Georgia elections official pushes back on 'fake news'

Nearly 50 of Georgia's 159 counties have certified their election results, but that was not the focus of an update Monday by the Secretary of State's Office.

"A few items that happened over the weekend that for lack of a better word are different terminologies -- 'fake news,' disinformation, misinformation, misunderstandings--and all those things that are feeding into the situation we see not just in Georgia, but across the country," said Gabriel Sterling, the state's voting system implementation manager. "The facts are the facts, regardless of outcomes."

Georgia has been the target of attacks by both local and national political figures after voting for a Democratic presidential nominee for the first time in nearly three decades.

"Anybody who has been here is aware of the fact that none of this was sudden," said Sterling. "There was a very close race for governor in 2018. We saw people getting elected as Democrats in Gwinnett and Cobb County for the last few years."


Sterling started by debunking reports that a computer glitch in Antrim County, Michigan mistakenly awarded some votes for President Trump to Joe Biden and could have created similar problems across the country.

Michigan uses voting equipment from the same company as Georgia, Dominion Voting Systems. 

"There was no software issue in Michigan," said Sterling. "What happened there was a people and a process issue."

He explained that elections officials quickly realized their error and fixed the problem.

Spalding County, Georgia

Sterling said that video that circulated on social media and claimed to show absentee ballots found discarded in a dumpster in Spalding County were false.

"There were no ballots there. We sent investigators down. What they found was empty security envelopes. So, there was nothing there that affected the outcome of the election," Sterling explained.

He also said that rumors of someone changing the data on poll pads in Spalding County were not true because elections officials confirmed that no updates had been made to the system after October 31. 

Gwinnett County, Georgia

Gwinnett County's results showed the number of "ballots cast" as nearly twice as many as the number of votes cast.  Sterling said because Gwinnett is required to print ballots in both English and Spanish, the report should read "pages scanned" instead of "ballots cast."

"We've already talked to Dominion about the fact that language needs to be changed," said Sterling. 

Fulton County, Georgia

Saturday Fulton County workers discovered that they had accidentally uploaded data from about 500 provisional ballots into the absentee ballot module. Officials from the Secretary of State's Office went to Fulton County to oversee the process of re-uploading that data.

They also discovered a box of 358 damaged ballots that had to be reprinted.

"The normal process is you take those ballots and you replicate them on a BMD and then you scan those ballots," Sterling explained. "Republican and Democrat monitors were there in the room."

Sterling urged people to only seek information about the election from trusted sources.

"Don't buy into these things," said Sterling.

The results of the election will be verified in multiple ways. Counties have until this Friday to certify their results, then the state will perform a risk-limiting audit before certifying the results statewide.

Campaigns must wait until after the state certification to request a recount, which the Trump campaign has already signaled they will pursue.