Dec 3, 2020
Georgia Senate Election Hearing Transcript December 3
The Georgia Senate Government Oversight Committee held an election hearing on December 3, where they evaluated the election process to ensure the integrity of Georgia’s voting process. Read the full transcript here.
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Senator Heath: (03:48)
Good morning everyone. Members of the committee, if you will take your seats, we are about to get started. And I want to ask those who are coming in the back of the room, the media, et cetera, to please keep the noise down to a minimum. Can you all hear me okay in the back? I’m going to try turning it up a little bit. We may need to get you a new battery for that hearing aid. Hello? You good? Can you hear me back there? Okay. We’re going to call the Senate government oversight committee to order, and we’re going to start off as we always do with an opening prayer. I’m going to call on my vice chair Senator Harbin to do that. Please, sir. And you’re own microphone number one.
Senator Harbin: (04:49)
You got me there. All right. Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, we come to you. And Father, we ask dear Lord, that you would watch over this meeting. We desire, dear Lord, to know truth and we also dear Lord desire for there to be trust among our people, among the people of this state. And we ask, oh Father, that we would, dear Lord, be your representatives and your vessels. Also representative of the people of Georgia and ask, oh Father, that you would keep things in order and civil. And Father, that dear Lord, as we do this, that we would do this in a spirit of love and a spirit of truth. Thank you dear Lord for the privilege to live where we live. Thank you for the privileges that you’ve given us. And we ask, oh Father, that you would watch over us and over what we say. And as the scripture says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” And we would ask, oh Father, that we would do that in your name. Amen.
Senator Heath: (05:44)
Thank you Senator. Okay. I have lost my notes. Well, good morning. We have convened this meeting of the Senate government oversight committee. After a number of alleged improprieties were brought to our attention following the general election on November 3rd, I, as well as every member of this committee have received numerous questions and concerns about the security of our elections. And we have all heard potentially troublesome anecdotes from concerned citizens across the state.
Senator Heath: (06:46)
The organization of this meeting began some four weeks ago. My assistant, myself, and others have worked to invite witnesses who we believe can bring valuable information. It is not always been easy to reach the witnesses, as they too have been trying to carry out their responsibilities relative to elections. We have done our best to get them here. The purpose of today’s meeting is to hear firsthand account from election officials from across the state in order to establish the appropriate context for the stories we’ve heard.
Senator Heath: (07:20)
While all of us can easily speculate what is and what is not abnormal during an election, I thought it best to hear from the experts who have dedicated considerable amount of their livelihoods to administering elections. While we certainly won’t have time to address each and every story shared with us, I hope that by learning more about the process and highlighting a few of the major issues, we’ll be better equipped to make a determination about what exactly happened on Election Day.
Senator Heath: (07:48)
Today, members of the committee will have a platform to ask these officials questions and witnesses will be given an opportunity to set the record straight and provide us with accurate, truthful answers. While emotions are high and opinions are strong, this meeting will not be a place for hostile attacks or baseless accusations. What has been missing in the discourse surrounding the election upfront up to this point is a true dialogue. Our objective today is to have an earnest, frank discussion with experts on what went right, what went wrong, and ask what the legislature can do to improve our elections in the future. Election security is not a partisan issue. You’ll notice that this committee is comprised of members of both parties. And while we disagree on some issues, we all share the same desire, that our constituents will have trust and faith and integrity of our voting processes. We’re all here because we care deeply about the needs of our communities. And if they feel that something is not right, we owe it to them to look into it.
Senator Heath: (08:58)
Before we begin, I would like to thank my fellow committee members and many senators who are not a part of this community for taking time to attend today’s meeting. I believe your attendance is a reflection of your duty to ensure that the voices of your citizens are not repressed or misrepresented. I would like to thank the witnesses for coming to provide us with testimony today. I understand that it may feel intimidating to join us, given the heightened atmosphere, but my goal is for this to be a calm environment so you will be comfortable walking us through your role in the elections process.
Senator Heath: (09:34)
This is not an inquisition. This is a fact finding mission to get to the bottom of any improprieties that may have occurred. So the legislature has the information it needs to decide what changes may be necessary to better ensure integrity of our elections. For everyone joining us here today and for those watching online, I hope the meeting will be productive. And hopefully by the time we adjourn, you feel comfortable that the legislature is taking this issue seriously.
Senator Heath: (10:05)
I assure you if any abnormalities are found, we will ask swiftly and aggressively to find a remedy to better ensure sanctity at the ballot box. This committee appreciates your interest and concern regarding our election system. Our meeting notice stated that anyone with firsthand knowledge of problems with the election or fraudulent activity relative to the election may submit sworn written statements of fact/ there have been and continue to be many avenues in which you can share your concerns or experiences relative to the election.
Senator Heath: (10:39)
If you have accessed those portals, there is no need to resubmit. We have limited resources as a legislative body and must focus on facts and not research issues that have already had appropriate attention given to them. These sworn statements will be in the form of an affidavit and must include your name and contact information so you can be reached if needed for further action. For the convenience of those wishing to submit an affidavit, we have forms for your use that are located outside the committee room. And in front of the Secretary of Senate’s office, as they have graciously agreed to assist us in this.
Senator Heath: (11:23)
Fill out the affidavit form with your testimony, but do not sign it until it can be witnessed by a notary public. There is a notary in the Secretary of Senate’s office in room 353, one floor below us. You’ll need to submit a form of identification and swear to the truth that the contents of the affidavit at the time you sign the affidavit. The secretary of Senate will hold affidavits in confidence until the completion of the meeting, at which time there’ll be returned to the committee for consideration. If you do not wish to have your contact information become a part of the official papers of the committee subject to the same access as other legislative papers, you can file your affidavit with me personally. Just be sure to instruct the notary to receive your affidavit for Senator Bill Heath individually.
Senator Heath: (12:13)
Now, there’s a few other things we need to address relative to COVID. Masks are required in the meeting room. And I strongly suggest wearing those elsewhere. We want to accommodate the media to the greatest extent possible, but we also want to protect the health and wellbeing of our committee members. So I have asked the Senate press office to facilitate that and to grant access to small groups of the media at any given time. And I would ask for you to not abuse that that privilege or we’ll have to remove the media from the room. Of course, you always have access to the press office’s feed of the video and audio of the meeting.
Senator Heath: (13:07)
There are a few additional seats, committee seat number of seats in the room. And my intention is to allow other Senators, based on their leadership status, to access those seats. So we we’ll have a center sign in sheet outside. And to the best of my ability, we will try to acknowledge other senators that are in attendance. And if there’s any Senators outside that feel like due to their leadership status, that they should be in the room, we will try to accommodate that. We have a doorkeeper, you can speak with him, Mr. Andrew Abbott. And we’ll try to accommodate you to the best of our ability.
Senator Heath: (13:54)
At this point, I am aware of the following senators in attendance. Senator Carden Summers, Senator Lee Anderson, Senator Ed Harbison, and Senator Jeff Mullis. We also have in attendance Senator-elect Jason Anavitarte. Okay. As I said, we’ve been working for about four weeks now to arrange witnesses for this meeting. And it has been quite a challenge. I think all of the ones that we’ve reached out to at one point or another have agreed to be here. There has been issues to come up as we move along. And we’ll try to explain those as we work through this, but we have made contact with Fulton County’s election office to DeKalb County’s election office, the Secretary of State’s office, and also Muskogee County elections office. And I noticed the majority leader sneaking in back there. Welcome, Senator Dugan.
Senator Heath: (15:08)
So with that out of the way, we have representatives from the Secretary of State’s office, Gabriel Sterling, the Director of Implementation, Ryan Germany, our General Counsel, and Chris Harvey, the Elections Director. We thank you all for being here. I see you’re short a seat. I don’t want you to have to stand all the time. It looks like there is an extra seat between microphone 11 and 12 right there. You’ve got a seat there. Y’all are welcome to pull those around to be comfortable there.
Senator Heath: (15:42)
We’ve got a hard cutoff time for our meeting to end. And that will be at 12:30. That is so that this room can be sanitized and prepared for another committee meeting that’ll be in here at 1:00. The intention is to give you ample time to explain what is going on and to take some questions from the committee. I will advise you that the questions should be directed to me as the chair. And then I will turn it over to the presenter to respond to those. And you guys can choose who is most appropriate to respond.
Senator Heath: (16:24)
And so we want to have as best of access and it was productive of a meeting as possible. And so we do have a little bit of a timeline, but with that, we’ll turn it over to the Secretary of State’s office. And I’m not sure, podium mic right here. See if this gets… Thump your mic.
Ryan Germany: (16:46)
Can you hear me?
Senator Heath: (16:47)
Yes, sir. We’re good.
Senator Harbin: (16:49)
Senator Heath: (16:49)
Ryan Germany: (16:51)
Thank you, Chairman Heath for inviting our office to this committee meeting and for the opportunity to address the committee. My name is Ryan Germany. I’m the General Counsel for the Secretary of State’s office. I’ve been in that position since 2014. I’ve had the privilege to serve three secretaries, Secretary Kemp, Secretary Crittenden, Secretary Raffensberger, and it’s been a privilege to serve today. What I thought I would do, Mr. Chairman, if it is all right with you, is just make a few opening remarks to try to address some of the consistent questions. And then we’re, of course, happy to take your questions. And I think as you suggested, we have three people here. We might have to kind of figure out how to best divvy up those questions when that time comes.
Ryan Germany: (17:39)
A few things I want to address to make sure I address before opening up for questions are some of the frequently asked questions we’ve received regarding the 2020 election, including questions about signature verification, absentee ballot drop boxes, and then what I think we should be looking at in terms of moving forward to further strengthen Georgia’s election processes. And then, of course, we’re happy to take any questions.
Ryan Germany: (18:03)
Georgia has some of the strongest laws in the country to ensure secure elections. We don’t allow ballot harvesting. We do citizenship checks during voter registration. Absentee ballots have to be requested through signature verified applications or through a secure online portal that requires a Georgia photo ID to match what’s on file with the voter registration office. Signatures are then checked again on absentee ballots when they’re returned. So we, in essence, have a double signature match requirement.
Ryan Germany: (18:33)
Absentee ballots have to be returned by 7:00 PM on election night. And my job over the past seven years has been to ensure that those legal protections are upheld under what’s been an onslaught of legal challenges they have faced. As those of you in this room know, Georgia has been the epicenter of election litigation in the country over the past seven years. And we knew going into 2020, that 2020 would be no different.
Ryan Germany: (18:59)
We were one of the main targets of the Democrat party’s four pillars, litigation strategy. Some of those pillars were to allow ballot harvesting and to extend Election Day past November 3rd by accepting ballots after Election Day. In Georgia, we wanted to make sure that our laws were upheld, including our law banning ballot harvesting and our law requiring all ballots to be received by the elections office no later than 7:00 PM on November 3rd.
Ryan Germany: (19:32)
We felt strongly about this, not only was extending Election Day past November 3rd, in my opinion, a twisting of the Constitution to try to benefit a preferred candidate, but in Georgia, we’re one of two states that have general election runoffs. So our election officials have to immediately get started getting ready for runoffs. And as the Chairman alluded to earlier, they’re busy doing that right now for, of course, some very high profile Senate runoffs and PSE runoff on January 5th. Early voting for those runoffs starts December 14th. So they’re busy getting ready for that while they’re also completing their recount of the presidential election.
Ryan Germany: (20:18)
Fortunately, from the litigation standpoint, we were able to accomplish all of those goals. Our ballot harvesting statute was challenged, but it was upheld. And a district court judge did initially extend the period to receive absentee ballots past Election Day. But her order was stayed by the Eleventh Circuit. And that Eleventh Circuit opinion, staying Judge Ross’s order that extended the time period to accept absentee ballots.
Ryan Germany: (20:52)
One of the things that the Eleventh Circuit mentioned was the drop boxes that our State Election Board allowed. And I know there has been some questions about that. The drop boxes, I have with me here, the Eleventh Circuit said that decided the drop boxes as one reason why “We didn’t need to receive the receipt. We didn’t need to extend the ballot receipt deadline past Election Day.” So I think that turned out to be a good thing. I have with me here, I don’t know if all of y’all can see it, but I’ll hold it up. Our drop boxes are of course required to be under 24/7 video surveillance.
Ryan Germany: (21:35)
And each of them have to post a notice that says, “Notice this location is under video surveillance. Only the following individuals may possess or deliver an absentee ballot, the voter him or herself, the voter’s approved family members, mother, father, grandparent, et cetera, an individual residing in the same household or a caretaker of a voter with disabilities.” And it also sites ” Warning. Unauthorized possession of an absentee ballot violates Georgia law and is punishable by up to a fine of $10,000, or a term of imprisonment up to 10 years or both,” or it cites that “Willfully destroying the facing or delaying delivery of any ballot violates Georgia law.”
Ryan Germany: (22:18)
This the notice that’s posted on each secure drop box, you may have seen some of them in your counties. Obviously, video surveillance and this notice are higher levels of security than what’s required around your usual USPS drop box. And so we think that the drop boxes worked well. Regarding signature verification on absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications. First, elections in Georgia are run by local communities in each of our 159 counties. Within those communities, elections are overseen by a bipartisan Board of Elections and Registrations or in the 30 something counties where elections are run by the probate judge, the voter registration and absentee ballot signature verification function are overseen by a bipartisan Board of registrars.
Ryan Germany: (23:18)
And there’s a reason that elections in each county are run by a bipartisan board. It’s to ensure that each political party has a voice and direct supervision and access into every part of the process. These bipartisan boards have hire and fire authority in their counties. They can appoint absentee ballot clerks, and they oversee procedures to ensure that state law and regulations are being followed, including verification of signatures on absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications.
Ryan Germany: (23:47)
We received quite a bit of questions before the election, before the November election, and also currently about whether or not the signature verification process is public. The answer to that is yes, our Georgia code states that elected officials must perform their duties in public. And what we told people before the election was it’s public. Now, it means you can be in the room. It doesn’t mean you get to look over someone’s shoulder. And it doesn’t mean you get a vote necessarily. But the bi-partisan Board of elections, they have direct access to everything, including the Republican members and the Democrat members, and they do get a vote. And in fact, they’re the people who are charged with verifying that. So it’s both public for public observation and it’s open to each political party through direct intervention and oversight through their representatives on each County Board of Elections and Registration.
Ryan Germany: (24:51)
One question that we have received a lot is about a signature match settlement agreement that we entered into in February or March of this year. That we entered into a settlement agreement, the Democratic party, DNC, and I think DSCC, had challenged our signature match law asserting that it was unconstitutional. So we really wanted to make sure that that voice, that that check was upheld. So we were able to settle the case.
Ryan Germany: (25:28)
And one of our main goals in settling that case was to ensure that Election Day was not extended. We saw this in a post election in 2018 when federal judges, right after the election, ordered counties to go back and do things or allow additional time for things. And we wanted to make sure that didn’t happen because we think it’s a twisting of our law. And because it’s not something that counties really have time to do in terms of good election administration. So we were able to settle that case by doing one thing we had already planned to do, which was define the timeline when a county had to get out a notice of a signature issue on a ballot. There was a law passed, as you guys well know, in 2019 that introduced a cure period for absentee ballots that had signature issues. That was something that had been going around the country. And for absentee ballots that didn’t have a cure period, they were basically getting struck down all around the country. So we added that cure period to make sure that our signature match laws were upheld.
Ryan Germany: (26:49)
The State Election Board passed a rule that said you have to get out the notice of a signature issue to the voter within three days, or if it’s within 11 days of Election Day, within the next day, because we wanted to ensure that the voters had time to do that. And we wanted to ensure that judges didn’t say at the end of the day, “Oh, there’s not enough time. We need to extend this this cure period of time past the Friday after Election Day.” So we did that.
Ryan Germany: (27:23)
And the other thing that we agreed to do in that settlement agreement was put out an official election bulletin, which that’s something that our office sends to counties. It’s not a, it’s not a law. It’s not a regulation passed by the State Election Board. It’s basically us talking to counties and saying, “Hey, here’s something we think you need to know. Here’s our recommendation on how to best follow Georgia law.” The first sentence of that official election bulletin said counties and I left it downstairs. I apologize. But it said “Counties are required to verify signatures on absentee ballot applications and absentee ballots on both the signature in ENet, which is our voter registration system, and the signature on the absentee ballot application. And if the signature doesn’t match, you follow the process set out in OCGA 21-2-386.
Ryan Germany: (28:15)
And we actually knew pretty well how counties were doing this because of all the litigation in 2018. And what we recommended to them was actually the process that many of your counties already followed in terms of doing signature matches. So that’s why we agreed to that in return for that, we got a release of all signature match claims for the rest of 2020, which I think helped to accomplish our goal of not extending Election Day past November 3rd.
Ryan Germany: (28:50)
One other question we’ve been getting a lot is to… That wasn’t a question, maybe it’s more of a request, is to perform a signature audit of signatures on absentee ballots and then applications and signatures on file. Our office investigates elections issues. When we receive a specific complaint of fraud or irregularity in the process. We have over 250 investigations ongoing right now, many of those are about absentee ballots.
Ryan Germany: (29:26)
And many of those will include a signature match or kind of like a signature audit of the voter’s absentee ballot application and their vote on file. One thing that we have seen come up quite a bit is allegations from individual voters that when they went to vote, they were told “You have requested an absentee ballot.” And the voter said, “No, I haven’t.” So that’s something we’ve been looking into. And the voters is kind of understandably concerned, “Oh, this is fraud. Someone’s doing this for me.” What we have seen in everyone that we have been able to look into so far is the voter was on was what we call the rollover list. In Georgia, there’s a law that if you are over 65 or if you are disabled, or if you are a military or overseas voter, you can make one request for an absentee ballot and then receive an absentee ballot for the rest of the election cycle.
Ryan Germany: (30:27)
And that’s limited to those voters. You have to check the box saying, ” Yes, I’m one of these groups. And I would like to receive an absentee ballot for the rest of the cycle with no additional requests.” So I think every one of those voters we’ve looked into was on the rollover list. So the voter was correct that they didn’t request an absentee ballot for that specific election, but they had requested one earlier this cycle. And then they checked the box to say, “Yes, I’m over 65. And I would like to receive one for the rest of the cycle.” So we open our investigations…
Ryan Germany: (31:03)
So we open our investigations based off of specific allegations of fraud or irregularity. Our investigators, we have 23 investigators, they’re all post certified law enforcement officers. They’re armed. They carry handcuffs. They have that authority. So these are law enforcement investigations. Obviously, we want to make sure when we’re opening them that we’re doing it based off of allegations that are actually investigatable and not feelings of I don’t like the result of this election. If there are any of course, and we appreciate the chairman’s accepting of affidavits. And we certainly appreciate you sharing those with us if there’s anything to investigate from that side. And we of course will. We’re investigating out-of-state voters with absentee ballots, and that’s a difficult thing to investigate because there’s many people who live out of state who are completely legitimate Georgia voters.
Ryan Germany: (32:06)
Some of the data we’ve received about oh, this person moved and no longer lives in Georgia. Well, they have APO addresses, which are military addresses, so they don’t lose their residency in Georgia. Other examples of that would be college students. They don’t necessarily lose their residency in Georgia either when they go out of state for college. So it really requires kind of an individualized investigation into each allegation and. That’s what our investigators are doing. Before I turn it over or open it up for questions. I do want to talk about some of the things that we’ve seen this year from an election standpoint and what we think we can do or what we think we should be looking at going forward to further strengthen Georgia’s election procedures. One thing we have to keep in mind that I think we’ve learned the past couple of election cycles in Georgia is we have close elections.
Ryan Germany: (33:07)
And over the past few election cycles, we’ve had people from both sides of the aisle who are really spreading things that decrease trust in the system and the results of our elections. And it seems that’s basically been a bi-partisan thing. It was generally from the left after 2018 and now it’s from the right after 2020. But from my perspective sitting in the same place on both of those, it’s kind of eerie how similar the claims are. It’s a lot of the same fact patterns that one side would call suppression and the other side calls fraud. And that’s what we’re seeing. What we do is of course we investigate each of those and see what the facts are. But so I think our main job going forward is we’ve got to build trust in our elections.
Ryan Germany: (34:04)
I think we’ve done a lot of things that are helpful for that. We now have a paper ballot system. So we went in after we did the presidential election, for the first time ever, we were able to go back and do a hand tally of all the paper ballots. And that’s using the paper ballot, the text on the ballot. Not scanned by a scanner, people looking at what’s on the ballot. The result of that audit as you guys know showed that the result of the presidential election was confirmed and the original count was very accurate. I forget the exact difference, but it was a very small difference. They’re doing a recount right now re-scanning all the ballots, all the paper ballots. And we’ll see the results of that should be available shortly. But from what we have heard, we don’t expect any large changes and that we do expect to see some minor changes in the exact numbers, but nothing that will change the result.
Ryan Germany: (35:08)
So we’ve done that. And the audit and the paper ballots I think can really help. One thing that happened this year, that of course, no one was expecting was, as we all sit here, we’re in our masks, is COVID. And I think COVID led to a massive increase in absentee ballots. But we got some, I don’t want to say complaints, but more observations from election officials that they were being asked to really run three systems at one time with the massive increase in absentee ballots. And that’s not something that’s sustainable. In Georgia, we’ve had no excuse absentee voting for since 2005, but up until this year, the preference of Georgia has really seemed to be to vote in person either on election day or in our three weeks of early in person voting. In 2018, I think less than 5% of people chose to vote absentee by mail, even though we still had no excuse absentee voting then.
Ryan Germany: (36:16)
This year, it went up to, I think in the general election, about 25% of ballots, 1.3 million ballots were cast absentee by mail. And I think what we found working with election officials in each county, it’s a lot to ask of them to process all those absentee ballots while doing three weeks of early voting and then while getting ready for Election Day. So I think that’s something we need to think about going forward. One other thing that I would say is it seems like it used to be, even though before this year, even though we had no excuse absentee voting, the people that were voting absentee by mail really were people that needed to for some reason. Either they were actually absent, they’re disabled. They had some reason to vote absentee. This year of course, that’s going to go up because of COVID and people just wanting to stay home, but I think another reason it went up is campaigns in third party groups who are really kind of treating absentee by mail as sort of a first bite at the apple.
Ryan Germany: (37:25)
Not as, hey, this is a resource you can use if you need it, but as a first bite at the apple to try to get everyone to do that. And then if they can’t do that, get everyone to vote early and then do that. And that doesn’t really work very well. That creates a lot of work for county election officials. We had over 350,000 absentee ballots that were canceled, which means somebody sent in an application, it was reviewed by the county. A signature was verified. The absentee ballot package was mailed out and the voter decided they wanted to vote in person, which is fine. We have a process for that, but then when they show up in person, they’ve got to either surrender their blank absentee ballot or the poll worker has to check with the elections office has this absentee ballot been received?
Ryan Germany: (38:16)
And if not, cancel the absentee ballot to make sure it can’t be received later. And so it creates a lot of work for people that probably didn’t even want an absentee ballot in the first place. So we are seeing some of these third- party groups who, it’s of course their right to try to engage the electorate, but I think there’s also a responsibility to do it in a more responsible fashion. And we’re not seeing that. Secretary Raffensperger has already said that he does not believe signature match is the best way to verify absentee ballot applications or ballots. And we’re looking at what other states do to see if there’s a better way to do that utilizing technology.
Ryan Germany: (39:01)
We’ve seen one example of that in our online absentee ballot portal that the state election board authorized us to make and we’ve seen similar results with that kind of like with online voter registration a few years ago, where what we do with that if the voters first name, last name, date of birth, and driver’s license number matches what’s on file, they can request an absentee ballot through that portal. It really helps. It’s easy for the voter. We think it’s more secure because it has that driver’s license check and it makes sure there’s no data entry or other types of issues at the county level. So there’s going to the address that the voter confirms. So that’s an example I think of a better way to verify these and we’ll be looking at what other states do with that as well.
Ryan Germany: (39:59)
One other thing that we’ve seen with the huge increase in absentee ballots is allegations of people who are no longer residents here voting here. And I mentioned that earlier, we’re investigating that. This is kind of unfortunately out of our hands or even out of you all’s hands, but there’s federal law that restricts what we can do on that front. The way it works right now based on a law passed in 1993, when we identify that someone has moved, we move them to inactive. They remain on the rolls for two general election cycles. That’s a long time in this it feels like a lot has changed since 1993 in terms of how quickly things happen, how quickly we can get in touch with people, but that law basically still remains the same. So I don’t think that’s for me probably. [inaudible 00:41:00]. But so I think that’s something we always want to look at what we can do to improve list maintenance. We’ve done that, I think, through joining the Erik process and we’ll see once we get up and running on that next year, that will really help.
Ryan Germany: (41:19)
And the other thing I think we need to look at is the state intervention into consistently failing election boards, similar to there’s a process where the state can intervene in consistently failing school boards. We have a few counties that seem to always be coming up under the state election board, and we’ve seen it with the audit and the recount where we kind of know what counties are going to have issues. And as I mentioned earlier, they’re run by bipartisan boards who have hired fire authority. We don’t have that, the Secretary of State’s office, the election board doesn’t have that. I think it’s a good thing that elections are run locally, but I do think there should be a process where the state can intervene in consistently failing counties. And I will wrap it up and I’m happy to take any questions. I don’t think I introduced Chris Harvey next to me is our elections director and Gabriel Sterling is the voting system implementation manager. So we might kind of divide up the questions as to who might best know the answer.
Senator Heath: (42:34)
Thank you. That was very informative. And I want to say that I really do appreciate the Secretary of State’s office being accessible to us as legislators. I know that every time that I’ve reached out, I’ve gotten prompt responses from you guys. And I have not heard of any legislator who has expressed any complaint about access to the Secretary of State’s office. You guys have been very forthright with us and we appreciate that. I think it goes a long ways towards developing this confidence in the election process that’s vital to our democracy.
Senator Heath: (43:27)
Is that the conclusion of the Secretary of State’s presentation? I mean, you guys didn’t intend to present just going to answer questions? Okay.
Ryan Germany: (43:35)
Senator Heath: (43:39)
I trust that there’s some questions that committee members may have and if you will press your button on your microphone, to the best of my ability, I’ll try to recognize you in order, but I did want to take just a quick break here to recognize additional senators who have joined us. Caucus Chairman John Kennedy has joined us. Kate Kirkpatrick texted me and said she was watching online. Senator Matt Brass was at the door. I think he is now watching online. Senator Larry Walker, our vice chairman, has joined us. So we appreciate that. You guys, anyone else, any other Senators that are participating, I’d like to hear from you. We’ll recognize you. And I think it’s also be appropriate. I wouldn’t want to leave out our community members. I’ll just run through that list real quick. All of the committee members are here. Vice Chairman Marty Harbin, our secretary. Elaina Parent, Senator Greg Dolezal, Senator Jim Jerdan, Senator Shake Vermon, Senator Valencia Sea. Our protium, Senator Butch Miller, Senator Randy Robertson, Senator Tyler Harper, and Senator Steve Gooch, our whip, is also in attendance.
Senator Heath: (45:05)
I appreciate you guys being here and being willing to help us accomplish our goals here. I see a message that Blake Tillery is also joining us from his office. I’m not seeing any questions on the screen here. [inaudible 00:00:45:29]. The buttons are not okay. Well, a button lit up earlier I saw. I know somebody’s button lit up, but so well, I’ll just raise your hand if you want to ask a question. I think I saw Senator Robertson first. It looks like we’ll go down the list. Let me defer to the protium first then. Which mic are you? Are you on 14? Two or 14? Try that and-
Senator Robertson: (46:00)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Appreciate you convening this committee today. Earlier you mentioned the 24 hour seven video surveillance of the drop boxes. What has your experience in retrieving the video surveillance and has it been consistent throughout the process?
Ryan Germany: (46:24)
Yes, sir. Good question. One of the things that’s in the state of license with regulation is the video surveillance has to be kept for 30 days after certification or till the conclusion of an election contest, which there are numerous election contests going on right now. And it has to be given to Secretary of State investigators upon request. When we just renewed that law we added or to the public at basically the least prohibitive cost possible. It’s always been a public record and public has made open records requests [inaudible 00:00:47:02]. We have requested it as well for certain investigations. We received a complaint in Cobb County regarding suspicious activity around a drop box. We requested the surveillance. We were able to get it very quickly and review that time period at that specific drop box and found that there was not anything kind of untoward that happened. So any anytime we’ve requested it from a county, we have received that. I know Fulton County had some issues at the very beginning having everything up and running back in the primary, but those seem to have been resolved.
Ryan Germany: (47:44)
What I have told public people who are making public requests, if you make a request and you’re not receiving it, let us know because that’s something that we want to make sure they are publicly available. And a few people have taken us up on that. And then we’ve requested that tape directly from the counties. And I believe we’re in the process of getting some of that. One thing that people want to know is did people close the drop boxes on time? There’s been a lot of requests for that 7:00 PM on election night and later-
Senator Robertson: (48:18)
Ryan Germany: (48:18)
… to make sure they close them on time. We told the counties beforehand, you got to make sure you close these on time because in this day and age, as we all know, everyone’s going to have their phones out. In addition to the videos, they’re going to have their phones out watching it so you better make sure. And the indication that we have is that they did. We’ve requested some video surveillance from certain counties to confirm that, but we have not seen any essences of that, of keeping them open too late at point.
Senator Robertson: (48:49)
So to summarize your answer, which was very thorough by the way, everywhere you requested the video surveillance, you received it and the drop boxes were closed on time in each and every instance.
Ryan Germany: (49:02)
Correct. We just requested a few more yesterday, which I don’t think we’ve received yet, but I believe we will based on our past practice.
Senator Robertson: (49:09)
Thank you very much.
Ryan Germany: (49:09)
Senator Robertson: (49:10)
Mr. Chairman. By the way, I also am aware that Senator Billy Hickman is online watching as well.
Senator Heath: (49:18)
Yes sir. I was about to make that announcement.
Senator Robertson: (49:18)
Thank you. Thank you.
Senator Heath: (49:30)
Okay. [inaudible 00:49:30]. Recognize Senator Gooch, on microphone number three, our whip.
Ryan Germany: (49:36)
Thank you. Mr. Germany, thank you for being here. I think I’ll make a statement first. And I have a lot of questions. I don’t think I’ll be able to get to them. In fairness to all the other committee members, I think we want to get everybody’s questions in, but [crosstalk 00:49:50].
Senator Gooch: (49:52)
But I live in a very conservative, Republican dense area in north Georgia. I represent about 200,000 constituents in north Georgia, Forsyth, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Union, Fan, and Gilmer and Pickens. I sit around the table at numerous places and have breakfast with bus drivers and contractors, construction workers, school teachers, common everyday citizens of Georgia. And then I also go to Republican Party meetings and so forth. So I’m going to try to build the statement based on a consensus of what I’m hearing. From the people that I represent, we have totally lost confidence in our system, in our election system this year.
Senator Gooch: (50:41)
Maybe that’s not a fair statement and I’m not directing that to you or-
Ryan Germany: (50:46)
I mean, if that’s how they feel, that’s how they feel.
Senator Gooch: (50:49)
That’s how they feel. And I think we all have a duty as elected officials that represent them, I’m their voice and I’m here today on behalf of those citizens. I have a duty to let you know that this issue isn’t going to go away unless we make some changes. And I’ve already heard you go through a list of about 12 things that you or Secretary Raffensperger has indicated he feels or you feel needs to be looked at or adjusted or modified. And I’m wondering why we haven’t already done that. And maybe you’ve asked for those changes in the past. I don’t know, and we’re not going to be able to go back and change the past, but we’ve got to establish trust in our system immediately.
Senator Gooch: (51:32)
We have an election coming up on January the fifth. And so one of my questions is what can we do to reassure the citizens of Georgia that this next election is going to be a fair election? Not that the other one wasn’t, but a lot of people feel that it’s not fair and that there was fraud and you’ve already indicated there’s multiple cases of fraud being investigated. How do we know there’s not more? How do we know there’s not widespread fraud out there? Have you initiated any kind of forensic audits on the machines? I’ve heard a lot of comments about the Dominion machines. What kind of external or internal forensic auditing can be done or should be done? Should we bring in the GBI? Should we bring in a third party computer scientists to look at the software programmed into these machines?
Senator Gooch: (52:19)
I’m hearing a lot of things out there. And I don’t know, honestly, I can’t tell you what’s true and what’s not true about it. I’m very concerned about what I’m seeing in Georgia. I’ve never seen this before. I’m 53 years old, but I’ve never seen the kind of mistrust that we seem to have at this time in my district. So signature verifications, why do we have them? How did we get here? I understand you said there was a consent agreement that you agreed with the Democrat Party as part of that lawsuit. Was the Republican Party of contacted on behalf of that agreement before you signed it? I’d like to hear more about that if we had time. The ballot harvesting, you say it’s against the law, but I’m hearing all kinds of rumors that ballot harvesting does happen, not only in Georgia, but across our country. What do we do to stop it? How do we investigate it? And what do we do going forward to make sure it doesn’t happen?
Ryan Germany: (53:16)
We do have a few investigations open into ballot harvesting. And if you have anything that we should be investigating, please let us know. If your constituent says something, please pass it on because a rumor doesn’t help, but what we can do that I think will help build trust is okay, I’m hearing this. Tell us what it is. We can investigate it and then see if there’s something to it or not. The ballot harvesting investigations that we are having right now, there seem to be some confusion in a couple south Georgia counties where candidates themselves are actually going around doing ballot harvesting. And that’s subject to investigation right now. I’m glad you asked about an audit of the machines. That’s something that we’ve already done. We had an independent voting system testing lab come in after the election and audit a cross section of our machines. I think we’ve released those results to you guys, but I’ll happy to recirculate them. And what they found was no, the machines were working exactly properly.
Ryan Germany: (54:24)
The software on the machines is exactly what’s supposed to be on there. There’s a thing called a hash value where we know the expected hash value. If someone gets in and changes something, then the hash value’s not going match. And if you’re going to have any kind of code or something like that or any kind of virus, the hash value’s going to change. So they go in, they check the hash value, make sure that it’s what we expect, and it was in every instance. The other thing that I would say on the machines is the machines, as you guys know, scan ballots through a QR code that represents the voter selections. There was a lot of allegations before the election. Oh, how do we know that this is going to be accurate? So what we did when we did 100% manual tally in our audit of those ballots, that manual tally’s based not off the QR code, but off of the text on the ballot of the candidates name. I mean, that proves that what was scanned matches what was printed on those ballots.
Senator Gooch: (55:38)
Can I ask a couple just yes or no? And I will do that. The voting machines, when you go in and you punch on the touch screens that I’m going to vote for a president candidate A or B, do any of those machines have any connectivity to the internet?
Ryan Germany: (55:56)
Senator Gooch: (55:57)
Do they have a USB connectivity?
Ryan Germany: (56:01)
They have a USB connectivity in a sense that that’s how the machines are loaded, but then that’s sealed prior to when they’re in use. So no one has access to it.
Senator Gooch: (56:12)
So do those machines get used to tabulate the votes or is it just through the scanner?
Ryan Germany: (56:19)
The touchscreens are just used to print a piece of paper. That’s it.
Senator Gooch: (56:24)
And then when you take the ballot over to the scanner and you scan it, can it spit the ballot back out and then you put it back in again or does it go in and it drop in? Because I’m speaking from-
Ryan Germany: (56:34)
Senator Gooch: (56:35)
Okay. So my personal experience is that once it goes in, it drops down. It doesn’t come back out.
Ryan Germany: (56:40)
Senator Gooch: (56:40)
I’ve been told there’s cases where the ballots have been rejected multiple times and they go back in, come back out, and go back in and that some of those machines could be programmed to count those multiple times.
Ryan Germany: (56:53)
So there’s been allegations of that in Michigan I think I just saw or maybe was Arizona, one of these other states. So one thing that I think was good about Secretary Raffensperger ordering the audit the presidential election, the fact that that hand count of each ballot almost exactly matched the machine count proves that didn’t happen.
Senator Gooch: (57:17)
Ryan Germany: (57:18)
If you’re going to scan the same ballot multiple times, you’re not going to get the same count when you do a hand count.
Senator Heath: (57:25)
Okay. These are good questions. And we’ve got like two hours left. I’ll get to it. I think we’re going to have some folks that are not going to be able to be here today. So we’ve got a little bit more time, but I don’t want to take too much of your time because I know you all got work to do as well, but I wanted to go down to our minority party members. I think I saw some hands down there when I asked for questions. They say which, you’re on number seven?
Senator Parents: (57:58)
I’m on number seven.
Senator Heath: (57:59)
Let me get you lit up here. Senator Parents, you’re recognized.
Senator Parents: (58:06)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you so much for being here and thank you for all the… I know that all of you have been putting in really long days for a long time so thank you so much. And also, I’m sorry that you personally and other elections workers have come under verbal and other attacks, which obviously none of us think are appropriate in any-
Senator Heath: (58:31)
If you will, pull your microphone closer. I’m afraid if I keep turning it up, we’ll get a lot of feedback.
Senator Parents: (58:34)
Can you hear me?
Senator Heath: (58:35)
Senator Parents: (58:37)
None of us think that that’s appropriate in any sense so thank you for all your hard work. So you said that you have about 230 investigations open or some are closed?
Ryan Germany: (58:47)
Yeah, a little more than that. Yes ma’am.
Senator Parents: (58:48)
Have any resulted in issues that would suggest any widespread fraud in the presidential election?
Ryan Germany: (58:59)
What we are seeing so far is what I would kind of call the normal amount of… I don’t think fraud is the right word. I like to think about it more of kind of legal votes or illegal votes. We have about 300 instances of alleged double voting, people that voted absentee and on Election Day. So we’re looking at that. That’s significantly down from what happened in the primary based on some protections we put in place. We have about 70 instances of potential felon voting. So that’s what we’re looking at, but no, we do not. We have not seen anything that would suggest widespread fraud or widespread problems with the voting system.
Senator Parents: (59:46)
No evidence that the machines switched votes?
Ryan Germany: (59:49)
Senator Parents: (59:52)
No evidence that the wrong winner was declared-
Ryan Germany: (59:56)
Senator Parents: (59:56)
… of the presidential election in Georgia? Isn’t there already a procedure for the Secretary of State’s office to intervene through your investigators and the state elections board in a county that is not managing an election properly or via a court case? Aren’t there two methods by which that can be accomplished?
Ryan Germany: (01:00:23)
So there is. The way it works now is if there’s an allegation that a county has not done something properly, we open an investigation. That goes in front of the state election board. The state election board will, if they can concur that’s been a violation, refer to the AG’s office, and that usually results in a fine to the election board or a consent order where we put in place things to try to fix it. There’s not a mechanism basically for state intervention to say, “You know what? You guys keep on failing, so something more needs to change rather than just dealing with in a specific kind of case-by-case interventions.”
Senator Parents: (01:01:07)
So there is a method by which changes could be forced and questions could be raised in procedures, but you cannot currently take over an entire county’s system?
Ryan Germany: (01:01:22)
I don’t know if I would agree with the way you put the first thing, but-
Senator Parents: (01:01:27)
But there a procedure for you to address problems that you have identified in a particular county’s management of their elections currently? And if the state elections board agreed with you, then that could happen?
Ryan Germany: (01:01:39)
It goes through the state election board and it’s really a kind of post hoc, individualized, here’s what needs to be done to fix that one issue.
Senator Parents: (01:01:49)
Thank you. Would you agree that there was a significant decrease in issues reported with Fulton County for the November election versus the June election?
Ryan Germany: (01:02:01)
Senator Parent: (01:02:01)
Versus the June election?
Ryan Germany: (01:02:01)
Senator Parent: (01:02:06)
One last thing. Is it not the case, I understand your characterization of the left questioning elections after 2018, and the right after 2020, but I want to just raise something, and ask you, and push back a little bit, because is it not the case that there were lawsuits filed that Federal judges agreed with that were showing that eligible voters were unable to cast ballots after 2018, and indeed we changed the law to reflect that right here in 2019, and that here there have not been successful court challenges or evidence raised in the same fashion. Would you agree with me?
Ryan Germany: (01:02:57)
No. I would say in not one single one of those cases after 2018 was a single eligible voter shown not to have been able to vote. You’re correct that some Federal judges entered some relief, there was a bunch of court cases brought this year. Some Federal judges entered some relief, then it was stayed by the 11th circuit.
Senator Parent: (01:03:22)
That was different though, because that was like a sort of pre-voting lawsuit that you described earlier. [crosstalk 01:03:31] What I’m saying there was relief granted by Federal judges, after 2018’s election, and we don’t need to debate it, I just wanted to lay out there that I do believe-
Ryan Germany: (01:03:42)
I will say, from my perspective, in the same place, it is eerie how similar it feels, the allegations made after 2018, and the allegations that are being made now.
Senator Parent: (01:03:54)
Okay. Now I wanted to address one thing that the whip raised. I recall arguing quite strongly in whatever year it was, 2019 I think, that we should purchase a less expensive, more secure system in line with what the computer science experts and others were telling us. That was not agreeable, so it’s very interested sitting here now, all these attacks on Dominion. And as you’ve already stated, there is no evidence that votes were switched, and we were able to look at the readable text. I’m not at all arguing that there’s an issue there with the way this election was conducted. But I want to tell the whip, I still believe we could have gotten a less expensive, more secure system, and to the extent that anyone wants to discuss that in the majority party, I would be happy to do so.
Senator Heath: (01:05:09)
Okay. Thank you.
Senator Parent: (01:05:11)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Heath: (01:05:12)
You’re welcome. Get that microphone off you, before we drift… No, I’m picking on you.
Senator Parent: (01:05:21)
Senator Heath: (01:05:25)
I’ll point out that Senator Parent has been very helpful to me in this process, in trying to get witnesses here, and I appreciate your help. Let me also mention, three more Senators that I’m aware of joining us. Senator-elect Russ Goodman is joining us, Senator-elect Sheila McNeill, and Senator Brandon Beach was in the room just a moment ago. We welcome them as well. Let me also, before I forget again, outside on the table where you can get the affidavits is a list of some other places that you can file reports of election irregularities or observations, or what have you. That is available if members of the committee want a copy of this, we’ll be sure to get you one, but just wanted to make that announcement.
Senator Heath: (01:06:31)
I think the next hand that I saw was Senator Robertson, on microphone two, you’re recognized.
Senator Robertson: (01:06:40)
Thank you. Mr. Germany, thank you for coming down. I know you guys have been really busy. I appreciate how responsive your office has been. Mr. Teasley is always standing ready when I call him on his cell phone, once he realized that the people using his cell phone number were actually friends, after a while. I appreciate the effort Mr. Starling has put out as a PIO for eight years. I understand the heat that comes from a lot of these situations. But, you made a comment when you first started discussing the 2018 election, because of the absolute chaos that occurred there, that y’all knew that 2020 would be no exception.
Ryan Germany: (01:07:24)
I would not say that there was absolute chaos in 2018. There was a lot of people making claims, but in terms of the election process, I would say that it was very orderly and regular.
Senator Robertson: (01:07:41)
I’m thinking, inside the silo, it always seems that way. Out amongst the individuals that vote, the constituents that we represent, it’s a little more chaotic than that. I think even today, we can say that. As much control as I think your office has shown, the Secretary of State’s office has shown, what you guys are getting into the office are a lot of times filtered from what we’re experiencing out there. I think that the whip pointed that out perfectly when he talked about going out and having breakfast and coffee with constituents in certain parts, and the information that they receive, and where they receive it from, really doesn’t matter, but it causes a lot of chaos and a lot of concern.
Senator Robertson: (01:08:29)
To get to my question, is, knowing that there were issues in 2016 and coming into 2020, what actions did you take? Was there a crisis management plan put together? Because I’ve sat on a State Board of Elections call, and a member of the board, I believe it was, or it may have been a member of y’all’s office, rattled off a dissertation of claims and false claims that were out into the community. And of course he discounted each one with what I believe to be facts that you guys have gathered that these things did not occur, which is very encouraging, but the problem once again, is the audience that you’re reaching with that information is very limited.
Senator Robertson: (01:09:24)
My concern is, did y’all put a crisis communication plan together between the two elections? And if so, where did it tear, where did it break? Where our constituents are getting three and fourth and fifth hand information, even from us in some situations. Is there a plan to strengthen that between now and the runoffs?
Ryan Germany: (01:09:48)
That’s a great question. I would say, you mentioned the 2018 election, one of the big weaknesses that we found was people were saying stuff that was not true, and then we had a hard time basically breaking through. Now, of course, one big difference in 2018 and 2020 is, in 2018, the mainstream media took these claims and ran with them. In 2020, they’re not, but the right wing media is, and that’s where some of your constituents obviously get their information.
Ryan Germany: (01:10:21)
What we’ve seen, in both of them to me is, they’re both equally wrong. In 2018, these guys were wrong, in 2020, these guys were wrong. I think you guys have probably seen Secretary Raffensperger’s face on TV, we had a plan for trying to get out accurate information, try to get trusted information. We’re going to keep doing that. That’s part of our updates to you guys. That’s part of our twice daily press conferences to the press. I think what’s really difficult is when it happened in 2018, and it’s happening now, if people don’t want to listen to you, it doesn’t matter what you’re saying.
Senator Robertson: (01:11:10)
Well, and I agree with you, the problem is talking to the mainstream media, you’re not communicating with the public. Talking to me in another part, you’re not talking to the constituents. Like I said, every time Mr. Starlings got up and gave a press, or whether I understood everything he was saying, I agreed with everything he was saying, but he did an incredible job. I think it’s probably beholden on the Secretary of State’s office, y’all need to build a communication platform, a plan, to go directly to, because when a constituent asked me about Dominion, which I supported and I still support today and think it was the absolute best equipment out there for this election and for future elections, that when they call me and ask me about it, I refer them to the SOS page so they can read the RFP.
Senator Robertson: (01:12:01)
What I would love to do is when they ask for the questions about all of these conspiracies, y’all have answered a lot of them, like I said, in the State Board of Elections meeting, a lot of them were answered. Put that information out in a professional, cohesive way, so that the almost thousand emails I was getting daily at the beginning of this, my AA, who has been threatened and everything else, can direct people to the experts and get the information directly. That way, we get rid of a lot of this garbage, this kudzu that’s out there that we’re all getting wrapped up in. Thank you.
Senator Heath: (01:12:37)
Thank you, Senator. Let me give you a little bit of an update where we are, Senator Robertson, I’m actually going to recognize you here in just a second. So, as I said, we’ve been working for about four weeks on getting people from various counties here to testify today. As the meeting notice stated, we reached out to DeKalb County, to Fulton County, to the Secretary of State’s office. After that, Senator Robertson suggested bringing in Muskogee County, he reached out to them, and we had hoped to have them here, but I understand there’s been a problem this morning, they will not be able to attend. Can you just share with us sort of what’s gone on there very briefly?
Senator Robertson: (01:13:34)
Yeah. They finished up with the recount yesterday, and I think she got an email from the SOS saying that they had to get certification done by the end of business today, so Nancy Boren was going to be in Muskogee County and in Columbus doing that. My whole purpose for inviting Ms. Boren here is that consistently she has recognized as one of the absolute cream of the crop registrars, dealing with a city of approximately 200,000 people that that can get fairly chaotic during elections. Ms. Boren has just been the absolute example of how elections are managed. My reason for reaching out to the Chairman, and I appreciate him agreeing with me, was to have a standard shown so that we could see those that are failing to reach that standard a little clearer when they talked about how they ran elections. I do apologize, but as professional as she is, she follows advice, and she follows the rules and regulations, and I just appreciate her agreeing to start with, but I completely understand why she wasn’t able to be here.
Senator Heath: (01:14:48)
Ryan Germany: (01:14:48)
Nancy Boren is undoubtedly one of the best election directors in our state.
Senator Heath: (01:14:53)
I thought, for that reason, it would be good to hear from her. Also, here’s where we stand, Fulton County, I’m having a little bit of trouble keeping up with this, but Fulton County is here. They’re going to present to us. We had three hours allocated for our meeting. We’re approaching an hour and a half into the meeting. My plan is to continue, if you guys will give us another 17 minutes, we’ll continue with some question and answer with the Secretary of State, and we’re going to bring in Fulton County. We’ll go through the same process with them. Senator Seay, you had asked to be recognized. I want to get your questions, if you will, and then I’ve got a few that I think would be good for the whole that I’d like to pose. Senator Seay, you’re recognized.
Senator Seay: (01:15:53)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, first and foremost, for requiring masks in our meeting. I really do appreciate that. I thank you all, because it makes a world of difference when you’re talking nationally, how Georgia looks. I want to take us back for a second, I was elected to the House and I got my training, and I came to the Senate, and that’s the year that Georgians elected a Democratic Senate, but a Republican Governor, who was Sonny Perdue. We can’t forget we got four switchers that changed the voters input at that time. The voters had elected a Democratic Senate, but we have four switchers to switch, and that made it Republican. Through that era, I’ve still been here, but one of the things I heard in your presentation, or somebody mentioned, about the big change. I know Clayton County, where I live and represent, is part of that change.
Senator Seay: (01:17:10)
I want everybody to know we worked hard turning out the vote in Clayton County. Terrell Star, if you remember him, Bill Lee, strong Democrats, Clayton County is strong Democrats, but working in the grassroots and working hard, turning out the vote, helped get us to where we are today. I hear fraud and innuendos and all these other things, but the real deal is work. Turnout makes a huge difference when you can wake folk up and give them a reason to understand how important the vote is to all of us.
Senator Seay: (01:17:51)
I just wanted to make sure that you all know that I really appreciate what you all are doing because I have been part of leadership and a lot of national, because I started on the school board in Clayton County, back in the nineties, where I met and built relationships, and to have those folks texting and calling me talking about Georgia gives me great pride, and you all play a big role in that. All the innuendos, we didn’t go through all of that when we got four switchers to undo what the voters had done. Well, some of them didn’t get reelected the next cycle, but we had a strong Secretary of State with Kathy Cox. We have had Democrats, and it’s been a long process for me personally-
Senator Heath: (01:18:49)
Senator, do you got a question-
Senator Seay: (01:18:53)
But here, my question is, are we going to make sure that we don’t just take it just because of the noise makers? That’s my question.
Ryan Germany: (01:19:00)
I would say we’re doing the same thing that we have been doing since 2018, even before when people have started challenging the accuracy and the results of our elections. We just have different people mad at us right now.
Senator Seay: (01:19:17)
Thank you for your integrity.
Senator Heath: (01:19:20)
Okay. I want to move as quickly as I can, I’m going to take a little bit of the Chair’s prerogative. I think I got some questions that’ll be beneficial for the public to hear your response to. To try to move quickly, I’m going to sort of rattle these off at one time. We don’t need a lengthy answer, but I think these are-
Ryan Germany: (01:19:43)
That’s the second time someone’s said that today to me.
Senator Heath: (01:19:50)
If you will, just talk to us once again about the signatures required for absentee ballots, how that process goes about, to get an absentee ballot and how that ballot is verified, if you will, when we receive it. I think that what you said was there is a bi-partisan election board, and those people have an opportunity to review those before the envelope is opened, and if they challenge it, it goes into a challenge pile, and there’s a cure period for that. I’d like for you to run through that real quickly. I think it’s also important, sort of relative to that, for you to mention the “My Voter” page, how people can check the status of their absentee ballots, whether they’ve been received, or if perhaps someone has voted on their behalf prior to the election, if that happens.
Senator Heath: (01:20:46)
Then, I’ve had questions about going through and validating these absentee ballots. As I understand the process, I think I’m clear on this, once that absentee ballot has been opened and that paper ballot is put in the stack, we don’t know which… just touch on that, that we can’t, even if at this point, post-election, you go through and you say, “Oh, well, this person should not have voted. This was an illegal ballot,” whether or not you can reverse that, or pull that ballot out of the count.
Senator Heath: (01:21:21)
Then, when an absentee ballot is requested, where is it mailed? Is it mailed to the address that’s on file for the voter? Or could I say, “Oh, well, I’m off on vacation in Minnesota, and I need you to mail my ballot to some other location other than the one on file.”
Senator Heath: (01:21:42)
And then finally, because we all do get requests to have a lot of things investigated, talk to us just a little bit about the requirements, the staffing, what you’ve got available to you. How long, if you can speculate a bit, on how many man hours are invested in an investigation of a single allegation, how you try to group them together to pursue. Just give us some feel about those, if you can.
Ryan Germany: (01:22:12)
Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. On the signature process, the way that works in Georgia, is first someone submits an absentee ballot application. The signature on that application has to be matched with their signature on file before they’re ever sent a ballot. If it’s not signed, they’re not sent a ballot. If that signature doesn’t match, they’re sent a provisional ballot, and before it counts, they’ve got to come in, sign an affidavit and show their photo ID. That’s the first step.
Ryan Germany: (01:22:47)
If the signature does match on the application, the voter is mailed a ballot. I’ll jump to one of your other questions, it can be mailed to their address on file, or a temporary out of county address. We did have that this year, where people were quarantining in places besides their regular address. You can mail it to a different address out of county. You cannot mail it to a different address in the same county. That’s the restriction there, if you’re going to be in your same county, you’ve got to be getting it at your registered address.
Ryan Germany: (01:23:29)
When the absentee ballot is mailed, it comes back, that absentee ballot envelope is signed on the back, voter’s name, and it’s signed on the back. If it’s not signed, or the signature doesn’t match, then that generates a cure notice that says, “Hey, your signature didn’t match. Here’s the problem.”
Ryan Germany: (01:23:50)
What we have seen from previous investigations is when the signature didn’t match, it was generally the voter. For some reason, their signature had changed over the years. It might’ve been a case where they got married, they had a new name, signature was different. That’s why we put in place the cure process, to uphold that signature match requirement and strengthen it. When the ballot comes back in, it’s matched off of all of the signatures that are available, especially if there’s a question. For most of them, there’s no question. You look at it, it clearly matches, you’re good.
Ryan Germany: (01:24:37)
If there’s a question, then you expand it, and you look at everything you’ve got available to see what’s going on here. That could be the application, the signatures on file, other signatures they might have. That’s how that works. Then, once it’s matched, you’re correct Mr. Chairman, the envelope is separated, and it’s kept, and they’re available, they’re kept for 24 months. The ballot itself is in another envelope, it’s not marked, and that’s separated, and sent to basically to get ready to be counted when that time comes. That’s because we have a constitutional right in Georgia to a secret ballot. They verify that it’s you, and then they separate your ballot so they don’t get to see who you voted for.
Senator Heath: (01:25:26)
Talk about “My Voter” page.
Ryan Germany: (01:25:27)
Yes, sir. The “My Voter” page, if you go to mvp.sos.ga.gov, you can look up where you’re registered to vote, and your precinct. You can also look up your absentee ballot status. It tells you if you’ve requested an absentee ballot, if the application has been accepted yet, and then when you mail your ballot back in, it tells you if your balance been accepted. You can check that, and that’s the case whether you vote by mail or early in person, you can go check and make sure, “Okay, yeah, here I am,” as having voted.
Ryan Germany: (01:26:08)
The other thing that we put in place this year is a system called “Ballot Tracks” you could sign up for. I recommended this to my parents and my wife who voted absentee, they were getting concerned about, “Oh, did my absentee ballot count?” They signed up for Ballot Tracks, right when it got accepted, they got a text saying, “Hey, you’re ballot’s been accepted. You’re good.” You can sign up for that process as well.
Ryan Germany: (01:26:31)
All of those things help increase security and confidence, people can know this is how my vote has been treated. All this is, is a bunch of individual votes put together. To constituents that are concerned, I would say, “Sign up for these things, sign up for Ballot Tracks, if you want to vote absentee, so you can make sure that you know how your ballot’s being handled.”
Senator Heath: (01:26:54)
Talk to us just briefly about the investigation, that burden or workload, if you will.
Ryan Germany: (01:27:00)
We have 23 investigators. Since the November election, we have opened over 250 investigations. In voting, it really does require individualized inquiries. You see things on Twitter generally about, “Oh, here’s what I’ve found,” and it’s kind of a list without an individualized inquiry. To do a real investigation, we talk to the people involved, if it’s an out of state voter, we go to the address that they say is their home address and we see are they associated with that address still? Those are the things that we’re doing, and it is time consuming. We do triage them to try to get the most important ones first. We’ll continue to do that, our investigators are working as hard as they can to make sure that everything that’s questionable is investigated as quickly as possible.
Senator Heath: (01:28:05)
Thank you. Is there anything that, I mean, clearly the legislature is not in session, the appropriations process has taken place and been approved, but is there additional resources that, well, let me just let me do it this way. I feel like we have extended that opportunity to the Secretary, but if there’s things that the legislature can do to help out in the meantime, please let us know.
Ryan Germany: (01:28:34)
Thank you, sir.
Senator Heath: (01:28:35)
In interest of time, I’ve about used up the rest of the time, Senator Dolezal had asked to be recognized, and I wanted to go to him. We are trying to move to Fulton County at 11, so try to prioritize as best you can.
Senator Dolezal: (01:28:49)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Heath: (01:28:51)
Which microphone are you?
Senator Dolezal: (01:28:54)
Senator Heath: (01:28:54)
Senator Dolezal: (01:28:54)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Ryan. I’ll go quickly. Do you know what hash algorithm was used on the machines? Was it MD5, SHA256? [crosstalk 00:27: 03].
Ryan Germany: (01:29:03)
I believe it was SHA256, but I’ll have to get with you individually to confirm them.
Senator Dolezal: (01:29:07)
Was the entire drive hashed?
Ryan Germany: (01:29:11)
I’m going to have to get some different people with-
Senator Dolezal: (01:29:14)
Fair enough, unless the entire drive is-
Ryan Germany: (01:29:16)
I’m the lawyer.
Senator Dolezal: (01:29:18)
Understood. Unless the entire drive was hashed, unless you had source code to review, what we’ve done so far is inconclusive.
Ryan Germany: (01:29:26)
I’m happy to send you that, and then we can take any feedback to improve those techniques going forward.
Senator Dolezal: (01:29:32)
Thank you. What’s the first line of review for the signature match? Who is the person, or group of people, who review a signature in the Elections Office?
Ryan Germany: (01:29:39)
Good question. The bi-partisan boards I mentioned, they have the power to appoint Election’s Directors, like Nancy Boren in Muskogee County, and then absentee ballot clerks. It’s handled at a staff level in each county.
Senator Dolezal: (01:29:54)
What type of training do they have?
Ryan Germany: (01:29:57)
The way training works in Georgia is, we train the county election directors, and then they train their staff. We did provide GBI training to every county elections director on signature matching at the end of last year.
Senator Dolezal: (01:30:14)
I think you know I’ve expressed some concerns about your settlement agreement, but one thing that’s in the settlement agreement that has not been mentioned, anywhere that I’ve seen, is that you agreed to allow and consider in good faith, providing county registrars and absentee ballot clerks additional guidance and training materials to follow when comparing voter signatures, that’ll be drafted by the political party committees, and to clarify who the political party committees are, the Democrat party of Georgia, the DSCC, and the DCCC.
Ryan Germany: (01:30:44)
They did submit additional guidance for us to consider. We considered it and did not send it to county to utilize it for training.
Senator Dolezal: (01:30:55)
Thank you. Could you get us a copy of that?
Ryan Germany: (01:30:56)
Senator Dolezal: (01:30:57)
Thank you. Was there electronic software available for signature match and was it used? Or were there any counties that did not use it? It’s my understanding that the Fulton Republican Board of Electors did not certify the election primarily because the electronic tools that were available for the signature match were not used.
Ryan Germany: (01:31:21)
I know Fulton County was looking at what they could do electronically. There was nothing prohibiting them from using electronic means to check signatures. I know they were trying to do some additional things, where they wanted us to give access to bots, to the voter registration system, to do some of that work, and we said “Mo, you can’t do that,” but there was nothing prohibiting them from doing electronic. Do you know if they actually did electronic signature verification?
Speaker 1: (01:31:48)
At one point they were considering it. I honestly don’t know if they executed it. I think they do not.
Senator Dolezal: (01:31:53)
Is what I’ve heard, about the Republicans not voting to certify because of that in Fulton County, accurate?
Speaker 1: (01:31:59)
I’ve not heard that.
Ryan Germany: (01:32:01)
We know they did not vote to certify. I had heard the reasons were some concerns about absentee ballot signatures. We’re going to have investigators follow up with them to see what specifically, so we can investigate those issues.
Senator Dolezal: (01:32:14)
You mentioned earlier, and I wrote it down that it’s a lot to ask of these election officials to go through the volume of absentee ballot signatures that we’ve asked them to go through, and you mentioned that the Secretary does not think that signature match is the best way to verify somebody’s identity. Given those two things, and given really the massive shift toward ABM in this election, in particular resulted in 1.3 million signatures having to be approved, why not look at the signatures, and have a third-party look at the signatures, to help guide us, and help inform us, as to whether or not your assertion is accurate? That it is a lot to ask of them, whether the Secretary’s assertion is accurate, that it’s not the best way, and to give us the tools in our tool belt so that we know looking forward, whether we got it right, or whether we need to change it?
Ryan Germany: (01:33:02)
We are looking at that, from-
Senator Dolezal: (01:33:03)
Do we need to change it?
Ryan Germany: (01:33:03)
So, we are looking at that from any individualized specific complaint that we get. We’re looking at it. I think what people are asking us to do is let’s just look at all of the 1.6 million, because there were some that weren’t returned. Frankly, I’m not sure that’s something we have the authority to do. I don’t think that’s appropriate because we open our investigations based off of actionable complaints, and I think as we do that, we will get information that we’re happy to share about how this process worked.
Senator Dolezal: (01:33:37)
To date, how many signatures have you all reviewed?
Ryan Germany: (01:33:40)
So, we haven’t gotten to that part yet. First, we get a complaint. We look at our system to see… The main complaints we’re reviewing regarding the signatures are, “I didn’t vote absentee. I didn’t request an absentee ballot, but when I showed up, they said I had.” So what we look at, I say, okay, did they actually request an absentee? Like I said, what we’re seeing, what we’ve seen almost every time is they were on the rollover list. They had request one earlier in the year, and they got one for this year because they had requested it, and they were in that bucket. And then I believe we have also… Then we go to the County and say, “Hey, give us these documents.” So that’s where we are, to do the signature match. Give us the envelope or give us the voter registration stuff on file, so we can look at that. Actually wouldn’t be an envelope, it’d be an application, but give us those documents so we can review them.
Senator Dolezal: (01:34:32)
I’m sure some people have, I haven’t suggested looking at all 1.3 million. I think it would be valuable, highly valuable to pull a random sampling from multiple counties in the state, just to know how close we got it. And to put that into the hands of people who have been trained, have experience in handwriting analysis. The last [crosstalk 01:34:52]
Ryan Germany: (01:34:52)
The point that I would make on that too is, I think the point that you’re probably suggesting is what we would do then if it doesn’t match is follow up with the voter to see, “Hey, did you sign this?” Because it’s not really the point of did it match or not. The point is, did that voter sign it or not?
Senator Dolezal: (01:35:10)
Well, the point is that they should have been sent a provisional ballot. That’s the point, is that that ballot should not have been accepted, and that ballot never should have been counted. The point would be is that the system failed us. And we have potentially, to your point, we don’t know conclusively, even if the signature doesn’t match. What we do know conclusively the signature does not match, is that that should’ve been a provisional ballot, not a ballot that was accepted.
Senator Dolezal: (01:35:33)
You mentioned earlier that we send ballots out of county, if you move out of county. I pulled for the three counties who were supposed to be here today, Fulton, Muscogee, and DeKalb. We had about 20,000 ballots from those three counties alone sent out of state. Do you know how many ballots, absentee ballots, for the entire state were mailed to addresses outside of the state of Georgia?
Ryan Germany: (01:35:57)
No, but we can get that for.
Senator Dolezal: (01:35:59)
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Heath: (01:36:07)
Okay. Here’s where we are. As we said earlier, as we’ve worked to put this meeting together, things have changed, different responsibilities have bubbled up, if you will. Fulton County has some representatives here. I’m not sure at this point that we actually have someone from the elections board from Fulton County here. So I’m going to, in defense of you guys, I’m looking at Mr. [Teasley 01:36:43] in the back. We’re trying to get someone from the elections board at Fulton County here to… Understand they have work to do today. Do you guys want to go for a little bit longer, or do we want to go to the [crosstalk 00:04:01].
Speaker 2: (01:37:00)
Mr. Chairman, I have some questions [inaudible 01:37:04].
Senator Heath: (01:37:04)
I know we got some questions, and I would love to do that. And I think this is very fruitful. We had told Fulton County 11 o’clock. They’re struggling to get here. I think they are willing to come in a few minutes later. I just didn’t want to take [crosstalk 00:04:17].
Ryan Germany: (01:37:17)
We’re happy to stay as long as you guys want.
Senator Heath: (01:37:20)
Ryan Germany: (01:37:23)
These guys might have to go, but I can stay. So you’ll lose some of the knowledge.
Senator Heath: (01:37:26)
Okay. Well, that’s what we’ll do then. So I’ve seen Senator Harper indicate a question. Senator Jordan. Who else am I missing? And Senator Harbin. Okay. I’m sorry, Mr. Rules Chairman, you’re not a member of the committee. You’ll be last, but you can ask me a question.
Senator Heath: (01:38:01)
All right. So I’m going to go to Senator Jordan at this point. She can reconcile that with the rules chairman at some point down the road, how she got chosen over the rules chairman. You’re recognized.
Senator Jordan: (01:38:19)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Germany, from your remarks, it seems that the use of secure drop boxes was significant for the 11th circuit’s ruling that absentee ballots postmarked by election day, but received after election day, could not be counted. Is that correct?
Ryan Germany: (01:38:36)
Based on my reading of it, yes ma’am.
Senator Jordan: (01:38:37)
Okay. And with respect to that then, in terms of drop box use as the secretary of state, are those going to continue to be utilized through the runoff?
Ryan Germany: (01:38:46)
Senator Jordan: (01:38:47)
And do you have any idea if going forward they would be utilized?
Ryan Germany: (01:38:54)
Going forward, through the runoff, yes. It’s emergency rule passed due to COVID, it’s been extended through that time. Going forward, I think the state election board and the general assembly can look at that and see, is that something that we want to continue going forward.
Senator Jordan: (01:39:11)
Okay. And then in terms of the drop boxes, it’s my understanding that there was a pretty significant financial investment made in these because of the 24 hour video surveillance and all of the security apparatus that were put around it. Is that your understanding as well?
Ryan Germany: (01:39:32)
Yes. We were able to provide some reimbursement of that through different federal money to the counties, and I think they were also able to get some other grants for that, but that’s correct. There was significant resources.
Senator Jordan: (01:39:46)
And as you stand here today, is there any evidence that any absentee ballots were not submitted by a registered voter?
Ryan Germany: (01:39:57)
I don’t know, one way or the other.
Senator Jordan: (01:39:59)
Okay. I want to go back to the application thing because approximately a million people have now applied for an absentee ballot in the runoff. Of course, a huge segment of those are from the rollover list, correct?
Ryan Germany: (01:40:14)
About 600,000 or from the rollover list is correct.
Senator Jordan: (01:40:18)
Yeah. And so really, we’re talking about maybe 400,000 extra. But for purposes of the public, applications are not ballots, correct?
Ryan Germany: (01:40:27)
Senator Jordan: (01:40:28)
And in terms of the process with respect to an application, you have a signature on the application, but there’s also other identifying information with respect to the voter that is also cross-checked by each of the county election boards. Correct?
Ryan Germany: (01:40:43)
Correct. First they’ve got to be able to identify the voter. So, the voter’s name and address, date of birth are all listed, and they use that to identify is this voter registered? That’s how they find a signature to verify. And there are some applications that are rejected because this is not a registered voter. So that is the first step. That’s correct.
Senator Jordan: (01:41:04)
And so with respect to the signature check that’s at issue here, the signature that gets pulled up as the signature that is from the registered voter’s Georgia driver’s license or Georgia ID card, is that correct?
Ryan Germany: (01:41:17)
Correct, or from their initial voter registration application.
Senator Jordan: (01:41:20)
Right. But they are the voter’s signature, correct?
Ryan Germany: (01:41:26)
Senator Jordan: (01:41:27)
And in terms of the instances where they have not matched, isn’t it true that usually it is because of some disability or infirmity that has happened to the voter? For example, someone gets Parkinson’s disease, and so their signature becomes shaky. Is that your understanding?
Ryan Germany: (01:41:48)
I can’t speak to the why. I know, and what we have seen in the past when we have gone and done investigations on that clearly didn’t match, the investigation showed, okay, this voter did sign this. These were both the voter signatures, even though they don’t match. I can’t speak to why that was the case.
Senator Jordan: (01:42:08)
And I want to get back to something you said, because I thought it was a really important point earlier with respect to Senator Dolezal, which was in terms of the signature match, it really is just… What you’re trying to do is to verify that this is a registered, lawful voter in the state of Georgia. That’s correct?
Ryan Germany: (01:42:27)
Well, you’re trying to identify that it’s that individual registered lawful voter, not a, but that specific one.
Senator Jordan: (01:42:34)
Right. But that’s the whole intent of this.
Ryan Germany: (01:42:36)
Senator Jordan: (01:42:36)
The intent is not just to try to throw ballots out, because that’s why you have the cure process in place, correct?
Ryan Germany: (01:42:42)
Senator Jordan: (01:42:43)
Because even if the signatures don’t match, there is a process where the county elections board then reaches out to the putative voter and says, “Look, we don’t know if this is you or not. You’re going to have to come in here. You’re going to have to sign an affidavit. You’re going to have to show us your identification.” Correct?
Ryan Germany: (01:42:58)
Correct. And we expect this year, because as this is the first real election that that has been in place, that we will see a lower amount of rejected absentee ballots due to that cure process. And I think that’s a good thing.
Senator Jordan: (01:43:12)
And so just to close the circle a little bit on this application thing, because there’s been a lot of misinformation out there that somehow these are votes that someone’s collecting and sending into these various county offices. These are applications where individual voters have to provide identifying information and a signature, that then is used to verify whether or not they are lawful voter in the state of Georgia. Correct?
Ryan Germany: (01:43:37)
Senator Jordan: (01:43:38)
And at that point in time, an absentee ballot would be sent to that voter. And if that voter sends that absentee ballot back, then there is another check on the signature to make sure that that signature matches the application, but also the signature that is in the state system. Is that correct?
Ryan Germany: (01:43:56)
Senator Jordan: (01:43:57)
Senator Heath: (01:44:02)
Okay. Here’s where we stand. Due to official obligations outside of the capitol, the Fulton County elections director is not going to be able to be here today. Ms. Jessica Corbett Dominguez, who is director of external affairs, is in the hallway, and she’s willing to present… I think what we’re doing right here is very important, and what I will offer to the committee, I would ask you all, committee members, to get back to me and about your thoughts of having another meeting with these election directors, maybe others, if you have suggestions, at a later time. And I apologize it didn’t work today, but it definitely has been a moving target. So you all get back to me about that and availability on times. And if that’s what the committee wants to do, we could certainly do that later.
Senator Heath: (01:45:05)
I also want to point out that Senator-Elect Clint Dixon has joined us some time ago. Haven’t been able to keep up with that completely, but I’m going to go to the vice chair, Senator Harbin next. And then I’ve got Senator Harper. And if there’s anyone, haven’t forgot about our illustrious rules chairman sitting down here. How can you forget about him? [crosstalk 01:45:33] Yeah, that’s right. I won’t have any bills to [crosstalk 01:45:36].
Speaker 2: (01:45:35)
Short one at the end?
Senator Heath: (01:45:40)
Speaker 2: (01:45:40)
Senator Heath: (01:45:41)
So with that, I’m going to recognize Vice-Chairman Harbin.
Senator Harbin: (01:45:47)
Thank you Mr. Chairman. Ryan, thank you for answering all of our questions and the things that are there. I think the biggest thing is this is that we look at a game, at a football game. If it’s zero to 44, we’re not too concerned about who the winner is. In this case, we’re looking at 0.28, and that concerns me when it’s such a small margin that we’re dealing with. Number one question I need to ask is that I understand that in one of the precincts that represents in my district, that on the day before the election, there were updates being done to the machines because of the Senate race with 24 candidates, the machine was having problems in printing that. Is that a true statement, that those were being updated on the day before the election?
Ryan Germany: (01:46:28)
No. Is this Spalding County? Or where is it-
Senator Harbin: (01:46:31)
I’m going to get to Spalding, but this was in Fayette County. I understood that there were people coming in with USB drives to update machines the day before the election.
Ryan Germany: (01:46:39)
We did update the machines to handle how that Senate race appeared. It was based on something that was found when counties did logic and accuracy testing. So in Georgia, we have a really robust logic and accuracy testing, to make sure before the election, the machines work like they’re supposed to. They found something that was… it was a one in a million thing that they found it. So our election directors, the fact that they found it, I think is just to their credit. We were able to put in a fix for that, to make sure it didn’t happen. It was not the day before the election. It was a couple of weeks at least, or maybe… I can get you the exact date, but no, nothing would have been changed the night before the election.
Senator Harbin: (01:47:23)
One of our precincts has things working on, I understand the day before, they were there working on. So that was a concern. I know that in the audit process, we found votes that were on chips. And when we start getting down to, like I said, photo finishes, we don’t have instant replay. There were in the first audit, we found votes that were still left on chips. Am I correct?
Ryan Germany: (01:47:43)
On memory cards. Yes, senator that’s correct. [crosstalk 01:47:45].
Senator Harbin: (01:47:45)
That were not handled, so that issue comes into play. And in Spalding County, if you would, I know that there has been the request for the resignation of the supervisor there. Could you expand upon what y’all found in Spalding County? Because that’s a concern to me because the machines were down on election day, things of that nature that I got a lot of calls on. And even this, one county matters because of the narrowness of what’s going on.
Ryan Germany: (01:48:13)
So the first point you made is exactly right. We have narrow margins here. And so that’s why everything we’re looking at to bring to you guys in the next month is based off of that. And when you have narrow margins, the media asked if, after the election, are you seeing any evidence of widespread fraud? Are you seeing any evidence of widespread fraud? And our response was we don’t have a widespread margin. So that’s not really the goalpost. We have to look at every single thing because that’s how everyone on both sides has confidence in the results. And this year was more difficult because of the huge increase in absentee ballots. As Senator Dolezal brought up, that’s what changed this year, the massive increase in the number of absentee ballots.
Ryan Germany: (01:49:02)
Spalding County in particular, I guess I’ll start, and if I don’t get it right, you guys can jump in. What happened there was an improper loading of the poll pads. So that’s what’s used to check in when you go vote. Not the voting machines, this verifies who the voter is, and they weren’t creating the cards correctly. It should be caught during, during LNA testing. For some reason, it wasn’t. She had said they were updating the night before. We’ve went back and checked. It’s not true. They shouldn’t have been doing that, and they weren’t. So I’m not really sure why she said that.
Ryan Germany: (01:49:44)
But there’s a very easy fix to that, which is you go straight to the machine, and there’s another way to pull up the ballot through putting in an activation code. They did not do that seamlessly. We had to remind them about that. Once we did, I think they got everything back, up and running, but [crosstalk 01:50:07] Oh yeah, that’s the other thing. So, they were short of emergency ballots, so that slowed things down for them when that happened.
Senator Harbin: (01:50:18)
Okay. Understanding one county can make this election and flip it either way, and that’s why my concern is that we need to know what happened there, and that those votes, the right votes were counted. My last part is this, is that military votes, votes that went to PO boxes, addresses that were out of state, is there an audit process for that, that we can confirm that military votes were counted and accounted for? And also that those that went to PO boxes, as I understand it, are not eligible if they go to a PO box or a mail center. Am I on that, sir?
Ryan Germany: (01:50:50)
So you can’t have a PO box or a mail center as your resident registered address. That’s what you can’t have because you don’t live there. You can have a ballot mailed to there, if that’s your mailing address. That happens a lot in our rural counties, where they get mail at a PO box, but you cannot have a PO box as your registered address. And that’s something that we look at and are continuing to look at. What makes it a little difficult now is there are places where you can get an address that’s a mail center, that it doesn’t say PO box. It looks like a regular address, but that is something we’re looking at.
Senator Harbin: (01:51:28)
Okay. And last thing is I understand that when the first audit was done, we had 52 counties who had no change, that stayed the same across the board. There was no change at all.
Ryan Germany: (01:51:42)
Do y’all remember?
Gabriel Sterling: (01:51:43)
Senator Harbin: (01:51:45)
Is that statistically probable when we have that issue in other areas? Just curious.
Senator Heath: (01:51:54)
Just for the record, identify yourself when you-
Gabriel Sterling: (01:51:56)
Senator Heath: (01:51:57)
For the record, give us-
Gabriel Sterling: (01:51:58)
I’m Gabriel Sterling.
Senator Heath: (01:52:04)
I don’t think anybody doesn’t know you [crosstalk 01:52:05]
Gabriel Sterling: (01:52:04)
I’m with the Secretary of State’s office. I’m the voting system implementation manager for Georgia. When we did the forensic hand audit, the hand tabulation, normally… We had a university study from Rice University that says a normal hand tabulation should be 1% to 2% off, as a question of scale, on average. However, all those studies historically had been done on hand marked paper ballots. And as we know, that’s where variability can come in, in terms of adjudication. So that’s one of the big parts about that.
Gabriel Sterling: (01:52:32)
The 52 counties tended to be smaller counties, so you had less likelihood of having those variabilities come into place. And they generally were ones that had wider margins. So we didn’t see that much change. Now, overall in the entire state, we saw 0.1053% off in the overall number of ballots and 0.0099% off in the margin, which essentially shows that the system worked.
Gabriel Sterling: (01:52:57)
Now as Mr. Germany pointed out, 25% of the ballots were hand marked and 75% were on BMDs, which goes back to the rationale as to why the secretary prefers BMDs. There is zero ambiguity as to what the voter’s intent is. And most the variability we do see was when they were doing the stacking, they were doing the stacks of 10 and alternate them. And human beings being human beings, sometimes there were nine, sometimes there were 11, they balanced out sometimes. And sometimes the last one, there might’ve been two or three off. So that’s where those changes came from. And again, many were live streamed. They had monitors there. We were happier the closer we were to having no differences, but statistically, it’s not impossible. We just have really good elections directors who were very tired at this point. But I think that goes to the answer there, the fact that we had variability shows it’s a hand recount involving people doing the best they can.
Senator Harbin: (01:53:48)
All right. Thank you. I just think that the biggest thing I see is we’ve got to give people the truth for them to have trust in our system. And that’s why that’s important, but thank you.
Gabriel Sterling: (01:53:57)
And this office has done everything it can to be transparent and truthful throughout the process.
Senator Harbin: (01:54:01)
Senator Heath: (01:54:02)
Okay. We need to move along as quickly as possible, but I’m going to re recognize Senator Harper.
Senator Harper: (01:54:09)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And first off, Mr. Chairman, I just want to say thank you for calling the hearing today and to our Senate caucus and our Senate leadership for their participation in making this happen. It’s good to be with all of you today. I think it’s imperative and important, I know I want to echo a lot of what some of my colleagues have said. We have heard from a lot of our constituents, and I think that’s why we’re here. And I appreciate all of you being here today, just to answer questions so we can have this open dialogue, because I think it’s important to have a transparent process where we’re able to ask the questions that we’re being asked on a consistent basis. And we can ask it in a way where everyone can hear the answers to those questions. And hopefully, in some cases, in some of the things you’ve alluded to, we can rectify some of the issues that may be false, that are out there, and that those concerns that may not be false, we can get answers to address and see what we can do as a legislative body to address those going forward.
Senator Harper: (01:55:12)
So I want to start off by saying this. I think I, and I can speak for everyone here today, and I think the pro-tem alluded to this. We do condemn the personal attacks on each of you. I don’t support those. I think those are uncalled for, and anything we can do to support you in those efforts, we want you to know that we have your back because we don’t think that those are appropriate, regardless of who you are and regardless of what office you hold. But we know that there’s a lot of of excitement right now in this process, and I think all of you know that.
Senator Harper: (01:55:54)
But that said, just some things that I’ve been asked from some of my constituents, and I think just reiterating some of the things that have already been asked, to pro-tem referred to the ballot drop boxes. On the video footage that we have that is required in regards to the drop boxes, you said that is reviewed. How often is that reviewed? Do we review all of that footage? Is there a process to do that, or is that something you’re continually working through?
Ryan Germany: (01:56:22)
We review it upon request.
Senator Harper: (01:56:23)
Ryan Germany: (01:56:24)
If we get a complaint, or if there’s an issue, then we ask for it. Going back to what I was talking about earlier, how remember in each county, there’s a bipartisan board of elections. They can choose to review that as often as they want. And for signature matching, they can choose to be as involved in that as they want, and we encourage that.
Senator Harper: (01:56:48)
Okay. On the ballot drop boxes, is there a verifiable chain of custody from the time that box is picked up, taken to the warehouse or wherever it is taken to, until that ballot box is open to be counted?
Ryan Germany: (01:57:05)
Yes. So the regulation requires that at least two people who were sworn deputy registrars pick up those ballots, count them, put them in a sealed container, fill out a chain of custody form, deliver it to the county elections office. At that point, they confirm the number of ballots, and then fill out the chain of custody form that has been delivered.
Senator Harper: (01:57:36)
So at that time, we…
Ryan Germany: (01:57:39)
And the ballot canter has to be sealed, also.
Senator Harper: (01:57:42)
So at that time that that is done, we know how many ballots are in that drop box when it is taken to that place. So there is a count of those number of ballots at that particular time.
Ryan Germany: (01:57:52)
Senator Harper: (01:57:53)
Okay. So regardless of how long it may take us to count ballots, we know how many ballots we may or may not be counting in the next couple of hours during that time period. Is that…
Ryan Germany: (01:58:05)
So for drop boxes, yes, that’s correct. And you’re talking about for when they close them up at 7:00 PM on election night because they’re emptying them every day and bringing them in. On election night, be able to have that count. And then there’s also ones that come in to the office by that time, 7:00 PM, just through the mail process. There would not be a count on those, but they would be counted as well.
Senator Harper: (01:58:33)
Understood. Thank you. I agree with Senator Dolezal in regards to the signature match, audit, and verification issues, and a lot of what he discussed in that regard. And I know you’ve already answered those questions, but I think you hit on a really good point in the fact that making sure the person that sent in that absentee ballot is actually the person that signed that absentee ballot. Is there a process, do you have a process, or are we working on a process, where we can audit that particular provision, other than auditing the actual signature itself? I think it would be just as important to audit the signature verification to make sure that person actually did sign that ballot. Is that something we do, are we looking at doing, or is that something we need to work on going forward?
Ryan Germany: (01:59:27)
I’m not sure I follow. Is that separate from the [crosstalk 01:59:30] signature verification?
Senator Harper: (01:59:31)
Yes. It would be separate from the signature verification. You mentioned earlier in your response to Senator Dolezal in regards to signature verification, the best way to verify signatures is to verify that the person that sent in that absentee ballot is actually the person that signed said absentee ballot.
Ryan Germany: (01:59:49)
Senator Harper: (01:59:49)
Is there a way that we audit that to make sure that that is taken place maybe in a sample audit of some sort or a random audit?
Ryan Germany: (01:59:56)
The way we do that right now in Georgia law is through the signature verification. I think what we’re looking at and what we will bring to you guys shortly is what we think are possible better ways to do that, going forward.
Senator Harper: (02:00:09)
Okay. So you’re looking to bring us some suggested changes on how we can tighten that up. And I know the secretary has stated he would like to see some sort of ID provision in regards to absentee ballots. And I would support that.
Senator Heath: (02:00:22)
Senator, if you will wrap it up. [crosstalk 02:00:25] one more.
Senator Harper: (02:00:25)
I’ll get to some of the meat of the questions that I have then, really quick. I had a list of them, Mr. Chairman, but I’ll [crosstalk 02:00:34].
Senator Heath: (02:00:34)
One more question, but I’m sure the secretary of state will receive your questions [crosstalk 02:00:38].
Senator Harper: (02:00:38)
If I could get a couple, I have a couple that I think I need to [crosstalk 02:00:38] I’ll be really fast.
Senator Heath: (02:00:38)
You’re eating into Senator Gooch’s time [crosstalk 02:00:46].
Senator Harper: (02:00:38)
I’ll do it really fast. Senator Parent referenced a couple of rulings from 2018. Do we know what President appointed those judges that made those rulings?
Ryan Germany: (02:00:59)
Yes, sir. For all the rulings that went against us in pre-2018, they were appointed by President Obama.
Senator Harper: (02:01:07)
So there were President Obama appointed judges that issued rulings that went against the state of Georgia. Is that correct? Okay. I just wanted to put that out there.
Senator Harper: (02:01:15)
In regards to the consent agreement that was made in March, was the Georgia GOP involved in that process?
Ryan Germany: (02:01:24)
We’ve been fortunate to have some of the best election lawyers in the country representing us, and our lawyer in that process is also the general counsel for the state Republican party.
Senator Harper: (02:01:35)
So the lawyer that works for the GOP was involved, just not necessarily the GOP in general.
Ryan Germany: (02:01:43)
Senator Harper: (02:01:43)
Okay. And just in regards to the consent agreement, why did the secretary of state or your office feel that you had the authority to sign that agreement, when in fact, the US Constitution and the Georgia Constitution leaves authority to make changes in regards to state law, that is left up to the general assembly to determine. What led you to believe you had the authority to make that agreement with the democratic party?
Ryan Germany: (02:02:15)
So we don’t believe that changed law at all. The first thing in that agreement is you have to verify signatures, and if you don’t, you follow the law. That’s what it says. And I spend a lot of my time defending the laws you guys pass. A lot of it. And I take it very seriously. So I disagree with the premise of your question.
Senator Harper: (02:02:47)
Understood. I understand [crosstalk 02:02:50] okay.
Senator Heath: (02:02:50)
I have respect to the witnesses waiting outside. We’ve got to move on. Senator Gooch, I’m going go to you on microphone three. Please make it quick.
Senator Gooch: (02:03:00)
I will try to do much better. A quarter of the votes cast on November 3rd or leading up to November 3rd were signature verified ballots, correct?
Ryan Germany: (02:03:11)
Senator Gooch: (02:03:12)
And we just elected the most powerful position in the world, the world leader, the President of the United States. If I go to vote, which I always do, I vote in person almost every time, I have to show a photo ID, which is usually my Georgia driver’s license has a photo ID. I hand it to the person that’s working there. A fourth of these ballots that were just cast weren’t verified by anyone except the person at the registrar’s office, without very little training, little to no professional training. We just elected the most powerful person in the world. If I go buy land in my hometown, I had to have a notary public to notarize my signature. Any other business documents that you sign, most of the time, have to be notarized or witnessed. How can we certify this election-
Speaker 3: (02:04:02)
As they’re witnessed, how can we certify this election this week knowing that a fourth of the ballots haven’t been verified by professionals or even audited? You said earlier, I believe to Senator Dolezal, none of your people have done any checks on those signature verifications. How do we certify this election this week?
Speaker 4: (02:04:23)
So I agree with your, I think, overall point that photo ID is a good way to verify people. There was a lot of sort of fear about it when we went to photo ID for in-person voting. I think what we’ve found is it doesn’t restrict access. It doesn’t decrease turnout. It’s just a good way of checking and it helps increase confidence in the process. In 2005, when we moved to photo ID, this body on a party line vote went to no excuse absentee voting that did not require ID. So that’s our law. So that’s how we certify it because it followed the law.
Senator Heath: (02:05:19)
All right. Thank you. I anticipated hearing from Secretary of State’s office for 45 minutes. I think you’ve been in the hot seat now for two hours and I really do think this is beneficial. I think you’ve heard questions from the committee that reflect the sentiment of the people. And I hope that you would agree that this has been a good forum to kind of explain some of the misunderstandings that are out across the state and frankly across the country. So I do thank you for your time here. And again, you all know that you have access to the Secretary of State’s office. If there’s further questions, we want to get there. I hope that the people of Georgia, the people of this country, had an opportunity to hear what you all have said. I think it has been very beneficial. And I thank you for being here. With that I’m going to dismiss you. Thank you again for your time. And I believe that Ms. Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez is in the hallway. If she hears me maybe she can present here at the first door.
Speaker 4: (02:06:40)
I would say if you guys have any more questions, please feel free to reach out to our office and we will get [crosstalk 02:06:45].
Senator Heath: (02:06:47)
And I’ll be glad to funnel those questions to the Secretary as well if that’s beneficial to you. Will you just step out and be sure if you can find her? So we do have a hard cutoff at 12:30. So this room can be sanitized for the next committee meeting, but I don’t think that we have actually got an elections official from Fulton County, but due to their workload. So all I would say is that in your questions, maybe you need to keep in mind they may not be prepared to answer. Okay, Ms. Corbitt-Dominguez, if you will, you can take the microphone. I think along with you, you’ve got Richard Anderson, the County Manager and Rob Pitts, the Chairman of the County Board of Commissioners.
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:08:04)
Senator Heath: (02:08:05)
I appreciate you all taking time to be here. And we may at the future convene another meeting with hopes of hearing from Mr. Barron, Director Barron himself. And I feel like that as much as I have tried to not throw anyone to the wolves, I’m not sure that you’re as intimately involved in the elections as the committee is maybe hoping for or expecting. So if there’s questions that you don’t have the answers to, just feel free to say that you don’t and we’ll try to get those. Maybe you can forward those questions back to the director.
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:08:51)
Senator Heath: (02:08:53)
Like I said, we may be able to have another meeting, or if that information needs to be provided to me, I can distribute it to the committee. But with that, I’ll recognize you if you will, because I may have botched your name and your title. Just identify yourself.
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:09:06)
Senator Heath: (02:09:07)
And the format is you can make a presentation and then we’ll take questions from members of the committee.
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:09:15)
Thank you so much, Senator.
Senator Heath: (02:09:16)
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:09:17)
Good morning, everyone. My name is Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez. I am the Director of External Affairs for Fulton County. I just wanted to thank all of you for the opportunity to speak with you today and thank you for your leadership in this unprecedented year that we’ve all had. My office handles legislative affairs and communications for Fulton County, and we certainly have worked very, very, very closely with the Elections Department. And we do have a few items in the legislative package that our Board of Commissioners adopted that are relevant to elections and that we can talk about it a little bit later.
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:09:57)
First, I’d like to let Chairman Pitts say a few words if you all don’t mind. He has been very involved as well as our County Manager. As you all probably know, 10% of Georgia voters live in Fulton County. It is an all hands on deck approach. It’s something that we take very seriously. So many people across our county government have been very, very involved in the elections operation. I’m going to go ahead and turn it over to Chairman Pitts.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:10:33)
Good morning and thank you for the opportunity. Let me go back to June and based upon the challenges that we all faced throughout the state as a result of the elections in June, we made some changes in Fulton County, and we took the challenges that we faced at that time very seriously. The first thing that I did as Chair of the Board of Commissioners was to set up a task force of private citizens to look at the June elections, do a deep dive into what happened, and suggest changes that could be made. And on that committee, it was a committee of some 20 people, two state legislators were on that committee. The recommendations from that committee were presented to our board of registration and elections and pretty much to the letter they were adopted. So we’ve made significant progress since the challenges of the June election. Specifically what happened and what changes have we made in order to prepare for what I always refer to, going back to June, as getting ready for the big dance, which was the election, the November 3rd election.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:11:45)
First of all, we increased the number of polling places in Fulton County by 91 so that we ended up with 255 polling locations for the November 3rd election. We also increased the number of early voting locations. We also bought two mobile units so that our voters would have easy access throughout the county and no matter where they lived. We also, in working with our private sector, increased the number of poll workers. We had a pool of some 6,000 individuals who came forward wanting to help us. And we ended up having 3000 poll workers ready and willing and able to assist us on November 3rd. The other thing that happened, and I had no idea to be very honest with you, it was I believe, I forget the exact date, but it was about 11 o’clock in the morning. My phone rang. It was my friend, long-time friend, Steve Koonin from the Atlanta Hawks called and said, “I got an idea.”
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:13:03)
And we talked for about one minute and I said, “Steve, let me call you back.” I called him back in about two minutes and five minutes later, we had a deal. That deal was for Fulton County to partner with the Atlanta Hawks to open up State Farm Arena as an early voting location for us. And I can tell you, I had no idea the impact that that would have and had not only locally, statewide, nationally and even internationally. And what I mean by that is as result of our partnership with the Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena, NBA teams in other cities saw what we were doing, decided to copy what we did here in Fulton County and it spread. And it’s still spreading. It has gone beyond professional basketball to baseball and to even football. In fact, this afternoon, we will be announcing at one o’clock for the January 5th runoff, January 5th, January 5th runoff, Fulton County, the Atlanta Hawks, and now the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United will be partnering with us.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:14:18)
So we will now have not only the State Farm Arena, but Mercedes-Benz Stadium as an early voting location for the voters in Fulton County. I think that we have done an outstanding job budget- wise. We’ve increased our spending for this election cycle from $17 million to in excess of $35 million and it’s still growing. We’ve spared no expense. I’m aware of the criticism that has been leveled at Fulton County. We’re the largest county in the state of Georgia. But I cannot speak to what the other 158 counties have done, are doing. I cannot. But I can tell you that beyond the shadow of a doubt, there has been no instance of any unusual activity within Fulton County. I have been personally involved in it. Has there been a situation from time to time where there’s an issue with technology? Yes. Has there been a situation that from time to time where there may be human error? But as far as an orchestrated effort to manipulate the votes in Fulton County, that’s not the case.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:15:32)
And what I have challenged, anyone who has made those allegations to come forward, bring that information to me and I will take it seriously. And we will get to the bottom of it. My focus right now, and the county’s focus, the Board of Commissioner’s focus, is to prepare for the January 5th runoff, the two U.S. Senate seats, plus a public service commission seat. And we want to make sure that our process is open, fair and transparent. So that is my commitment to you and I think that I like to ask the manager to come up. If there’s anything that I missed that I should not have said, rather did not say it as an overview, but we’re prepared to work with you. We’ll follow the directives and instructions with Secretary of State and anybody else. We just want to get it right. And I think by the way, I would give ourselves Fulton County and A plus for the work that we did with respect to the November 3rd election.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:16:37)
And this just came in, I think this is instructive and helpful. This is from the Metro Atlanta Chamber. “On behalf of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, we congratulate and thank you for an organized, efficient and transparent election. You and your staff have displayed exceptional calm during a time when emotions have run an uncommonly high. Your regular updates kept the public informed and your trust in the process remain steadfast. Our business community places tremendous value on the integrity of the electoral process, the cornerstone of democracy.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:17:14)
For that reason, we are grateful for leaders like you who dedicated much time and energy to protecting this institution. As this election cycle approaches conclusion, we wish you continued success and the restful holidays spent with loved ones. Please do not hesitate to reach out if we or our team may be of any assistance in any way.” This is on behalf of the Metro Atlanta chamber. So that simply speaks to the work that we’ve done with respect to the business community. But I have tons and tons of letters and emails from private citizens who say that their experience this last election was the best effort ever. And my pledge to you is to ensure that that continues for the January 5th runoff. Thank you. [inaudible 02:18:03]
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:18:12)
So Chairman, if there are any questions we can take as you said earlier, we will do our best to answer them. And we can, if there’s something that we cannot answer, then we will gladly, I’ll work with our elections office and get those answers for any of the committee members who are here.
Senator Heath: (02:18:31)
Okay. Thank you very much. I do appreciate you folks being here and kind of alluded to this. You’d been in the hallway or somewhere for quite some time now and our intent was to be very efficient with everyone’s time and you guys have been very generous with us. So with that and keeping in mind that this is not the election staff, these folks have been very involved, but they they’re not the elections officials. So let’s try to keep our questions… I don’t want to pose questions that we know that they can’t answer. And maybe this forum will have a good feel about it and we may be able to get the Elections Director in here at a later time if we agree to that’s a good time to do going forward.
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:19:27)
And sir, I don’t want to interrupt, but I did want to apologize on his behalf. As you all know, there was a recount. Last night was the deadline. We were able to meet the deadline, but we did have some reconciliation work that had to take place this morning. It took longer than expected. So I want to apologize. He certainly intended to be here and I don’t want that to be seen as a mark of disrespect by anyone. We felt like he needed to be there and handle that, so.
Senator Heath: (02:19:57)
Trust me, I understand. Miss [inaudible 02:20:00] has been working, like I said, for four weeks trying to coordinate and different things keep happening. So it’s been hard to get people here.
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:20:10)
Yes, sir. So with that, since the buttons don’t work, is there anybody that doesn’t want to ask a question? The [inaudible 02:20:23] indicates he has a question on microphone 14. You’re recognized.
Speaker 5: (02:20:28)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Chairman Pitts for being here and everyone for being here today and giving us your time. And I know you’re very busy. I’ll try to be brief. Give us a rundown on the water main break and what transpired there. People are seeing ghosts in the shadows and we need you to expound on that if you don’t mind.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:20:50)
I’m not sure. That thing has taken the life of his own. There was a water, actually, there was a leak. The floor above where we were counting ballots at State Farm Arena, according to Steve Koonin, CEO of Atlanta Hawks. That occurred at 6:07 AM. I forget the exact date. By 8:07 AM, it was-
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:21:11)
It was on Election Day.
Speaker 5: (02:21:12)
That was the day of the election?
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:21:14)
Yes, sir. It was on Election Day.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:21:14)
And it was repaired within two hours. No ballots were damaged. No equipment was damaged. End of story. So how this has gotten to be what it is, I have no idea.
Speaker 5: (02:21:27)
Were there people in there working at that time when the leak was discovered?
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:21:31)
I was not there, but presumably there were people there because we started at probably seven o’clock, I believe. I’m sure that some people were there.
Speaker 5: (02:21:39)
So it happened at 6:07. It was prepared by 8:07-
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:21:43)
Speaker 5: (02:21:45)
So there were people there working at 6:07 when it was interrupted. Were they asked to leave and was the room secured? Tell us how that was handled.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:21:54)
I was not there so I cannot answer that question.
Speaker 5: (02:21:58)
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:21:58)
And I will say this sir, because the question of chain of custody has been raised. So I have had an opportunity to talk with the staff about that. I was not personally there, but my understanding is just in a room like this, if there was a leak over here, that does not mean that all of you would necessarily leave. And that is my understanding is that the workers who were responsible for those ballots never left the room. They were in the room the entire time. They had to stop working for a period of about two hours and that was the reason it was brought up in the first place is there was a slight delay of a couple of hours where they couldn’t access the entire room, but they did not leave. And the ballots remained in the custody of the sworn workers.
Speaker 5: (02:22:47)
Thank you for bringing some clarity to it.
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:22:49)
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:22:50)
And I’ll just add that Mr. Koonin will testify to that effect that it was 6:07. The reason I’m so was specific about that is because he’s told me on more than one occasion, from 6:07 to 8:07.
Senator Heath: (02:23:02)
I might need to know the name of the plumber. I have some leaks from time to time. That’s hard to get them fixed in two hours. Senator Robertson on number two.
Senator Robertson: (02:23:15)
Yes, sir. Thank you. I appreciate y’all coming down. I must tell you, I would rather ask these questions to Mr. Barron, but I do understand the importance of today. I heard a lot of positives about the increased number of polling places by 91 since the summer moving into November, and the increase in personnel to work within those places. And I heard the number 3000 and other things. So who was responsible for the training of those individuals and was that training conducted and completed, and if so, by that person that was responsible for making sure that they had it?
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:23:59)
Yes, sir. So within the county, we have permanent staff who did handle the training of those workers in compliance. Of course, we receive training from the Secretary of State’s office and our permanent staff then conduct a training of our poll workers. We also, some of those staff were technicians and received training, as I understand it, from Dominion directly, and again, under the supervision of the Secretary of State’s office. Yes, all of the workers were trained. We had a combination. Anyone who was responsible for handling equipment received in-person training. We also had staff you would call line managers, so they would be outside the place to remind people to have their ID, to manage the line, just the kind of customer greeting like you might have at Walmart or somewhere else to give people basic information. Those line managers, in some cases, received virtual training, but they were not personnel touching equipment.
Senator Robertson: (02:25:08)
Now you brought up the Secretary of State’s office provided the training. What they did is they provided the training to some of your permanent staff the same way they do back in Columbus. And then it’s the responsibility of the permanent staff to transition that training down to the individuals. But the Secretary of State’s office did not actually do any of the training. Did they?
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:25:27)
Correct. They trained, as you just said, the permanent staff. So it was a train the trainer model. So the permanent staff received training through the Secretary of State and they in turn trained those temporary poll workers.
Senator Robertson: (02:25:41)
Thank you. And how many drop boxes do y’all have in Fulton County?
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:25:44)
We have 38.
Senator Robertson: (02:25:46)
And all of those are under video surveillance?
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:25:49)
Senator Robertson: (02:25:49)
And have y’all had any requests for any of the video from any of those drop boxes that you’re aware of through George’s Open Records Act or any other process?
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:25:58)
That is a question I do not know the answer to. I’m not sure, Mr. Manager if you knew, but we will certainly check on that.
Senator Robertson: (02:26:04)
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:26:06)
Let me add one other thing about personnel and trained technicians in particular. Going back to the early election, there was not a technician at every polling precinct. That should have been the responsibility of the manufacturer as is customary, I understand, and the Secretary of State. That did not happen. However, November 3rd, at the 255 locations, we had on our dime a technician at every location that we paid for.
Senator Robertson: (02:26:41)
Well, Mr. Commissioner, the county is responsible for the election, correct?
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:26:48)
Senator Robertson: (02:26:48)
Okay. So I think the investment was wise for the county as is opposed to, and it’s actually, I believe on the dime that it should have been on.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:26:58)
Senator Robertson: (02:26:58)
And I do appreciate that.
Senator Heath: (02:27:01)
Thank you, Senator. That’s what I was afraid of. Senator Gooch, you’re recognized.
Senator Gooch : (02:27:08)
I didn’t want to let you down. Commissioner, thank you for being here. And Richard, thank you Dick Anderson. I’ve known you for quite some time. We appreciate what you do at the local level. I used to be a local government official as well. Can you, and I’m going to ask this question not to be derogatory in any way, but just from a distance living in north Georgia. Every year we have elections. We watch our televisions or we watch the Secretary of State’s results come in. It seems like every year there’s a problem, either a delay or some kind of a technical issue or something in Fulton County. Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s just what I hear and what I remember. Is there something that you need from us at the state level or from the Secretary of State to prevent those delays and those problems in the future? Or can you tell me why there seems to be a continuous problem year after year?
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:28:05)
I’ll take a first stab at that and I might defer to the County Manager and our Chairman. So I do think that some of that is we are a very large county. We have more polling places than other counties. Fulton County is 70 miles from north to south. It does take time to close down the polls, get the results physically to the places where they can be uploaded. So some of that is geography and volume. Chairman Pitts, I was born and raised in Cobb County, Chairman is a proud native of Jones County. We don’t hear a lot about what’s happening in Jones County on WSB. We don’t hear about, out of our 158 other sister counties, Fulton County is certainly in the spotlight and we recognize that. So I think some of it is reality and some of it is perception. And Chairman, I don’t know if you want to…
Senator Gooch : (02:29:07)
Could I ask another question?
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:29:08)
Senator Gooch : (02:29:08)
Since the signature verifications is the responsibility of the local governments-
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:29:15)
Senator Gooch : (02:29:15)
How can you ensure us as voters and citizens of Georgia that all of the signatures are authentic and not being forged?
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:29:27)
If you don’t mind, I’m going to take this off so I can [crosstalk 02:29:29] breathe a little easier. So I would say sir, there’s a state prescribed process that we have workers who follow that process. There is the first step in verification is to look at the driver’s license signature for that voter if it is available in the DDS system. And that is the first step. If that signature is not available, then the workers go back to the original voter registration file and follow that process. And if they’re not able to make a match from that, then that application or ballot is denied and then the voter is notified and given an opportunity to cure that process. So I think that it is our intent to follow the law, to follow the process that is provided by the Secretary of State, and to our knowledge that is what is happening.
Senator Gooch : (02:30:32)
Can you describe the training process of those employees that were trained to do that?
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:30:37)
I’m sorry. I don’t think that I could speak in great detail about that, but again, as I shared with your colleague, we receive training from the Secretary of State. Our permanent staff received that training. We do have additional workers during a large election such as this where the volume is so much greater and they received a train the trainer process. So I couldn’t speak in greater detail than that, but I’d be certainly glad to arrange for someone else who could.
Senator Gooch : (02:31:22)
Yes. Thank you.
Senator Heath: (02:31:27)
Okay. Are there other questions? Senator Jordan, number six, you are recognized.
Senator Jordan: (02:31:28)
Thank you. And thank y’all for being here. I really appreciate it. Really, one of the main things that I wanted to highlight is the fact that there were significant issues during the June primary. I think everybody knows about that because of the publicity that followed that. And so I just want to say thank you for working with the Fulton County delegation. Thank you for really doing a deep dive in terms of the task force and trying to really figure out what were the issues and how could you fix it before November. And I think the fact that really with respect to Fulton County how it has gone, I mean the November election, I don’t think could not have gone better in terms of the way it was managed. And so I appreciate that. I really, really do.
Senator Jordan: (02:32:17)
In terms of what Senator Gooch said with respect to any kind of delay, Fulton County has approximately 835,000 registered voters, right? And so this time, it seemed like the results got out, I mean, as early as you could possibly expect them to get out in terms of the volume. Would you say that the fact that Fulton County or the various counties were allowed to at least just begin the processing of the absentee ballots kind of helped that process? Because previously you couldn’t even start processing those ballots until Election Day, which of course then delays the ability to get the results out, especially if you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people in a county. And so was that helpful this time and did that impact Fulton county’s ability to actually get the election results out probably earlier than anyone expected?
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez: (02:33:21)
Thank you, Senator Jordan. And again, thank you for all you do in partnership with Fulton County. Yes, absolutely. We received about over 130,000 absentee ballots in this election, which is 10 times more than what we had in the 2016 presidential election. And we know that Fulton County received more absentee ballots than many counties across the state have in population. So it certainly, it’s a tremendous factor for us that was… Absentee voting is the most worker consumptive form of voting. You have to touch the application. You have to touch the ballot. You have to do the signature verification as we just described. You have to then scan and process. Each of those paper ballots. It is much more work intensive than other forms of voting. So the more opportunity we have in the front end to handle that, the more successful we can be, absolutely.
Senator Heath: (02:34:25)
Okay. So I think all the committee members know if you want to be recognized, you got to kind of get my attention. I will try to do that. And we do have a cutoff in about 25 minutes, but I’m going to, because he waved at me so big, I’m going to go to Senator Dolezal, and I think Senator Harbin, did you indicate if there’s others, just let me know, we’ll try to get to you. Recognize Senator.
Senator Dolezal: (02:34:57)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you all for being here. We really do appreciate it. I think the committee is grateful for your attendance and waiting on-
Speaker 6: (02:35:03)
… appreciate it. I think the committee is grateful for your attendance and waiting on us as we soak the secretary staff. I just had one question, and I asked this of the secretary staff and they were not clear on it. It’s my understanding that the Republican members of the Fulton County board of election would not vote to certify the Fulton County election.
Speaker 6: (02:35:19)
So really two questions around that. I asked the secretary staff if they knew why, and they did not know why. It’s my understanding that the reason why is that you all did not use electronic signature tools that were at your disposal maybe had been used in the past. I’m curious if y’all could shine any light on why they may have not voted for that certification. And also, I’m curious, are you aware of any other time, and your other previous election, where members of either party did not vote to certify your election?
Speaker 7: (02:35:47)
Thank you. So I can confirm that they did not vote to certify. That is correct. I do not recall the reasons that they stated. I was not monitoring that specific meeting at the time of that vote. So I do not know what reasons they stated. The meeting was videotaped, and I will be glad to send a link for the committee to review and could look into that. And I also don’t recall specifically whether or not that ever occurred. It’s possible, of course. It’s a five-member board and there could be any number of reasons, but I couldn’t speak to whether that has occurred in the past.
Speaker 6: (02:36:26)
Senator Heath: (02:36:30)
Okay. Recognize the Past Chairman Harpin.
Past Chairman Harpin: (02:36:33)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you so much for being here. We appreciate it.
Speaker 7: (02:36:36)
Past Chairman Harpin: (02:36:37)
I’m very interested, you said the NFL, the NBA, and United were all partners. What does a partner do and how does a partner participate in that process, if you would?
Speaker 7: (02:36:50)
Chairman, would you like to speak to that?
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:36:53)
What I mean by that is, after the announcement of our partnership with the Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena became public, NBA teams in other cities said, “Well, if the Atlanta Hawks can do this in Fulton County with their arenas, why can’t we do it here?” Because there was so much interest nationally in the election. So that’s what I meant by that.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:37:18)
So they partnered with us by allowing us to use that facility. The Charlotte Hornets, as an example, they did the same thing with their arena, the Detroit Pistons switched. I forget exactly which baseball teams and which football teams did like. But in addition to that, the professional athletes, and I say this, and I mean no disrespect to them, but many of them probably couldn’t spell politics until this year.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:37:46)
But they actually took the time to register and to vote and to get out in their communities and talk about the importance of voting. What we started here has been a movement, a movement between the public sector and the private sector, government and our sports teams in particular. That’s what I meant by that partnership.
Senator Harper: (02:38:10)
And they also contributed staff.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:38:12)
Senator Harper: (02:38:14)
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:38:15)
The Atlanta Hawks, when Steve Koonin called us, said, “We have about 300 staff people here that we’re paying, so we won’t cost Fulton County any money. We will pay our staff people. All you have to do is train them, get the equipment here, and train them.” And they did just that.
Past Chairman Harpin: (02:38:35)
Did you have any players active, as far as participating, volunteering?
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:38:38)
We did, including Coach Pierce.
Past Chairman Harpin: (02:38:41)
Okay. The other one I was very interested in, is a mobile unit. How does a mobile unit unit function? How is it used? I mean, is it every day it’s going somewhere differently? Is it going to nursing homes? Is it going to places where large groups of people are? How is that mobile process done?
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:38:58)
We had a schedule that was published. You want to?
Speaker 7: (02:39:02)
Thank you. The mobile unit is treated as a precinct. Let me just back up and say, before we had the mobile units, Fulton County has several colleges and universities within the county. So during our early voting period, we would go to Georgia Tech for a couple of days, Georgia State for a couple of days, specifically the public universities, because as you all know, early voting has to occur on either an election day site or a government-owned facility.
Speaker 7: (02:39:33)
So we had the opportunity to do that. So we had a model already where we had early voting locations that were not open the entire three-week period. So the mobile units kind of take that a step further. And so for any location that again, was either a publicly-owned facility or an election-day site, we were able to take the mobile unit out.
Speaker 7: (02:39:57)
We publicized the list. We actually have 25 different locations throughout Fulton County, North to South. And one of the things we do is we have six geographic commission districts, and we make sure that we divide early voting opportunities equitably among those commission districts.
Speaker 7: (02:40:15)
So for example, the first day of early voting, it will be at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. It’s going to visit Atlanta History Center, which happens to be one of our election-day sites. And they will go for a couple of days, the same hours as whatever early voting is open that day.
Speaker 7: (02:40:33)
The other advantage is if we had, let’s say, a plumbing emergency, or some facility issue at a location, we could reprogram that mobile unit to go there and provide relief on election day. The machines, the equipment, is there and we’re able to have voters check in. It’s Wi-Fi enabled. So we’re able to offer voting and expand the number of locations. As I mentioned, Fulton County is very large and populous, and so it helps us be able to reach voters, again, all over Fulton County.
Past Chairman Harpin: (02:41:12)
Who owns those units? Just curious.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:41:14)
We do, we do. Let me give you two specific examples about the two units. The power went out at two of our precincts, the one at Chastain Park, the other at Union City. Perfect example for deploying those to mobile units.
Past Chairman Harpin: (02:41:28)
Okay. Okie-doke thank you very much.
Speaker 7: (02:41:31)
And yes, sir, they are owned by the county.
Senator Heath: (02:41:36)
Senator Harper on number four.
Senator Harper: (02:41:39)
Yes, sir. Thank you. Thank you all for being here.
Speaker 7: (02:41:42)
Thank you, sir.
Senator Harper: (02:41:43)
Really appreciate it, and thank you for your patience while we were discussing the same with the secretary of state’s office. Senator Jordan referred to the early period, the secretary of state’s office, and the state elections board with the rule-
Speaker 7: (02:41:59)
Senator Harper: (02:42:00)
… where counties were given extra time before the election to start processing ballots. And if she asked this question, I apologize. Did you, or did Fulton County, did y’all utilize that emergency rule? Did you begin processing ballots early?
Speaker 7: (02:42:23)
We did. I don’t know that we used the full two-week period. We had ordered some equipment throughout the process. We augmented the equipment that we were provided by the secretary of state’s office. So I don’t know that we used the full two-week period, but we certainly used part of it, and were able to, again, a very high volume of absentee ballots, 130,000 more than we’ve ever had before.
Speaker 7: (02:42:53)
So that time was very much needed to begin that process. Even just sorting the ballots and those kinds of things is very work intensive. So I don’t know that we, again, took full advantage of it, given the opportunity, but we certainly were able to use that time and to the benefit of the elections process.
Past Chairman Harpin: (02:43:17)
So, and you may not know the answer, and that’s fine if you don’t. You don’t know what percentage of those ballots you may have processed before or after?
Speaker 7: (02:43:25)
I don’t. I think we have that and I will certainly look into it and try to get an answer for you.
Past Chairman Harpin: (02:43:30)
And just kind of a followup on that. I know that you process those through the scanner. Do you know? Is there a higher-speed system that we might could use to help speed that process up a little bit? Because I believe that was a lot of the issue that Fulton County dealt with that week, was trying to process those ballots.
Speaker 7: (02:43:52)
I actually spent a whole night at State Farm Arena with the workers there, and I saw firsthand, it is very time-intensive. My understanding is that vote-by-mail states, like many Western states, use an ultra-high volume or a very high-speed scanner. We used a higher-speed scanner than what you would use in the precinct, but it was still not, I guess, the highest-speed scanner that is produced. And that could certainly be an advantage in a situation like that, where you’re scanning hundreds of thousands of ballots. Yes, sir.
Past Chairman Harpin: (02:44:31)
Okay. Thank you.
Speaker 7: (02:44:32)
But I’ll see if I can get more information for you.
Past Chairman Harpin: (02:44:34)
All right. I think most everybody else around the committee asked some of the other questions I was going to ask. So I appreciate you being here.
Speaker 7: (02:44:41)
Thank you so much.
Senator Heath: (02:44:45)
Okay. Senator Ramon. Are you on-
Senator Ramon: (02:44:48)
I’m on seven.
Senator Heath: (02:44:50)
I see two sevens down there. Are y’all sharing a microphone? [crosstalk 02:44:54] Well, let’s see.
Speaker 8: (02:44:56)
Well, the mic worked when you tried it earlier, though.
Speaker 9: (02:44:58)
They’re both seven.
Senator Heath: (02:45:02)
They’re both number seven. So you don’t have to share a mic. They’re both on.
Speaker 9: (02:45:04)
No problem. [inaudible 02:45:05] through.
Senator Ramon: (02:45:12)
Can you hear me?
Speaker 7: (02:45:13)
Yeah, I do.
Senator Heath: (02:45:13)
Senator Ramon: (02:45:13)
Okay. This is more like a comment. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, to have an opportunity to meet us over here, and as we all know, this is an unusual time and unusual year and unusual election that we had. We heard a lot about the signature match today, but I may be the only person had a different issue. I’m talking about this is unusual times.
Senator Ramon: (02:45:40)
What happened is, the district I represent, people look a lot different than in this room, except probably me. I’m probably the only senator that recall that somebody voting in person and with the ID, didn’t look exactly the same the ID was made, because of the COVID, had a beard, and the hair, everything else.
Senator Ramon: (02:46:03)
And the person was challenged. Just said, “Well, that’s not you.” So that’s happening too. So I just want you, the committee member, to know what you’re going to figure out, had a harassment, I had a call, had to interfere, and the person was able to vote eventually. But the thing is, this kind of discrimination happened too.
Senator Ramon: (02:46:23)
Even here, you have a ID and a registered voter, and a citizen, nothing wrong with it, and you voted in the primary, had no problem, and then you go to general election and they say, “Well, that don’t look like you.” What do you do then?
Senator Ramon: (02:46:37)
We going to have the first recognition machine or something to make sure we don’t have discrimination? That’s what I feel. And I had several folks in my district, they come from all different part of the world. I represent, the people come from 100 different countries, speak 100 different languages.
Senator Ramon: (02:46:57)
Sometimes some of these folks don’t even speak good English. So we have a lot of other problems in the state of Georgia, not necessarily on the signature problem. I just wanted to put that out for your consideration. I want you to think about it.
Senator Heath: (02:47:11)
We will see if we can get an answer. I think the appropriate channel for that question may be to the secretary of state’s office. And we’ll see if we can get an answer for the committee on that. Are there other questions? Okay. Senator Robertson, number two, you are recognized.
Senator Robertson: (02:47:36)
Thank you, sir. And really quick, something that you mentioned when Senator Harper was asking his questions, is you pointed out a high-speed scanner that possibly might be available to expedite the process, while at the same time stating that your employees did not take full advantage of the time offered by the secretary of state’s office to do this.
Senator Robertson: (02:47:56)
And I think that maybe looking into the process, because as a manager of large number of people, we need to make sure, especially something as important as an election, whether it’s a city, county commission election, or any other election, that all of those involved are taking full advantage of the equipment, training, rules, regulations that are laid out before them.
Senator Robertson: (02:48:19)
And I hear constantly, not just from Fulton, but from other counties, “Well, you know, we’re a whole lot bigger than this, and we’re a lot different, and we have more ways to travel.” You also have a lot more resources.
Speaker 7: (02:48:32)
Senator Robertson: (02:48:34)
Something this important, threat assessments and planning and everything is so extremely important, so I have a problem of embracing excuses that are brought up because of self-inflicted problems. And what Senator Gootz was talking about earlier is, I don’t watch WSB where I’m at, I rarely read the newspaper here out of this city, but always is Fulton County brought up when there comes some kind of issue. And I think the important thing is for us to dive down and address the issue. And, in public safety and everywhere else, the resources you have are greater because of the size of your community.
Speaker 7: (02:49:20)
Senator Robertson: (02:49:21)
And so I get a little concerned with that, but I would hope before you went out and invested more of your money on high-speed scanners, that first of all, we get a good idea of what you can accomplish when you take full advantage of the regulations and rules offered to the communities by the secretary of state’s office.
Speaker 7: (02:49:42)
Senator Robertson, I think that’s a very fair point. I think that Fulton County is blessed with resources. We are the largest county. And one thing that we have done, I want to reassure you, is convene a team. And part of the reason I’m able to answer some of these questions today, although my job is mostly PR and legislative affairs, is because we have had a very large, multidisciplinary team across the county, a bear hug approach of wrapping ourselves around this, as first the pandemic, and secondly elections have been the two issues that we have faced this year.
Speaker 7: (02:50:26)
My boss, who is a wonderful manager and leader, our chairman, everyone from the chairman down to the staff who are wiping and making sure the facilities are safe for us have had a full-bore approach to this. And now that the election is over, sir, although it doesn’t feel like it’s over quite yet, we, I believe, have already begun the after-action analysis to help us do better.
Speaker 7: (02:50:56)
This is important to us. It’s important to Georgia. It’s one of the services that counties are responsible for that, I think, all of us hold sacred. And I think it’s something that your point is well taken. And I want to assure you that all of us are here to help make sure that happens. So thank you.
Senator Heath: (02:51:14)
Okay. I don’t see any more questions in the room. I have one question, I guess, that I was worried about being asked, but as I sit here and I think about it, I want to pose the question and if you don’t have the information to answer it, then just say that.
Speaker 7: (02:51:37)
Senator Heath: (02:51:38)
There’s been a lot in the media about some of the elections officials or election board, I’m not sure what, that left while there was still some counting process going on. And the only reason I ask this question is that I believe with all my heart, there’s a lot of misinformation out that we’re all struggling with. And we chase these little rabbits and they turn out to not be a rabbit at all. But if that is something you have knowledge of, for sure one way or the other, and could speak to that, I think this might be a forum to help clarify some of the rumors.
Speaker 7: (02:52:27)
Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity, because I was with the elections director the night of the election when this came up. Originally, we were processing absentee ballots at State Farm Arena. We had a number of staff there who had been there since early that morning when the water break that we talked about earlier occurred.
Speaker 7: (02:52:52)
One of the managers had apparently directed some of the staff to leave about 10:30 that night. I was with the elections director when he told them, “No, you need to ensure that staff stay and continue working. We still have a lot more work to do.” Some of the employees did leave at 10:30, and at that time, my understanding is that at the time they left, or before they left, some of the observers also left.
Speaker 7: (02:53:23)
They may have had a conversation with some of the workers there and told them they were leaving at 10:30. I wasn’t personally there for that. So I can’t speak to it. There were people, however, there was a secretary of state monitor who stayed. Once there was clarification that these workers were going to continue, additional monitors stayed.
Speaker 7: (02:53:46)
So I believe it was a communication issue. I always say that every problem at some level is a communication problem, and I believe that is what occurred there. There was no intentional misleading of anyone. There was nothing untoward that occurred, but some of the workers stayed at that time. Some workers stayed, some left, some of the observers, as I understand it, had left. But there was a secretary of state monitor there the entire time. I hope that helps.
Senator Heath: (02:54:16)
Yeah. Thank you.
Speaker 7: (02:54:16)
Senator Heath: (02:54:18)
Okay. I’m not seeing any other questions from committee members. I do want to thank you for being here-
Speaker 7: (02:54:26)
Thank you, sir.
Senator Heath: (02:54:26)
… and filling in for Director Barron. And as I said, we may try to do this again.
Speaker 7: (02:54:33)
Senator Heath: (02:54:35)
I know everyone is a bit overworked, and certainly, legislators are citizen legislators, and they all have other things to do, but I do believe that our centers take this responsibility very seriously, and I think that’s evidenced by the fact that all of our committee members are here today.
Speaker 7: (02:54:59)
Senator Heath: (02:54:59)
I thank you all for being here. And we are we’re currently about six and a half minutes short of our absolute deadline to end the meeting. So I will adjourn the meeting at this point. I do want to thank you all for being here. I thank the media for their coverage, and I apologize for the problems that we’ve had relative to the COVID situation. And before you actually leave, I see the whip has had a movement over here.
Speaker 10: (02:55:31)
Here we go. I just wanted to remind the audience, a lot of people out in the hall and back home that are watching, that are concerned about what’s going on here in Georgia, there will be another meeting at 1:00 p.m., and I believe it’ll be aired as well on the same website. Is that correct?
Senator Heath: (02:55:51)
I believe that to be true. That’s not my meeting and I can’t speak authoritatively about that, but I have been made aware of that, and I plan to attend that meeting. As I understand it, and maybe we’re talking about the same meeting, it’s a subcommittee of the judiciary that will be meeting in this room at one o’clock. And that’s not my committee. So if there’s any misunderstanding, I would direct you to the secretary of the senate’s website.
Speaker 10: (02:56:24)
I just didn’t want people to leave their positions where they are and thinking this was the end of the discussion of the topic. It is for this committee, but there is another meeting at one o’clock. So thank you.
Senator Heath: (02:56:34)
That’s exactly right. So again, thank you, Mr. Pro Tem. Let me get you turned on.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:56:40)
Thank you very much.
Senator Heath: (02:56:40)
I mean the microphone. I know you’re turned on.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:56:42)
I’m wound up. I’m wound up, I can tell you. I want to thank the folks from Fulton County for being here and the secretary of state’s from being here, and we heard from Muskogee County folks that could not be here. Some clarification, did we not have one more group that we were expecting?
Senator Heath: (02:57:00)
So I’ll run through that again very quickly. We had invited to this meeting, election officials from Fulton County, from DeKalb County, and later Muskogee County, as well as the secretary of state’s office. But in all fairness, I think it was early yesterday morning, DeKalb County communicated with us that they would not be able to make it due to their offsite workload. And I mean, I think you guys have stepped up.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:57:41)
This is what I want to recognize, exactly.
Senator Heath: (02:57:42)
The same thing is going on, probably, in every county. We have done everything we know to do to create a forum for the committee to get to the bottom of the issues that we’re hearing, and to reestablish trust in the elections process. And I want you to know that as your chairman, if you have recommendations for a future meeting, we can certainly do that.
Senator Heath: (02:58:10)
I would ask you to communicate those. Probably, the best way is to communicate those through Abby, who does a phenomenal job for me, but as you do that, let us know what your availability is. I realize this is the Christmas season. I know, as legislators, the calendar really ramps up as you start into the next session. But we can certainly meet again, but I will not abuse your time. And we’ll do whatever we can do to serve you. With that, the meeting is adjourned.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:58:46)
Mr. [inaudible 02:58:47], I just want to make one closing statement. That’s to thank you and the members for allowing us to be here. And if you have any suggestions whatsoever that you think will be helpful to Fulton County to make sure that January 5th is a smooth, is an open, and a fair and transparent election, I would like to hear from you. I would welcome that, and I will not consider that to be any criticism of anything that we’re doing. But we want help. If you can help us in any way, ideas, suggestions, we’re open. If you need us back here again, we will be here. That’s my commitment to you.
Senator Heath: (02:59:23)
We appreciate it.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:59:23)
Thank you, sir.
Senator Heath: (02:59:24)
Y’all have a Merry Christmas if we don’t see you.
Chairman Robb Pitts: (02:59:25)
Speaker 7: (02:59:25)
Senator Heath: (02:59:36)
[crosstalk 00:24: 26].
Chairman Robb Pitts: (03:00:12)