Nov 6, 2020

Georgia Press Conference Transcript November 6: Race Too Close to Call

Georgia Press Conference Transcript November 6: Race Too Close to Call
RevBlogTranscripts2020 Election TranscriptsGeorgia Press Conference Transcript November 6: Race Too Close to Call

Georgia election officials held a second press conference on November 6 to announce that the race is too close to call, saying there will “likely” be a recount in Georgia. Read the transcript of the news briefing with election updates here.

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Brad Raffensperger: (00:00)
Good afternoon. Thank you for taking the time to be here again today. We’re all working hard to maintain a clear line of communications with the media, the county election officials, and our voters. Our office will continue to give unprecedented access. The voters of Georgia deserve transparency. Georgia voters deserve accurate, real election results. Election workers around the state are working with integrity to ensure every legal ballot is counted and no illegal ballots are counted. Right now, Georgia remains too close to call. Out of the approximately five million votes cast, we’ll have a margin of a few thousand. The focus for our office and for the county elections officials for now remains on making sure that every legal vote is counted and recorded accurately. As we are closing in on a final count, we can begin to look toward our next steps.

Brad Raffensperger: (01:15)
With a margin that small, there will be likely a recount in Georgia. Interest in our election obviously goes far beyond our borders. The final tally in Georgia at this point has huge implications for the entire country. The stakes are high, and the 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 electoral process here for every Georgian, regardless of partisan preference. Thank you.

Gabriel Sterling : (02:23)
Afternoon. Again, I’m Gabriel Sterling, statewide voting system implementation manager. You keep putting your microphones where I fput my computer. Essentially, right now the outstanding ballots are about the same as they were this morning, not too much change on that front, but what we do have is a little more information on some of the provisionals and UOCAVA ballots that are out there right now. So let’s see. Let’s just start with the margin right now. We’re looking at 2,448,796 votes for President Trump, and 2,450,381 for Vice President Biden and that gives us a margin of 1,585. That’s where we stand right now as of 3:08 PM on, oh yeah, it’s Friday, Friday now. We do know that today is the day for the UOCAVA deadline, for the military and overseas ballots that would’ve been postmarked by Tuesday, election day, to be accepted and counted in the State. We do have some updated numbers on that. Let’s see. On the overall side, we have 18,008 of those ballots have been accepted, and that leaves 8,410 that are still available to be received.

Gabriel Sterling : (03:41)
Now, again, I want to reemphasize this. That does not mean there’s a bucket of 8,410 votes ready to be counted. That means that there are 8,410 votes that could’ve been postmarked on Tuesday and could be received by the election’s official today. So, as I said earlier, it’s going to be more than 0 and less than 8,410, so it’ll be somewhere in that range. We don’t really know how many that is. I do have a county-by-county breakdown of available ones. I’m going to give you some of the highlights and then we’re going to try to put this into a release to give the details following this press conference. So y’all usually want the big ones, so we’ll go with that. Bibb, where Macon is, 86 are still out there. Chatham, where Savannah is, 395. Cherokee, do you choose Woodstock? Yeah, Woodstock, 171.

Gabriel Sterling : (04:31)
Clayton County, 241. Cobb County, 569. Columbia County, 247. Coweta County, 99. DeKalb County 802. [inaudible 00:04:45] note of personal privilege for a second for the Yankees in the room, it’s DeKalb, not DeCow, not DeCobb, it’s DeKalb so we got to pronounce these things. Dougherty, another one of those, where Albany is, there’s 74. Douglas County, 111. Fayette, 149. Forsyth, 153. Fulton, 956 and that’s the single biggest number I believe right there. Gwinnett, 741. Henry, 238. This is another fun one. It’s not Houston in Georgia, it’s Houston, Houston County, 196. Liberty County, 173. There’s a military base there, so it’s a little outweighted to its actual size and population. Lowndes County where Valdosta is, 141. And Muskogee County where Columbus is 323. Paulding County, 105.

Gabriel Sterling : (05:38)
Richmond where Augusta is, 244. Home of the Masters coming up soon. Rockdale is 80. And I think that’s all the biggest ones, so you can take those, add them together and the balance would be probably about 4,000 for the rest of the 159 counties that I didn’t name. So after that we have the provisionals and I do have the initial provisional report from Fulton County, which is obviously the largest one, which has the biggest potential impact. Their total provisional balance received was 4,869, they accepted 3,603. So that means they rejected 1,266 of the provisional ballots they had on hand. The biggest chunks of those where the eligibility was verified, it means the voter brought their ID in and that was 1,205 of those, and they voted out of precinct, which means they were inside the correct County, they were Fulton County voters but they were at the wrong precinct, that’s 2,398.

Gabriel Sterling : (06:31)
Now the unfortunate part for some of those voters and some of those candidates means that they voted out of precinct. Essentially they could only vote on things that were on the ballot that affected the areas that they shared with the other precincts, so things like president [inaudible 00:06:43], those who had full count but state house, County commission, those races would not, that’s the difference when you had to vote out of County like that. We don’t like seeing voting out of County, we try to encourage people to be told to go to their correct polling location. Now, the rejected ballot justifications we saw on this is out of County, 673. You could only vote provisionally inside your own County. Not registered, so these people were not registered voters, 573 and non-citizens attempting to vote was 13.

Gabriel Sterling : (07:10)
So that’s the initial provisional report from Fulton. I expect that to change somewhat out of talking to our Fulton County monitor earlier. He said there were some other changes moving on that as well as some of the absentees, they were damaged, they were duping, I don’t have a final number on that, but somewhere south of 300, that they were cut when they were using the openers and things like that that they had to redupe and they’re going to be scanning those and those will be added to tallies today. Let’s see, you know you start to get crazy looking at all these spreadsheets.

Justin: (07:38)
Are those included in the already counted numbers?

Gabriel Sterling : (07:42)
They are not. As I understand they have not scanned and uploaded those yet.

Justin: (07:46)
So those are 3,600 …

Gabriel Sterling : (07:49)
Justin, Justin, you’re getting ahead. Let me get through all this and you can come back later. All right. So the total number of provisionals in the state, this is not the total number, this is we have the numbers from 134 of the 159 counties and we have a lot of the large ones but I don’t think we have all large ones. No, we have DeKalb. Okay Clayton. I think we might have all the big ones in here now. Again, this is a moving target, dealing with election’s workers who are doing lots of things at one time, we’re very happy we’re working together to get this information to the viewers and the voters out there. And guess what? Gabe didn’t hit the sum on all these things yet, so we’re going to take a second while he does that on live television because that’s the exciting television y’all came for today.

Gabriel Sterling : (08:28)
All right. 13,012 is the total number of provisionals we’re seeing right now that includes the Fulton County numbers, so you can back those out from the ones I just gave you, so it’s really closer to 9,000. And they have these fun things called codes and these are the different States a provisional can be in. It can be for curing your voter ID, there’s two different versions of that. There’s a general voter ID like you forgot, or there’s first time voter ID who didn’t have a good voter ID on file. Then there’s the provisional not registered, which they couldn’t prove your registration at the time, but you can come back and cure that. Extended hours, as y’all may know, we had a handful of precincts around the State that were extended past the 7 o’clock hour. Under law, all of those votes are provisional just in case a court adjudicates that they shouldn’t have been open, but they will all get counted.

Gabriel Sterling : (09:17)
Then you have out of precinct, which I was describing before where he’ll be in the right County, but you’re in the wrong precinct. Not a citizen, pretty self-explanatory, and then we have incomplete registrations where they have a partial registration in the system but they don’t have enough information to identify the voter, they have the opportunity to come back and cure those. We will, again, try to work on getting a breakdown of those out to y’all, but the biggest one is going to be, let’s see, the out of precinct voters and that’s going to be column G, so let’s see how many of those there are. These are ones that will be counted and end up being included into the count, 3,908. And you don’t have to take the subset of the Fulton out because we didn’t include that, so the 3,908 is of the counties we have, not including the Fulton ones, I gave you those numbers earlier.

Gabriel Sterling : (10:04)
We were again seeing uploads every 20, 30 minutes as the counties go through the final stages of trying to get everything done today with the UOCAVA, the absentee cures and the provisionals being verified. So you’re going to see lots of uploads and what we’ve noticed is it goes up three on the margin, it goes up three, it goes down two, it goes up seven. I mean, nothing is moving the needle a lot on these things. We’re still hanging around that 1,500 number right now. But the larger chunk of provisionals could potentially move it some, the UOCAVA could potentially move it some, the duplications of damaged ballots could move it some.

Gabriel Sterling : (10:39)
And again, it depends on where they’re coming from and we’re just still trying to get everything closed out today, it could slide to tomorrow. My entire high school, I think was about 2,000 people and we have less than that involved in the margin here, so every one of these votes is important and the job of the elections officials in this office is to assure that every single legal vote is counted and that the will of the voters in the State of Georgia is met on this very, very important election. Now, Justin, you can ask your question.

Justin: (11:06)
Now I have a different question.

Gabriel Sterling : (11:06)
Okay.

Justin: (11:09)
When we’re looking at a timeline here, we are not talking about knowing who’s won this election in the next few days, are we?

Gabriel Sterling : (11:15)
Given the strong probability of a recount, we will not be able to ascertain it. Now we’re going to go through our legal processes, which means you have to certify. And I do anticipate there could potentially be lawsuits from both the Biden campaign and the Trump campaign, depending on where they are and what they’re looking at. And a judge could order the counties of the State to do different specific things, but right now we’re operating with the laws of the state that we currently have, the timeline we have. We’re trying to move to the risk limiting audit as fast we can, [inaudible 00:11:42] certification and then following the risk limiting audit and the certification of the State and then likely whoever is in second, their initial request for a recount.

Speaker 4: (11:50)
Sir, with all the talk about illegal voting, is there any specific evidence of rampant illegal voting?

Gabriel Sterling : (11:57)
As I said earlier, in a situation where the margin is so small, you don’t need to have anything that’s rampant. There’s irregularities that you can see that’s very, very common in nearly every election, but in this particular case, every single one of them is very important. Every insight we’ve gotten, every report we’ve gotten is going to be investigated fully, and we are working hard to protect the integrity of the vote regardless of who makes a complaint about any of these things.

Speaker 4: (12:24)
So is there evidence of illegal voting at all?

Gabriel Sterling : (12:26)
We can’t say that yet, sir, because they’re still under investigation. Yes sir.

Speaker 4: (12:29)
How many?

Speaker 5: (12:31)
Mr. Sterling, just a few hours ago President Trump says, “Where are the missing military ballots in Georgia? What happened to them?” How do you respond to that?

Gabriel Sterling : (12:37)
Well, we still have a few hours to see what will be coming in from the U.S. Post Office that has to be postmarked by Tuesday. So we feel like we will have an answer to not “missing ballots”, there are ballots that are going to make it, there’s ballots that are not going to make it and we’re going to count all the legal ballots. Legal ballots have to be here by close of business today, had to have been postmarked by election day. Yes ma’am.

Speaker 6: (12:56)
Have any military ballots arrived here?

Gabriel Sterling : (12:58)
Well if you noticed a difference on the amounts that I said here today, we had about 17,500 give or take yesterday of 18,000, so 500 of them have already come in the last few hours and have been processed by the counties. Yes John.

John: (13:11)
Just to clarify, you anticipate a situation where today, tomorrow, Sunday, Monday, the Secretary of State is going to stand here and say, “This candidate won and this candidate lost.”

Gabriel Sterling : (13:21)
Again, we report the results from every County. At some point, the legal process continues that the county had to certify, once the County has certified, we look at their paperwork and make sure it’s all clean and legal, and then we will certify. That is the point of which the Secretary of State would stand here or stand wherever he might and say, “This is the winner of this election as it stands right now.” And then we, of course, anticipate a recount coming.

John: (13:45)
And prior to that, would there be a point at which you’d say “All of the votes, all of the legal votes that we know about have been counted?”

Gabriel Sterling : (13:55)
The process we have is what gets us to that point. We certify, that means these are all the legal votes we have and all the legal votes are counted. It is the legal process we’ve setup in this State for many decades. Yes ma’am?

John: (14:08)
But that’s the 13th for the counties, right?

Gabriel Sterling : (14:09)
It’s the 13th for the counties and at [inaudible 00:14:11] the 20th for the state. Our intention and our hope in working diligently with the counties is that they will certify faster than that so that we may begin the RLA process, the risk limiting audit process so that we can certify before then, so we have a little bit more time and wiggle room to deal with what we know will likely be a recount.

John: (14:25)
Just one last follow up. I’m sorry.

Gabriel Sterling : (14:26)
John, hold on. Ma’am …

John: (14:29)
[crosstalk 00:14:29] now and the 13th?

Gabriel Sterling : (14:30)
… ma’am you can go ahead.

Speaker 8: (14:33)
All of the legal votes being counted [inaudible 00:14:34] general message from you, across the board, even in the Secretary of State’s speech this morning that was his language as well that [inaudible 00:14:44] there’s an added phrase called illegal votes will not be counted, why the change in language?

Gabriel Sterling : (14:50)
I think it’s just for clarification, because by definition if you count all legal votes it means you’re not counting illegal votes. Yes, ma’am?

Speaker 9: (14:54)
Have the 13,000 provisional ballots been counted yet? And if not, what is the process of that?

Gabriel Sterling : (15:02)
What they’re doing right now, they have to verify all of those first. They will likely be scanned today and they could even be a part of some of the uploads we have seen today. I’m giving you the latest information we have, and I do not believe most of these have been scanned yet because usually the intent is you don’t want to go through scanning a bunch of stuff and then have to do eight more later on. It’s easier process-wise to do everything at one time then to do it in bits and pieces when you’re talking about this small amount. Yes sir? Hold on. [inaudible 00:15:28].

Speaker 10: (15:24)
Do you have any further guidance on the risk limiting audit and given the closeness of the presidential race, would you prefer not to do that as the RLA because that would be tantamount to a recount?

Gabriel Sterling : (15:39)
Well we’re doing a recount anyway, but you’re right. Unfortunately, as I pointed out to you yesterday or the day before, it’s all running together for me at this point, the rules in the SUD outline this. And one of the rules is for ease of use to a degree and obviously he’s pointing out that a risk limiting audit, the point is, you’re trying to use the smallest number of ballots available to get you to a point of confidence that the outcome has been reached. At this point, I think it’s 0.03% difference is correct there would essentially be a recount, which would be extremely difficult on the counties to do. So I think that might answer the question for you itself. Yes ma’am?

Speaker 8: (16:20)
When do you anticipate [inaudible 00:16:20] to be counted?

Gabriel Sterling : (16:21)
Our hope would be today. They could slip into tomorrow, because again, everybody’s exhausted. It’s Friday, there’s the Georgia game tomorrow, it’s a big one. We’ve got to focus on the really important things in this state sometimes in order to recover and be prepared for dealing with what is now a vital thing for this country. Yes ma’am. Sorry, yes ma’am?

Speaker 8: (16:35)
If I could just follow up with one additional thing. Following up on President Trump’s tweets on “missing military ballots”, we know the deadline is actually at 5PM today, is the Secretary of State concerned about that misinformation that continues to come out from the white house from President Trump specifically?

Gabriel Sterling : (16:56)
Well what I think President Trump is trying to encourage is the hope that as many of our military heroes, men and women across the seas have turned in their ballots and they will be arriving on the legal deadline to the state. Yes ma’am?

Speaker 9: (17:07)
I was going to ask you about military ballots. Is this 26,000 or so a pretty typical number in Georgia?

Gabriel Sterling : (17:12)
As I understand that’s pretty normal, yes. Yes sir?

John: (17:15)
So you said that you guys would not be talking …

Gabriel Sterling : (17:18)
I’ll come back to you in a second.

John: (17:19)
… about the potential investigations into irregularities. Can you tell us how many of you are investigating without going into specifics?

Gabriel Sterling : (17:26)
I really couldn’t ask that because frankly, I just don’t know. I’ll try and figure out something for you. We’ll talk to the chief investigations. I need some water.

Speaker 11: (17:35)
A quick numbers questions about the provisionals. 13,000 provisionals, correct?

Gabriel Sterling : (17:39)
That’s what I said, it was probably correct, let’s see. Yeah, 13,012.

Speaker 11: (17:43)
[crosstalk 00:17:43] are those provisional ballots that have been accepted or you broke down to- …

Gabriel Sterling : (17:48)
No, this is all provisional ballots, accepted, not accepted. Again, latest numbers we have, none of this is either for sure going to go in except the number I gave you, which was the out of precinct ones. Since everybody’s ballot has the President on it, all of these will go towards that and that is 3,908, and it gave we’re also missing about 20 counties out of this, so that number will be bigger at the end of the day. You’re follow up?

Speaker 8: (18:12)
So [inaudible 00:18:13] ballots, do you guys have a breakdown of how many are overseas or how many are military, do you break it down at all that way?

Gabriel Sterling : (18:18)
Yeah, they’re treated the same way.

Speaker 8: (18:19)
Okay.

Gabriel Sterling : (18:20)
Yes sir?

Speaker 12: (18:20)
Are you confident you’re getting good numbers from the counties, because this morning you said 3,500 ballots left to be counted in Gwinnett County. We went out to Gwinnett and they said at least 75.

Gabriel Sterling : (18:30)
Okay. There’s a difference on this particular thing, because you noticed they pushed out results on election night. So what we’re talking about, there is a difference between what they’ve already uploaded, okay? And then they had a bucket of things that were the new ones that came in Tuesday, essentially and then there was some other ones that were there from the earlier time they had to re-scan. So the 7,000 is what they were scanning, but the only new votes that will be uploaded are in that 4,000 to 3,500 amount if that makes sense.

Speaker 12: (18:58)
Could you explain that again? Sorry.

Gabriel Sterling : (18:59)
I’m going to try. They pushed out a little over 80,000 votes in a single upload, and there was an issue because of the adjudication, where they basically said, “We’re going to push out the results and just the results that we have right now, we’re going to re-scan these things,” because at that point, it was decided internally there by their elections board, they had an option A, an option B of how to do with this. They wanted to get the information out because that was the most important thing at the time. So inside that 7,500 to scan, part of the results that we all already see are already there. So there’s a new section of stuff, it was the stuff that came in before 7:00PM on Tuesday and those are the additional ones on top of that.

Gabriel Sterling : (19:38)
And again, it was between 4,400 3,500 and frankly, when I said 3,500, I was talking to the staffer and I thought I had a confirmed number and it might’ve been wrong now, so I apologize for that. But again, that’s the moving target, so that’s about the reason for the 4,400. An answer to your other question. Yes, we are confident in the numbers we’re getting from the County. Is it possible they’re off by one or two or a small percent? Yes, because again, these people are underpaid and overworked like so many right now, and they’re doing their best to get us the best numbers and we’re doing our best to be open and transparent about where we stand in the country right now.

John: (20:08)
I think we’ve all [inaudible 00:20:09] this timeline question, got to hit it every direction but just one last time, at what point do you anticipate that you will be at the point where you won’t have to come out here and say, “We have this many votes, category of votes to count and we have that many category of votes to count.” Where you will be at that point where everything [inaudible 00:20:28]?

Gabriel Sterling : (20:28)
Well here’s the thing right now and it’s frustrating though, to people across the country and I’ve been watching news conferences from Philadelphia and Las Vegas and everything else. This is a legal process, it’s the legal process we’ve been doing for several years and we are still inside the window for ballots to be counted following the different sets of laws. This is the outer edge of the UOCAVA ballots being the last ones of getting them legally established and counted. This is the outer edge of getting those provisionals validated and counted, we are now at the outer edge of getting the absentees cured and counted. So we will know the final universal numbers by today and that’s going to be an easy thing to see. Now, after that, we have to go through the final process of you’re going to go through and you’re going to audit your internal results.

Gabriel Sterling : (21:11)
You’re going to make sure that your numbered list of voters matches the ballots, matches your cards. I mean there’s a lot of processes that are there to protect the integrity of the vote that we have to go through to finalize this, that’s why we have the County certification process. Now our intent is to try to move to the state certification, well the county certification process first as quickly as we can so we can move to the risk limiting audit because that’s going to validate under our HB316 election reform law supported by secretary [Rathisburger 00:21:39] and passed in 2019 to the legislature. That is the thing that’s going to let people know the paper ballot that I voted and the outcomes that we saw were correct.

Gabriel Sterling : (21:46)
That’s a very important part of this process. Once that’s done, then we move to the state certification. The outer edge of state certification we have to do, it’s going to be November 20th, and why is that? I’ll repeat it again, because we know we have a minimum of one runoff and that was maybe after two runoffs [inaudible 00:22:01] United States Senate and the UOCAVA rules that are federal on that require that we get those ballots ready to go to the UOCAVA voters and email them, [inaudible 00:22:11] prepared on Saturday, November 21st. So we have to certify an election before we can give out ballots for election, so that is our outer edge, that’s what we have to have done.

John: (22:19)
I believe you just answered my question Doctor, one more follow up.

Gabriel Sterling : (22:22)
Sure. John’s just being greedy today, it’s okay.

John: (22:25)
When you have that final universe of numbers will they be posted by candidate on your website with it saying, “100% [inaudible 00:22:34].”

Gabriel Sterling : (22:35)
That would be the intent because these are unofficial results. Now remember the official results whatever these will be based on, everybody’s looking at it right now, yes, Biden’s ahead by 1,585 votes but that could change in the next few days, given the universal votes that are out there. He could extend his lead, it could stay the same or President Trump could come back into the lead. There’s still time and [inaudible 00:22:51] universal vote ballot [inaudible 00:22:52] allow for that. Yes ma’am?

Speaker 9: (22:56)
So to clarify then. There are a potential of 8,410 military overseas ballots that could added in today and there’s a potential 13,012 provisional ballots that could get added in Georgia.

Gabriel Sterling : (23:12)
All right. You’re right on the first one.

Speaker 9: (23:15)
Okay.

Gabriel Sterling : (23:16)
Okay. Now on the second one, I already gave you the full [inaudible 00:23:19] so we know some of those are in, so that 13,000 then drops to about 9,000.

Speaker 9: (23:23)
Right.

Gabriel Sterling : (23:24)
So then even inside of that 9,000 we know for certain what will be added is 3,908 of the ones that were out at precinct. So that then further drops your number down to, let’s see, 9,000, we should never do math on national television, 9,000, about 5,000, okay? So those are the potential additional votes on top of the ones we absolutely know will be inputed. Does that follow up? Do you get it? Good, thanks. Yes ma’am?

Speaker 8: (23:46)
For those ones that we know will be inputted may or may not have already been inputted?

Gabriel Sterling : (23:54)
The likelihood is some of them have but I think the bulk of them will not because like I said before, process wise it’s easier to do it all at the end of the day when you know you have everything done.

Speaker 8: (24:00)
Okay. And one more thing.

Speaker 5: (24:00)
Sir? Gabriel?

Gabriel Sterling : (24:00)
One second.

Speaker 8: (24:02)
Are the absentee ballots roughly the same [inaudible 00:24:05] …

Gabriel Sterling : (24:06)
They’re roughly the same right now. We haven’t seen too much motion on those and we’ve been seeing all day long, ticky tacky things from all the little counties, three here, four there and that’s what I was talking about four of those things.

Speaker 5: (24:15)
Mr. Sterling, with all due respect. I understand poll workers are tired, you pointed that out, you said, “There could be a vote here or there that isn’t quite right,” but at the end of the day, how do you reassure Georgians that their vote is accurate and accurately counted?

Gabriel Sterling : (24:31)
Let’s go through this one more time. You’re going to have a certification process where they’re going to have to go through and there’s a lot of paperwork and a lot of ability to have to know that all of our ballots from every single County are there and accounted for and then counted. The County says basically, “Yes State, we know this is our final number. We will look at it and assess it and then we certify it with the risk limiting audit in between.” And the risk limiting audit, as we know is the item that’s going to be part of the foundation of the bedrock trust because it’s going to certify that the scanners reflected what was on the paper ballot votes for the first time. So that’s where the reassurance comes from is the process following the law, putting in a risk limiting audit and then doing the certifications.

Speaker 5: (25:11)
Thank you very much.

Speaker 14: (25:12)
Last question.

Speaker 4: (25:14)
4,000 will be processed this morning, is there an update on that?

Gabriel Sterling : (25:18)
No sir. Thank you.

Speaker 14: (25:19)
Thank you very much.