Nov 11, 2020
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger Press Conference Transcript: Announces Hand Recount
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced a full hand recount of the Georgia election in a news briefing on November 11. Read the full transcript of the press conference here.
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Brad Raffensperger: (00:04)
Okay. Well, good morning, everyone. Today is November 11th. Before we get started in talking about why we’re here today, I’d like to just give a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving to all those that gave their lives for this country, all those people that continue to serve. This is a special day. This is a holiday. Growing up, my dad served in World War II in the Navy, and people were called to serve. And then we had Korea, Vietnam, and the people serving today. And so we can never forget, and we can never give them enough thanks for what they’ve done for this nation.
Brad Raffensperger: (00:56)
And one of the things that they fought for is for our right, our freedom to have free and fair elections. So that is, at the end of the day, what we really do need to be mindful of, particularly in our office, as we work finishing up and closing out the election that we just had.
Brad Raffensperger: (01:16)
Also wanted to give a heartfelt thanks to the men and women who are standing with me here today. These are election directors from across Georgia. They represent large counties, small counties, diverse counties, and just from all over the state of Georgia. They and their staff are the ones that do the hard work on the ground of making sure that all legal votes will be counted. Their job is hard. They executed their responsibilities, and they did their job.
Brad Raffensperger: (01:52)
This is a process. It is a process defined by law. These men and women in my office will continue to follow the law and count every legal vote. As it stands today, 97 counties have sent them the final numbers in. The current margin stands at 14,101, between the President and Senator Biden, Vice President Biden. My office will continue to investigate each and every instance of illegal voting, double voting, felon voting, people voting out of state. If you report it, we will investigate it. Every legal vote will count. We will continue to follow and enforce the law.
Brad Raffensperger: (02:43)
Now let’s look at the next steps. We are currently looking at having a statewide runoff on December 1 and another on January 5th. This is an untenable situation for these men and women to try and run both of these elections. With that, under my powers under health emergency, I am moving the date of the December 1st election to coincide with the federal run-off on January 5th. This will protect the integrity of both elections and make for better election administration. It has the added benefit of saving taxpayers millions of dollars. The reason we have so many of these on rollover lists voters is a direct function of COVID. This is the reality.
Brad Raffensperger: (03:32)
The next step in the current election process is getting the final county certifications in. We’ll then move to the risk limiting audit, or RLA. At 1:00 PM today, I will make the official designation of which race will be the subject of the RLA. At that time, I’ll designate that the RLA will be the presidential race. With the margin being so close, it will require a full by hand recount in each county. This will help build confidence. It will be an audit, a recount and a recanvas all at once. It will be a heavy lift, but we will work with the counties to get this done in time for our state certification.
Brad Raffensperger: (04:15)
Many of these workers will be working plenty of overtime. We have all worked hard to bring fair and accurate counts to assure that the will of the voters is reflected in the final count, and that every voter will have confidence in the outcome, whether their candidate won or lost. Thank you for coming today. Do we have any questions?
Can you describe with a hand recount or the nearly five million votes that have been cast…
Brad Raffensperger: (04:50)
Well, because we now have that verifiable paper ballot, for the first time in 18 years, we’re going to have something to count instead of just pressing a button and getting the same answer. So we’ll be counting every single piece of paper, every single ballot, every single lawfully cast legal ballot.
Does that mean a QR code or-
Brad Raffensperger: (05:08)
That will be the names that are on the ballot, whoever they voted for president, the English written word.
Brad Raffensperger: (05:18)
Yes, we will. As I said, people will be working lots of overtime the next coming week. Lot of people will be really pleased with those paychecks if they’re getting overtime.
Secretary, will the recount be invested on how many election voters it will take to do that? Is there also going to be a cost? Is that a lot of money, state or federal fund?
Brad Raffensperger: (05:36)
That’ll be coming out of, we’ll determine at some point adding additional workers. We will probably have to augment that, and we’ll be looking at that. And that’ll be the election directors at each county will be able to, they’ll actually handle their own additional or their own county recount or risk-limiting audit county by county.
I understand you want to [crosstalk 00:05:59].
Is this how this audit was designed to work? I thought, originally, it was supposed to be looking at a small segment of the vote, not the larger picture.
Brad Raffensperger: (06:05)
Yeah. Well, that’s really interesting when you start really digging into probability theorem. When you have 5 million votes, and the margin is so close, 14,000, if we pulled out 10,000 votes, all of a sudden, it could say, well, this is the person that won. We pull out a hundred thousand, it says this person won. We pull out a million, this person won. And that’s why, mathematically, you actually have to do a full hand by hand recount of all, because the margin is so close. Right now it’s 14,101. So it’s really just the mathematics, the statistics, the probability theorems that we use for the risk limiting that are taking us to that step.
Brad Raffensperger: (06:40)
So if it was another race, or you didn’t have such a close thing, then you could do that, and it would just be a sample size. But you can’t do that when it’s that close. This race has national significance, national importance. We get that. We understand that.
Does the Trump administration-
Brad Raffensperger: (06:57)
We do, we follow the process, and we understand the significance of this, for not just Georgia, but for every single American. At the end of the day, when we do a hand count, then we can answer the question, exactly what was the final margin in this race? Yes, ma’am?
The President just released a list of some Georgians who had passed away who supposedly voted in this election. Is that something you will look into?
Brad Raffensperger: (07:26)
Oh, absolutely. We’ve been open and transparent. In fact, we’ve had multiple meetings like this, meeting with the press. Gabriel Sterling, our implementation manager has come out to talk to you, really digging into the weeds. If you have any information about illegal voting or voter fraud, bring that to our attention. We will investigate every case that we hear.
Brad Raffensperger: (07:52)
I’m hearing that that just came out this morning. We’ll look at those records, and we’ll start digging into that.
Won’t the hand recount be less accurate than a computer recount? Humans make mistakes. And are you concerned about the accuracy of a hand recount?
Brad Raffensperger: (08:06)
It really is what the numbers take us to, and we’re following the process that would drive us to that, that’s in current state law.
And is it reasonable to believe that the results will change much? 14,000 votes. Is there any chance that the outcome or the results of the presidential election would change as a result? And is it possible that 14,000 votes could flip?
Brad Raffensperger: (08:31)
You’re asking me to make predictions, and what we’re going to deal is in facts. And so I’ll report the facts, and then-
We’re talking probablilites. What is the probability?
Brad Raffensperger: (08:38)
I’ll get out my calculator, and I’ll get that back to you. I can’t do that off the cuff. Thank you.
[inaudible 00:08:43] still ask for a recount once this is done. [inaudible 00:08:48].
Brad Raffensperger: (08:52)
That’s a good question. But after it has certified, the candidate that is within half percent, I believe, would still be entitled to a recount, but that would be a scan recount, just because of that is what is in state law.
Brad Raffensperger: (09:04)
Whap happens if certain counties [inaudible 00:09:08].
Brad Raffensperger: (09:12)
We’re going to continue to work with the counties on that, but that’s their deadline. And that is the process that we have in place. And we’ve had a great cooperation and dedication from the county election officials. That’s why we have so many here. We have professionals out there. And at the end of the day, I know that I haven’t asked them, but I know that there’s some folks back here that maybe vote this way, and other folks that vote that way, and some go this way, that way on different elections. At the end of the day, though, they’re following a process. And then what they want is they never want you to be able to question their integrity. And that’s what we want for everyone. They’re seeing that we’re following a process. Integrity still matters.
Brad Raffensperger: (09:50)
We’ll continue with every county that we have, and if there’s some they’re still buttoning it up, then we’ll roll to that. Hopefully that’s the smaller counties.
Is there any sort of estimate of how long this will take?
Brad Raffensperger: (10:04)
It will take every bit of the time that we have left, for sure. It’s a big lift.
So to certify-
Brad Raffensperger: (10:12)
Our date is November 20.
You’ve been saying for more than a year that we should absolutely trust the QR codes. So why is a hand recount necessary right now?
Brad Raffensperger: (10:21)
Statistically because of where we are there, we have a team of people, national experts that have worked on risk limiting audits in several other states. They’re part of our team. This not just a decision we made unilaterally. We reached out to these experts. We’ve been working with them for several months, and we just follow the science of the risk limiting audit. We follow the numbers, and that’s where it leads us, to count every single ballot by hand.
Does this mean that certification deadlines are no longer in effect or extended to November 20?
Brad Raffensperger: (10:51)
No, they’re still required, and we want them here by Friday at the latest. We have 97 counties already.
Can the recount begin before the county is certified? [inaudible 00:11:03] What’s the-
Brad Raffensperger: (11:02)
I’ll talk to legal about that, but we want to start this really before the week is up because we understand there’s an awful lot to do. Yes sir?
This is a little repetitive. Could you elaborate again on the timeline of the audit, and what is going to be counted exactly?
Brad Raffensperger: (11:17)
The ballot that you had, whether it was an absentee ballot, if you sent that in, or if it was voted by in-person like I did, we’ll look at that ballot. And someone’s going to look at who did you want, and they’re just going to go through that. And you’ll have two people that are doing all the counting. They’ll put them out and in stacks and make sure that the stack has, let’s say, a thousand ballots. And then you look at the end, you had 501 for this person, 499 for that one. You just keep on rolling through. And that’s how it’s going to be, all the way through. And you’re going to tally it all up. It’s a big process. There will be a methodical process. It’ll be an accurate process. And I’m sure that there will be plenty of oversight. We want to make sure that both parties have the opportunity to observe this because we understand the stakes are high.
Brad Raffensperger: (12:07)
I don’t really know. And we do what we do in Georgia. We follow our laws. And every state is 50 states, 50 different election laws.
What do you do if these hand counts don’t match the computer counts? Do you count again?
Brad Raffensperger: (12:18)
No, that would then become the risk limiting audit and becomes a full recount. And that is what we are going to be certifying on November 20th. So thank you very much.
[inaudible 00:12:28] will be certified.
Brad Raffensperger: (12:30)
That’ll be what we’ve certified because that’ll be the last count, and that’d be the most accurate count. That’ll be the paper ballot count.
This bypasses the audit, I guess, in theory.
Brad Raffensperger: (12:36)
Well, it is actually an audit. It’s all in one. It’s an audit, recanvas and a recount, all in one, because it’ll be just really a process that gets it all.
Brad Raffensperger: (12:45)
When will the election [inaudible 00:12:48] It’s going to take [inaudible 00:12:51] to certify these, go through all these. [inaudible 00:12:55].
Brad Raffensperger: (12:59)
Well, many people aren’t aware of is that where we are in the process right now in our county, we’re in the same place that Florida is, North Carolina and Texas. The thing is, in those races, it’s not real close. In our case, there’s 14,101 votes right now that separate the top versus number two. And so therefore, all eyes have focused on that. And that’s really why you’re seeing that. But the other states are still out there tabulating their absentee ballots. Thank you for bringing that up.
Brad Raffensperger: (13:32)
That’s still going on.
But even though someone will have been sworn in for that seat, [inaudible 00:13:38] already have been sworn in by the time the special election takes place.
Brad Raffensperger: (13:42)
The fifth district is not affected by what we’re doing here.
Secretary, as you know, [inaudible 00:13:46] at the parties say that a lot of Republican voters and Trump supporters in particular, do not trust the election results. It’s not the matching the person to the computer scan. It’s the dead people vote. Did the mail service, did employees from the postal service steal the election? And how can you remedy that in counting the votes? Are you going to call the person who voted and ask, did you vote for this person. Is this person alive in your family? How do you remedy those accusation? How do you get to the bottom of that?
Brad Raffensperger: (14:22)
Well, number one, I am not the Postmaster General. We have no control over the Federal Postal Service. So when people mailed their ballots back, it’s under federal government control and the Federal Post Office, Postal Service. Once it gets to the counties, then that’s on the counties how to handle that. Through this process, we believe that, and we know that the machines are correct, and what you’re going to find, we believe in the count. As relates to dead people and other forms of illegal voting, that’s why we’ve asked for, if you know, of a case of illegal voting or suspected illegal voting, bring that to us. Antidotes and stories doesn’t work. We need something that we can actually investigate. I’m actually very grateful that Attorney General Barr, I respect that man, this is second round as being Attorney General of the United States of America. And he is a calm, very thorough attorney. And he’s directed his US attorneys to look for things. And the one thing that federal government does have is resources that we don’t have. And so if they can find something that we can’t, that can help to bring to bear, we want to make sure that the only people that vote are legal voters.
That’s not part of this process that [inaudible 00:15:41].
Brad Raffensperger: (15:41)
Yeah. We’re counting what the paper ballots are. And those will be ongoing investigations.
Does this hand recount set a precedent for every race going forward and-
Brad Raffensperger: (15:50)
No, we can pick whatever one we pick, but we understand the national significance of this session right now. Next time it may be some other statewide race. And in fact, as we rolled this out, you have to understand, many states that are doing risk limiting audit, it took them five to seven years to get this going. When Colorado did it, that was a long multi-year process. We’ve passed House Bill H.B. 316 in 2019. We stood up, in spite of COVID, a risk limiting audit this year, and so at nine months, 11 months, we’re going to do the first statewide election with a risk limiting audit. So this is record time that we’ve done this. We actually eventually are going to be doing risk limiting audits for a host of elections to give you the voter confidence that when you’ve cast your ballot, it was accurately counted, that you have the confidence, and you can leave at the end of the day, knowing the system got it right. And then when we do that, we think it really is good for all of Georgia.
Are you doing this whole recount because the Trump campaign asked you to?
Brad Raffensperger: (16:49)
No, we’re doing this because it is really what makes the most sense. With the national significance of this race and the closeness of this race, we have to run a statewide audit. This is the race that makes the most sense, logically, as I worked with our team, this is really what made the most sense. And we’ll be following the process on that.
Just a followup. I understand you don’t have the total cost. This could mean [inaudible 00:17:09] You said there would be a lot of overtime so it sounds expensive.
Brad Raffensperger: (17:18)
Yeah, it is. We understand that typically the counties fund their own elections. And this is part of one of the things that they’d buy into. And right now, everyone’s in austerity cuts. So that’s the issue. But that’s where we are. And I don’t have an answer to specific on that. I have my domain as Secretary of State, and I can only have my authority that I have within office. And that is something that would really be what the general assembly perhaps could do to help the counties.
Did I describe it correctly? It sounds like the counties will foot the bill, but there’s opportunity possibly-
Brad Raffensperger: (17:48)
At the present time, that would be what it would be.
Secretary, you really released this to all, but you bill yourself as a national leader, Georgia as a national leader in elections. Does anything change in that? Or do you still consider yourself a national leader?
Brad Raffensperger: (18:01)
Yeah, I think George has done a great job if you look at what we accomplished in this past year. We stood up a new voting system, new voting machines in less than six months. And that was really because we had an activist federal judge that said you can’t use the old DRE machines. And so we had to do that for the first primary that we had coming up.
Brad Raffensperger: (18:20)
All of a sudden we got hit with COVID that started hitting in February, and then March the general assembly had to take a hiatus around March 15th. And so then we had to do a 360 or a 180 on what are we going to do here so that we can run elections that are safe for voters? And what does that look like?
Brad Raffensperger: (18:38)
And then coming out of that, we stood up an absentee ballot portal so that we have safe, secure requests for absentee ballots that required voters to tell us your name, day, month and year so we can identify you. And then also your department of drivers service, your driver’s license number. So we making sure it truly is the voter that’s requesting this absentee ballot for additional security.
Brad Raffensperger: (19:01)
And then we added ballot tracks. Then we added the wait time. And then we had very successful early day voting. We had a few lines the first couple of days, and then we had record 2.8 million voters plus voted in early voting. And we had very short lines for that. State Farm stood up, but across the state, everyone of these election directors had great success.
Brad Raffensperger: (19:25)
Then on the day of election, we had an average wait time in the afternoon was about two minutes. At one point, I screenshot it, put it out there on Facebook. We had wait times, the longest wait time was 40 minutes. It dropped down to 20 minutes, and before you know, it was 10 minutes. So tremendous results. And so I think that we’ve led in so many different areas, and we’ve proven that every vote counts, and integrity matters. At the end of the day, that’s good.
what happens if the recount isn’t done by November 20?
Brad Raffensperger: (19:52)
Well, then we just have to continue that process, but we have our charge, the November 20th is our day. And the one thing that we’ve learned in the construction industry, I’ve been in this thing really, hit my first construction job site when I was about six years old, sitting in my dad’s pickup truck. And so I grew up with the idea of deadlines, and in our business, it is all about deadlines. And every day, it’s about hitting deadlines.
Brad Raffensperger: (20:17)
And our election directors, they know all about deadlines because we have this date for this, this date for that, registration, this early vote, day of election. And then all of a sudden, you have a runoff, and then you roll into next year we’re going to have city and municipal elections. And then we’re going to roll into the next year. So this whole operation is deadline driven.
I’m just trying to understand how hundreds of human being working long hours are going to be more accurate than a computer.
Brad Raffensperger: (20:45)
Well, that’s why there’ll be plenty of eyeballs on them to verify that every vote is accurately counted. And that’s the way the process works. Because of the large number of votes and the closeness of the vote, it’s the only way to do that. We’ve talked to our risk-limiting experts in our office and also national experts in that.we’re following the process.
Brad Raffensperger: (21:07)
Thank you very much for coming out. We’ll have another announcement later today. Thank you.