)
Did you anticipate that this process would take this long as it is taking?
Gabriel Sterling: (09:24)
That is why I literally for the last two months we have said it will be Wednesday or Thursday before we knew the answer to this. So yes. Yes sir.
Speaker 9: (09:30)
[inaudible 00:09:35]. Has the secretary of state’s office received any [inaudible 00:09:42]
Gabriel Sterling: (09:45)
Any report we get of any kind of regularity, our investigative division will look into it and ascertain the validity of that report and if necessary investigate. Yes, sir.
Speaker 10: (09:52)
Gabriel Sterling: (09:58)
I can’t say for certain right now, I know we have reports around several things. I’m not sure about voter fraud or anything because that’s kind of a broad term. So I’ll be more specific. Answer the question and we’ll get with our investigations division, and try and get the specific answer to that. Yes, sir.
Speaker 10: (10:08)
Gabriel Sterling: (10:13)
Nothing because I have not heard of anything about a corrupt scanner in Gwinnett County. I have no information about that. Yes, sir.
Speaker 11: (10:19)
The number of absentee ballots has been pointed to the end of the day. Is that final number or are you anticipating anymore?
Gabriel Sterling: (10:25)
As I said at the beginning of this thing, there’s a possibility that some counties might not have hit upload yet. There’s a possibility that they could have not had a random one here or there so. But as far as the general outlines of these, we anticipate that the absentee ballots that are there are there. And we have the extra bit of security that we know the number of requests. Therefore, we know that is the most outlying ability of anything to be done. So we know the outer limits of anything possible. But right now, as we sit here today, yes, we feel comfortable with that number digested. Yeah, Justin.
What about the possibility of a recount? Georgia law provides for that for the candidates. And it looks like in the presidential race we’re moving into that in Georgia.
There is a possibility of that occurring. Georgia law calls for if you’re within a half a percent of the certified result, then the losing candidate or I guess the winning candidate if they wanted to could call for a recount. And that would be a statewide recount conducted. And one of the things that we did in procuring our new Dominion Voting System is knowing the state’s general political situations after 2018, we provided high capacity scanners to every single county in the state so that they could conduct a statewide recount if it became necessary. Mark.
In addition to the 16,000 absentees ballots that were counted, we also have provisionals and [inaudible 00:11:40] oversees the ones would be on top of that. Correct?
Gabriel Sterling: (11:43)
Well, Mark, if you weren’t late, you would’ve heard the answer to that already.
I’m just clarifying how many-
Gabriel Sterling: (11:51)
We’re working with the counties to get a final number on that. So yes. Yes ma’am.
Speaker 13: (11:54)
Do you go ahead and certify the results [inaudible 00:11:56].
Gabriel Sterling: (12:00)
No, that wouldn’t be possible. The adjudication process gets us to the final number to certify. State law requires that the counties certify their results 10 day from the election and then we have some time after that. We hope to do it faster than that because what we need to be able to do when the counties certified, we are then going to move into the risk-limiting audit phase. And then after some of the audit is closed out, then we will certify the election. Yes ma’am.
Speaker 13: (12:22)
Are you able to get any additional information on just [inaudible 00:12:25].
Gabriel Sterling: (12:28)
As I said in the press conference on Election Day, we are focusing on getting the election itself done. We do believe it was a dataset issue. Don’t know exactly why yet, but we have our vendor who are working on it. But right now we are really focused on making sure we get the answers out. Yes ma’am.
Speaker 14: (12:54)
Gabriel Sterling: (12:58)
I can’t speak to what investigations have been opened yet. I know there’s been discussions about that, but we’ll have to give it to you after that after talking to our chief of investigations.
Speaker 15: (13:03)
Mr. Sterling, previously, I think it was a-
Gabriel Sterling: (13:06)
Speaker 15: (13:07)
Hi. Good to see you in person. Do you have an approximation for a deadline? And today you said and just now you said today if possible. So end of day today maybe is sort of-
Gabriel Sterling: (13:17)
I am prayerful that we can get to a resolution by the end of the day. But as it’s been pointed out to everybody, this is going to be an extremely close margin, especially in a presidential election. And we anticipate every one of those UOCAVA and curable ballots and provisionals may come into account in that so. Having a final one, it may take a minute. Steven.
Can you describe for everyone the adjudication process for the absentee ballots or the changes that have been made from the primary?
Gabriel Sterling: (13:49)
Probably not, but I can give it a shot. The adjudication process is a new system here in Georgia under the old system of scanning when you had hand-marked paper ballots, which are something that unfortunately as a hand-marked paper ballot is very open to human frailty and mistakes. We can use an electronic adjudication system where it takes a picture of those ballots. And the computer used to just say, if it’s an over vote, we’re going to kick it out. Which means there’s two ovals marked for a single race. We’re going to kick it out. And then a human being will get a chance to look at it.
Gabriel Sterling: (14:15)
Under the new system, it will also look at over votes plus it will look at anything at like an ambiguous mark. So if somebody has a check mark or anything like that, it brings it up onto a screen and a bipartisan panel will then examine that ballot to discern the voter intent, then it is marked in the system and then it can be counted properly. Yes, sir.
Speaker 17: (14:32)
How many ballots have been tossed out at this point in time?
Gabriel Sterling: (14:34)
You’d have to be more specific. We don’t toss out ballots in this state.
Speaker 17: (14:43)
Gabriel Sterling: (14:46)
We wouldn’t have a tracking on that right now, because that’s basically if you mismark something that is not an actual vote cast in that race. And just because there’s a mistake on one part of your ballot doesn’t mean the rest of your ballot would still get counted. Yes. [inaudible 00:15:00].
Speaker 18: (15:05)
So we’re at the same 130,000 that have been adjudicated. Is that correct?
Gabriel Sterling: (15:06)
Okay. Yeah, that kind of made my skin crawl. When he’s saying that 130,000 ballots have been scanned in batches and they’ve adjudicated the small percentage of those inside those 130,000. So to give some clarity to that. Yes, next one.
Speaker 19: (15:20)
[inaudible 00:15:20] tomorrow.
Gabriel Sterling: (15:27)
Well, as I said, we have to accept those ballots until Friday. We can’t know what’s going to get here until the time actually gets here for that. Don’t tell me I punched y’all out. All right with that, I just want to say one more thank you to the voters of the state of Georgia. The secretary begs your patience. This is a long process, but I think all of us would agree that having accurate count is much more vital. An accurate and fair count is much more vital than having a fast count. So thank you. And we’ll try to follow-up with any other questions for later today. Y’all have a great day.
Speaker 20: (15:59)