A top Republican elections official in Georgia held a press conference on Monday to push back on what he characterized as rampant disinformation spread by President Donald Trump and his allies in their efforts to overturn the results of the state’s presidential contest in November.
“This is all easily, provably, false. Yet the president persists,” said Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager. “And by doing so undermines Georgians’ faith in the election system.”
Sterling spoke just days after his boss, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, spoke on the phone with Trump for more than an hour, and pushed back on both the president’s outlandish conspiracy theories about the election and his efforts to pressure Raffensperger into changing enough votes in the state to tilt the contest in Trump’s favor. Raffensperger told ABC News on Monday that he wanted to make clear to Trump “that the data that he has is just plain wrong.”
Asked about the call on Monday, Sterling said he “found it to be something not normal, out of place, and nobody I know who would be president would do something like that to a secretary of state.”
Standing next to a large placard reading “CLAIM VS FACT,” Sterling sought to individually debunk an array of conspiracy theories floated since Election Day by Trump, his campaign, his legal team, and his allies in Republican politics and conservative media. He specifically addressed some of Trump’s more bizarre claims during his phone call with Raffensperger.
“There is no shredding of ballots going on. That’s not real. That’s not happening,” Sterling said, referring to one of Trump’s claims on the call. “No one is changing parts or pieces out of Dominion voting machines,” he said at another point. “I don’t even know what that means. It’s not a real thing...I don’t even know how exactly to explain that.”
Raffensperger, who joked that it was “anti-disinformation Monday,” appeared visibly frustrated throughout the press conference. The coordinated election disinformation campaign, he said, is effectively disenfranchising Georgia voters ahead of two highly consequential U.S. Senate runoff contests on Tuesday.
“There are people who fought and died and marched and prayed to get the right to vote. Throwing it away because you have some feelings that may not matter is self destructive,” Sterling pleaded. “If you’re a Georgia voter, if you want your values reflected by your elected officials, I strongly beg and encourage you: Go vote tomorrow. Do not let anyone discourage you...Don’t let anybody steal your vote that way.”
Sterling suggested that the president’s efforts to convince his supporters that the election in Georgia was stolen from him are already affecting turnout in Tuesday’s Senate runoff contests. He noted “a difference in the turnout models depending on district by the continuing information and disinformation concerning the value of people’s votes in this state.”
That’s been a dilemma for national Republicans that are trying to help the party hang on to its Senate majority with victories in Georgia while also indulging—or at least not publicly contradicting—the president’s conspiracy theories. Some worry that the president’s conspiracy theories will discourage Republican turnout in Georgia, potentially costing the party two Senate seats.
In at least some of its contacts with Georgia voters, the national GOP appears to have abandoned any pretense that Joe Biden will not be inaugurated this month. “If the Democrats win [the Georgia runoffs], they will control the Senate, House, and president,” warned recent robocalls from the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Democrats have nevertheless seized the opportunity to attempt to depress the GOP vote in Georgia by hyping the same conspiracies the president has in an effort to discourage Republicans in the state—in occasionally underhanded fashion.
A series of Facebook and Instagram ads run this week by the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group, and targeted at voters in Georgia features a litany of pro-Trump personalities questioning the legitimacy of the contest in Georgia and attacking the state’s two Republican senators.
“Why would you go back and vote in another rigged election?” the ads ask.