Georgia’s U.S. senators on Monday called for the state’s top elections official to resign, asserting a lack of transparency.
“The management of Georgia elections has become an embarrassment for our state. Georgians are outraged, and rightly so,” Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) wrote in a joint statement.
“We have been clear from the beginning: every legal vote cast should be counted. Any illegal vote must not. And there must be transparency and uniformity in the counting process. This isn’t hard. This isn’t partisan. This is American. We believe when there are failures, they need to be called out—even when it’s in your own party,” they continued.
“There have been too many failures in Georgia elections this year and the most recent election has shined a national light on the problems. While blame certainly lies elsewhere as well, the buck ultimately stops with the Secretary of State. The mismanagement and lack of transparency from the Secretary of State is unacceptable. Honest elections are paramount to the foundation of our democracy.”
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger should step down immediately because he has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections, the senators said.
Raffensperger’s office didn’t answer a phone call on Monday and an email wasn’t immediately returned.
Raffensperger, a Republican, told reporters last week that his office and county elections officials were focused “on making sure that every legal vote is counted and recorded accurately.”
“If any member of the public raises legitimate concerns, we’ll investigate those. We are committed to doing anything and everything to maintaining trust in our elections process for every Georgian, regardless of partisan preference,” he added.
Raffensperger inexplicably told a media outlet on Nov. 5 that there were under 25,000 ballots left to be counted but his office later gave a figure of over 61,000, with no explanation for the discrepancy.
Since then, Raffensperger has avoided most press conferences and, at the one he did attend, did not take questions.
Instead, Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system implementation manager, has given updated and fielded queries.
Asked where Raffensperger was during one briefing last week, Sterling said he was in meetings.
The ballot counting in Georgia has been among the slowest in the nation. Officials are eyeing Nov. 10 or Nov. 11 as the completion of the tallying, Sterling told reporters on Monday.
Sterling addressed reported irregularities, including a rumor that ballots were found in a dumpster in Spalding County last week.
“They sent investigators down. What they found was empty security envelopes. So there was nothing there that affected the outcome of the election, and made for good video but didn’t actually have any ‘there’ there,” he said.
The Spalding County sheriff previously said only empty envelopes were found. Darrell Dix said he sent deputies to all 18 polling places in the county to check dumpsters but they found no other election-related documents.
“It was a configuration issue on a single machine,” Sterling said.
In Gwinnett County, officials found nearly twice as many ballots cast as what was shown as the overall vote. According to Sterling, that was because the county uses two languages on its ballots, which requires multiple pages.
The number of ballots cast was actually the number of pages scanned, he said, adding: “So there is no double ballots.”
Another issue in Gwinnett County concerned a configuration issue that led to officials requesting an additional adjudication module.
Fulton County officials said on Nov. 7 that they were rescanning provisional ballots after a review found “that some ballots were not captured in last night’s results.”
Sterling said that officials found a box of 358 damaged ballots in State Farm Arena. Workers are supposed to replicate ballots that are damaged by the automatic voting machine but they failed to do so for those ballots.
“The process took a long time. And I don’t have a better answer as to why it took so long. But it did. So they went through that process, they scanned those ballots, added into the totals, backed out the results they put on Friday, put the new ones back in. And even at the end of the day, they were trying to reconciliation one last time, and they were seven ballots short, they couldn’t find seven ballots. So then somebody brought up the ‘Hey, have you looked in the spoiled ballot bin?’ And sure enough, that’s where the seven ballots are,” he said.
“So they were able to get to a full accounting of all those ballots. And the problem we have is when people don’t follow the processes and procedures, it undermines people’s faith in the overall outcomes. It’s a silly little thing … but these details are very important. And Fulton unfortunately had a history of some of this stuff,” he added.
As of the current count, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is ahead in Georgia by about 10,000 votes, well within the margin of a recount, and Georgia officials have said a recount will happen.
Sterling said Georgia has been trending toward Democrat for a period of time, noting the close race for governor in 2018 and Democrats getting elected in Gwinnett and Cobb counties in recent years.