Georgia election officials denied a video promoted by President Donald Trump’s campaign as evidence of electoral fraud, saying the footage showed nothing but “normal voting”.
The surveillance video was presented by Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani and his team during a December 3 hearing with Georgia state lawmakers as evidence of illegal activity. The Trump campaign then spread live coverage of the event online from the One America News Network.
Social media posts sharing the video have been flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its newsfeed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The posts claim that the footage shows poll workers at the Atlanta State Farm Arena telling election observers to go, pull ballot-filled suitcases from under a table and illegally count them with no observers present. “Smoking Gun,” said a Facebook post.
However, this interpretation is wrong. The footage shows no wrongdoing, said Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and Georgia’s manager for implementing the voting system, in a December 4 tweet.
“The 90-second video of poll workers in the State Farm Arena, allegedly showing fraud, was viewed in its entirety (hours) by @GaSecofState investigators,” wrote Sterling, following on from a fact check by Lead Stories. “Shows normal voting.”
The 90-second video of poll workers in the State Farm Arena allegedly showing fraud was viewed in its entirety (hours) by @GaSecofState investigators. Indicates normal voting. Here is the fact check. https://t.co/HVJsvDjDvi
– Gabriel Sterling (@GabrielSterling) December 4, 2020
Lead Stories reporters spoke to Sterling about the surveillance video. They also spoke to Frances Watson, Secretary of State to the Georgian Foreign Minister, and an unidentified observer from the State Electoral Committee who was in the room late on election night.
The ballot papers shown in the video were not in suitcases, officials told Lead Stories. They were in standard voting containers. And the way they were processed wasn’t illegal.
In reality, the ballots had been removed from their envelopes and processed while the staff and news media observers were still in the room. Nobody was ever asked to leave, Watson told Lead Stories. However, some observers dropped out after the poll workers who were responsible for opening envelopes and checking ballot papers finished their jobs and took off for the night.
The watchers were allowed to return at any time, Watson told Lead Stories. Lead Stories and Georgia Public Broadcasting reported that while state law allows partisan watchers to watch, it does not require them to be present so that the ballots can be counted.
This coincides with the sequence of events Sterling described in response to a Facebook post about the video. This is what he said:
“When the workers started packing, there were two groups, the cutters and the counters. The cutters opened, stacked, and prepared the ballots for scanning. Scanners … well, they scanned. Everyone heard a supervisor say we are Finished the night because the tailors had finished, the scanners heard they were “done,” and packed up to leave. During that time, the election officer called the absent supervisor at the state farm to tell him what scanners were required to continue their work People had already started walking or had left … tailors, media, monitors, but the video shows no new boxes of ballot papers being brought out from a table. They were all there when the media and monitors were in the room. The video shows how they get it back to scan. When the (State Elections Board) monitor arrives, they continue to do the same thing as they did all night. When the (State Secretary) investigator got there, they continued the same thing. “
Sterling also addressed allegations about the video in an interview with Newsmax and walked the surveillance tape with a WSB TV reporter.
Richard Barron, the polling officer for Fulton County, which also includes Atlanta, also raised the issue with the county election officials. In a video posted online by 11Alive, NBC’s Atlanta affiliate television broadcaster, he described sending instructions for the scanners to keep going.
“It was never announced that anyone was going to leave,” said Barron. “Certain employees who were on the cutting stations, those who were on the flattening stations that were being pulled out of the inner envelopes, those employees who left after the work was done. I found out at some point, I think shortly after 10:30 that they were going to cease operations and I told them not to do that. “
“It was normal processing that went on there,” said Barron, who added that the plastic bins shown in the video were “bins they keep under their desks near the scanners.”
Other reporters also denied claims that the video showed illegal censuses by election officials. Fulton County tweeted on Dec. 4 that it “has no known credible reports of election fraud.”
An OAN spokesman said the video shared by Trump’s campaign and his supporters was taken from the network’s live coverage of Giuliani’s presentation at the Georgia hearing. The source and presentation of the video did not originally come from OAN, the spokesman said.
The Georgian State Secretary did not immediately respond to requests for comments.
Social media posts claim the Georgia video shows suitcases filled with ballot papers pulled from under a table and illegally counted after election monitors were told to leave. This is wrong.
State officials said there was no suitcase, no instructions to leave and no illegal ballot counting. Nor does the video prove that the trash cans shown contained fraudulent ballots.
We rate these Facebook posts as wrong.
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