Nov 6, 2020
Georgia Press Conference on Election Count Updates Transcript November 6
Georgia election officials held a press conference on November 6 to provide updates on the vote counts in the state. Due to a small margin of votes, “there will be a recount in Georgia,” Secretary Raffensperger said. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
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Secretary Raffensperger: (00:01)
There were a little under 5,500 votes left to be counted in Gwinnett, Floyd, Cherokee and Cobb County. In addition, there are 8,890 military ballots outstanding that will be counted if they were returned by the close of business today. Right now, Georgia remains too close to call. Of approximately five million votes cast, we’ll have a margin of a few thousand. The focus for our office and for the county election officials for now remains on making sure that every legal vote is counted and recorded accurately.
Secretary Raffensperger: (00:43)
As we are closing in on a final count, we can begin to look toward our next steps. With a margin that’s small, there will be a recount in Georgia. Interest in our election obviously goes far beyond Georgia’s borders. The final tally in Georgia at this point has huge implications for the entire country. The stakes are high and emotions are high on all sides. We will not let those debates distract us from our work. We will get it right, and we’ll defend the integrity of our elections. In some states, there are complaints about monitors not being allowed to watch the count. In Georgia, this process is and will remain open and transparent to monitors. If any member of the public raises legitimate concerns, we’ll investigate those. We are committed to doing anything and everything to maintaining trust in our elections process for every Georgian, regardless of partisan preference. Thank you very much.
Mr. Secretary, will you take any questions?
Gabriel Sterling: (01:56)
Hi guys. We’re going to go over the details again of where we stand on the vote counts. There have been some changes overnight and even changes from the time we walked from the front door of the office to the front of the cameras today. I’m Gabriel Sterling, the statewide voting system implementation manager. Good to see everybody here again this morning as we close in on a final tally. So the Secretary just announced a particular set of numbers that actually went down from the time he walked from the door to here. So our new total that we are aware of right now is 4,169 and they are in a handful of counties. I’ll go over those now. In Cherokee County, there were 150 ballots that they did not upload. So they had to rescan. They’re uploading those today. There’s 75 now in Cobb. There’s 444 in Floyd. There’s approximately 3,500 in Gwinnett as we went through the reconciliation process of what they had already reported versus what they had left to newly scan. And I think that’s it.
Gabriel Sterling: (02:57)
A couple of things. Lawrence County, the 1,769 votes we had yesterday, we were basing those on the absentee ballot differences. And when they looked and did their reconciliation process on it, they discovered that they had accidentally uploaded those into their election day totals. Their totals will not change, but the vote type will change when they make that change today. So outside of that, we don’t have any other numbers that we are aware of.
Gabriel Sterling: (03:23)
But again, I want to remind everybody, we have ballot curing processes through today for absentee ballots, verification process for provisional ballots, and we can still get any military or UOCAVA ballots in by close of business today if they were postmarked on Tuesday election day. So there are still an unknowable amount of ballots that will be available to be counted at some point. They are in the hands of the elections officials now, other than maybe the military and UOCAVA ones. And I can assure you that there are teams of 20 somethings around the state who are Republicans and Democrats finding those people with those absentee ballots to cure. And they’re going through that process in county by county in ones and twos.
Gabriel Sterling: (04:02)
And just to preempt a question I know that’s going to come up. Are we seeing any widespread fraud? Are we seeing anything that makes us question the outcome of the election? We are not seeing widespread irregularities. We’re not seeing anything widespread. We are investigating any credible accusation with any real evidence behind it. But let me tell you one thing, when you have a narrow margin, little small things can make a difference. So everything’s going to have to be investigated to protect the integrity of the vote. Our office intends to do that. And like I said, we get a wide margin, it doesn’t matter as much. Narrow margin, it does. We are literally looking at a margin of less than a large high school. So we understand that in this state. The county officials are aware of that. Our investigators are aware of that. So it’s an important thing to protect the integrity of this election from all sides.
Gabriel Sterling: (04:54)
With that, I’ll take any questions you have. Yes, yes?
What’s the margin we have? And with the certainty of a recount, are we going to know who won the presidency in Georgia by the end of November?
Gabriel Sterling: (05:02)
With the timeline we have laid out, essentially … Let’s go through the timeline again. So we should be able to know by the end of November, because remember we have a mid-December deadline to receive electors. So the one thing that is always going to be an unknowable, unknown is lawsuits that can affect what we have to do. We are a country and a nation of laws. So if the judge tells us to do something a certain way, we’re going to have to do that. Let the legal process work its way out. But given the laws we have now and the situation and posture that we are in today, today is the last day to cure all those absentee ballots, get the military overseas in, and then verify the provisionals. So that gets you your outer bound of these.
Gabriel Sterling: (05:42)
Then you have the situation where the counties need to certify their election. So they take that. They give us a bunch of paperwork, they do the reconciliations, they make sure they have everything right. And trust me, these people work very hard at it. Again, they are all very tired, but we’ve been working with them very to get that in as fast as we can, because state certification can come only after we do our risk limiting audit. And that is going to be the first time the state’s doing it. It was part of HB 316, Secretary Raffensperger’s election reform law. So that happens.
Gabriel Sterling: (06:12)
And then we’re going to have the state certification. Now the outward bound of that is November 20th. Our hope and intent working with the counties is to move that earlier. And at that point, whomever comes in second, whether it be President Trump or Vice President Biden, either one of them who’s ever in second place can request that recount if it’s within half a percent.
Will you then do a recount until after the audit and after the certification?
Gabriel Sterling: (06:37)
With the most interpretations of the law right now that, a recount cannot be requested until the election is certified.
And that will take about five days?
Gabriel Sterling: (06:46)
We have no way of knowing right now. We’ve never done a statewide recount with a brand new system. So we are hoping that it’ll be a week, but we have no way of actually knowing that at this point.
Gabriel Sterling: (07:16)
We have 159 election directors, thousands of poll workers, election workers, hundreds of volunteers on adjudication panels. They are all in there. As the secretary noted, this is a public process. You can watch everything that’s happening. They have paperwork, there’s certifications, there’s reconciliations, there’s paperwork on top of paperwork in many cases. So we know how many ballots there are. One of the things we know from … From Wednesday nigh on, we knew the basic amount of ballots that were there, with the slight moving target of the military coming in, the absentee ballots being cured, and the potential provisionals. Because those are all essentially unknowable at the end of the night on Tuesday, people ask the question, “Well, why can’t you know exactly how many you have?” Because it’s impossible because the law allows for these things to be done to protect the ballots of those who we really want to make sure to get to vote.
Gabriel Sterling: (08:03)
So in general, and specifically, this office has worked very hard through the reforms in HB 316, which also allow for notifications to be immediately sent out for ballots that are received towards the end of the process that need to be cured. People talk about there’s a three-day cur process on this. And that’s not the case. What it is, if you sent in your ballot early, you can have a month long cure process if it comes in that way. That’s why I was always encouraging people to do that as early as they possibly could. But our office and the counties have many, many safeguards and many, many guardrails built up over many years to ensure the integrity of the vote.
Gabriel Sterling: (08:38)
[inaudible 00:08:40]. Can you talk a little bit more about the investigations that you guys feel have credible merit [inaudible 00:08:52]?
Gabriel Sterling: (08:52)
Well, I’m not going to talk about ongoing investigation at this time, but harvesting votes for a recount be difficult because you already have the outward edge of what the recount already showed, or the original count already showed. Yes, sir?
[inaudible 00:09:08] talk about the water main issue. Can you clarify to people watching what exactly [inaudible 00:09:17]?
Gabriel Sterling: (09:16)
I’m not going to try to get into the president’s actual mindset on that because there are Republicans who are involved, there are Democrats involved at different levels of sort of a shared service delivery model. There are Republican election directors. There are Democrat election directors. Obviously the Secretary Raffensperger is a Republican. I’m a Republican. I don’t make any bones about that, anybody who knows me. And I’ve suddenly had a lot of people look at my Twitter feed and my LinkedIn. It’s pretty obvious.
Gabriel Sterling: (09:38)
So in general, we have people who have partisan beliefs, but the job of elections directors in this office is to count every legal vote, follow the law, and assure that every legal vote is counted and the will and intent to the voters has meant. Yes?
[inaudible 00:09:54] the curing process and the absentee from the military. Is that going to be enough to make a difference?
Gabriel Sterling: (09:58)
We have no way of knowing and it possibly could. The one things people have asked me with this 8,900 potential military ballots coming in, they ask me how many. I said, “I don’t know. I’ll tell you one thing. It’ll be more than zero. It will be less than 8,900.”
Gabriel Sterling: (10:09)
Do you know if those ballots are coming indeed today or is there a certain-
Gabriel Sterling: (10:14)
As I said, we can’t know because they’re in the post office. It’s like I said, it’ll be more than zero and less than 8,900. Yes, sir?
Gabriel Sterling: (10:28)
I’m not aware of any at this time. Yes?
Gabriel Sterling: (10:39)
Here’s the situation. The risk limiting audit has to be done before there is a recount anyways. So no, that shouldn’t really have an effect on that. And to clear up one thing I want to make sure everybody understands, the law in Georgia is that the candidates must be within a half a percent of each other in order to have a recount. So I’m hearing speculation potentially about a recount in the United States Senate race involving Mr. Ossoff and Senator Perdue. That margin is so wide with the amount of available ballots out right now, there’s no way the two of them could probably get to the half a point each. Potentially they could, but it’s very unlikely. So it would probably only be for President. [inaudible 00:00:11:15]?
What is the physical recount? What would that look like? Is that scanning all the ballots through the machines again?
Gabriel Sterling: (11:22)
You’re going to let me get into my fun geek time now to go over the SEB rules that we outlined when we passed this law. This is the way it’s going to work. As I mentioned to you all yesterday, the secretary director that we procure in the original procurement, the high-speed ICCs, which are the high capacity, high speed scanners, they will be used at the central offices for this recount. Now how we’re going to do that is we’re going to take a deck of ballots. We are going to have those hand counted going by what is written on the human readable portion of that, or the readable portion of that. We’ll tally those and we’ll get a count, write it down. We will then run those through the scanners and they ought to match. And once we validate that that scanner is scanning properly, we will then be scanning every single ballot again on the central scanners.
Gabriel Sterling: (12:05)
Like I said, we’re making estimates of time. We don’t know. Like I said, I’m hoping there’s some time when our election workers will get some sleep because it’s going to be a high stress thing. Because again, the eyes of the world are upon them. But that’s the essential outline of how it works. There’s other details of how you handle, but that’s the basics.
Gabriel Sterling: (12:22)
Gabriel Sterling: (12:31)
We are aware that there is a couple of places where we’ve heard about it potentially happening. We don’t know exactly why yet. It could be a simple thing as on the poll pad at searches, first name, last name and date of birth. So they could have been looking at the wrong person, not realizing it immediately, because like I said, poll workers are human. And human beings are involved on this level. So there can be errors in those, but we are obviously looking into it with a vendor to see if there’s anything that can be discovered about why that might’ve happened. Anybody else? Yes, sir? You again?
Gabriel Sterling: (13:05)
I do not right now. We are trying to get that, but again, we’re trying to leave the elections officials and directors to their actual accounts. Yes, sir?
Real quick. I know you mentioned about 4,000 are left pending with provisional military. Realistically from where we are yesterday to today, this could be done by midnight. Can you give us some level of timeline of when we could see that, for everyone at home biting their fingernails?
Gabriel Sterling: (13:25)
Well, here’s the reality. I think the ones, the ballots talking about here today will probably be done today to tonight. But remember, close of business means there’s stuff’s coming in at close of business. So we don’t know the volume of those. We don’t know where they’re going to be. Somebody could have left, they could be exhausted and they have to get the mail after that. So there’s no way of knowing exactly. I anticipate we should get closer to final, final on Saturday, people going through their damaged ballots to make sure they get copied and reconciled properly and copied and duplicated properly and scanned. So it’ll be probably this weekend. And normally it wouldn’t matter if the difference wasn’t 1000 votes. Yes, sir?
Gabriel Sterling: (14:07)
No. So no conversation.
You, you mentioned the closeness. We’re hearing a lot about the counting of ballots in Georgia and the speed we’re counting them. Is this a county problem or is this simply a matter of the margin, the fact that we have so close an election here?
Gabriel Sterling: (14:24)
There’s two things in here. I know many people seem to forget. We were still in the middle of a pandemic during a lot of this. So Georgia historically has about 5% absentees. This time was close to a third and that’s about 1.25 million ballots that we’re having to count. So they’ve never had to handle this volume of paper before. And they’re having to handle the volume of paper and the handling and all of the ballot custody rules around those things. There’s extra things we never had to deal with before. I think we’re going to make t-shirts that says, “I survived the 2020 election where we have a pandemic, merging elections, hurricane, and then recounts.” So that’s going to be our plan, but it’s mainly a question of the volume. Yes, sir?
[inaudible 00:14:58] that all of the ballots would be counted by the end of the weekend, that’s-
Gabriel Sterling: (15:09)
Again, we can’t know what’s happening at all 159 counties. The only state with more counties than us is Texas. So we anticipate most of it will be, and the problem is they could find a couple of things within the reconciliations. That’s why you have certification to get through that final number. And we’re trying to get the counties to certify as fast as they can so we can move to a risk limiting audit so then we can certify as fast as we can and move to what looks like a likely recount called by either one of the second place candidates.
Is it the county that is still counting requested more either equipment or technical assistance throughout this week?
Gabriel Sterling: (15:42)
In Chatham County, they wanted to have one more adjudication server. And that was supplied. Yes?
Gabriel Sterling: (15:56)
About 17,000. About 17,000. And those 17,000 already included in the counts we have. Yes, sir? I’ll come back in a second.
Just one more time for clarity. You talk about 4,169 that are still out there. Can you go through by county one more time so we have a clear understanding-
Gabriel Sterling: (16:13)
You just want to see me get that computer back out again. All right. Give me a second.
[inaudible 00:16:18] absentee ballots that remain to be counted. [inaudible 00:16:25].
Gabriel Sterling: (16:24)
Correct. Except for there are 400 election day ballots that are included in the Gwinnett totals. So that’s the only other difference in that. All right. So let’s start from the top. Cherokee 150. Cobb, 75. Floyd, 444. Gwinnett, approximately 3,500, for a total of 4,169.
Gabriel Sterling: (16:48)
Absentee, except for the 400 of the ones in Gwinnett that were a part of the early voting that they had to rescan. All right. Anybody, anything else?
I’ve got one more.
Gabriel Sterling: (16:58)
All right. There you-
Can you talk about whether or not an investigation has been opened by your office into this question [inaudible 00:17:07]. Is there an investigation happening about that?
Gabriel Sterling: (17:09)
Not that I’m aware of. I’m going to put some clarity to this because we have some more information about it. It wasn’t a water main break. What it was was during the off season, during the pandemic, they shut off the toilets. They were turned off and there was a leak that got around one of the edges of the shut off valves. And over time, over time, over time, and it’s just kind of, like we said, we got hit with a hurricane. I’m going to add a water leak to the t-shirt I think on the surviving election 2020. All right. Anything else? All right, thank you. Oh-
[inaudible 00:17:39] Are we talking about dozens, hundreds? How many investigations?
Gabriel Sterling: (17:46)
I really couldn’t say right now, whatever we … Because there’s different levels of investigations. You do the phone calls to make sure there’s any credibility. Then you’re like, “Yes, there’s credibility.” Then there’s a real investigation. So I’m not going to parse through that. Obviously we’re getting stuff. And if you look on Facebook and Twitter, obviously there’s millions of problems all across the country. If somebody has a credible complaint and they have some kind of evidence or some kind of trail to an evidence, they can give our office a call. And if they’re in another state, give your state office a call because we want to make sure we protect the integrity of the ballot, because that’s the way you’re going to build faith back into the system that the outcome of the election is correct. Thanks a lot, you all.