On the eve of key Senate runoffs, a Georgia election official accused President Donald Trump’s legal team of intentionally misleading voters about voter fraud and said the president persists despite evidence to the contrary.
Gabriel Sterling, Georgia voting system implementation manager, explained to reporters Monday how voting was secured during the Nov. 3 election and detailedhow the complaints from Trump and his allies were wrong. He specifically explained how Trump’s legal team inaccurately described a video of vote counting in Fulton County, which he said was observed by representatives from each party and by reporters.
“The president’s legal team had the entire tape, they watched the entire tape, and then –from our point of view – intentionally misled the state Senate, the voters and the people of the United States about this,” Sterling said. “It was intentional, it was obvious, and anybody watching this knows that.”
The accusations are crucial because Georgia has two Senate runoff elections ending Tuesday that will determine which party controls the chamber. Trump and President-elect Joe Biden each were traveling to Georgia on Monday to campaign for their candidates.
Sterling explained how officials investigated complaints from the Nov. 3 election that alleged that thousands of ineligible voters including felons, underaged voters or people from other states, had cast ballots. But he said the outstanding complaints number in the dozens rather than the tens of thousands that Trump’s team alleges.
“None of that is true, not a whit,” Sterling said of an accusation that pieces of voting machines were removed and replaced. “This is all obviously, easily, provably false. Yet the president persists and, by doing so, undermines Georgians’ faith in the election system, especially Republican Georgians in this case, which is important because we have a big election coming up tomorrow, and everybody deserves to have their vote counted if they want it to be.”
A reporter asked Sterling whether he considered Trump’s call Saturday to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, when the president urged him to “find” votes for Trump to win against President-elect Joe Biden, was an attack on democracy.
“I personally found it to be something that was not normal, out of place,” Sterling said. “Nobody I know who would be president would do something like that to a secretary of state.”
Biden won the state by a margin of 11,779 votes, or 0.24%, of the roughly 5 million ballots cast, according to the results Georgia certified.
Georgia officials tallied votes for the presidential election three times, including in an audit required by state law and a recount requested by the president. Each count determined that Biden won the state, the first Democrat to do so since 1992.
But during a call Saturday, Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to alter the result of the election. Trump added that the people of Georgia are angry and that there would be nothing wrong with admitting “that you’ve recalculated.”
“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state,” Trump said.
Trump blamed his loss in Georgia on widespread voter fraud. But the Justice Department found no evidence of fraud that would change the outcome of November’s election.
Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, told Trump that he was “wrong.”
“Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out,” Raffensperger said.
Sterling said Raffensperger recorded the phone call “out of an abundance of caution,” noting the “political situation” and Trump’s history of “sometimes not necessarily characterizing things as they actually occurred.”
Congress is scheduled to count Electoral College votes Wednesday that will determine Biden the winner. Based on state-certified results, Biden got 306 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 232.
Trump and Biden each were traveling Monday to Georgia, to campaign for candidates in runoff that will determine control of the U.S. Senate. Voting ends Tuesday.
Trump supports Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and former Sen. David Perdue, whose term expired Sunday with the start of a new Congress. Biden supports Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock.
Sterling said he expects high turnout in Tuesday’s runoff election but also anticipates “any number of potential threats” aimed at discouraging people from voting.
“We encourage everybody to please turn out, be safe, be smart and don’t let anybody getting in the way of casting your vote,” he said.
Contributing: Joey Garrison