Georgians urged to turn out in U.S. Senate runoffs and dispel fraud fears

Gabriel Sterling talks with the press Monday at the state Capitol.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Gabriel Sterling talks with the press Monday at the state Capitol. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Georgia election officials spent Monday debunking President Donald Trump’s claims about fraud in the last election while urging skeptical voters to participate in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate runoffs.

High turnout is expected in the nationally watched election sequel, when control of the Senate hinges on Georgia after Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump in the state by less than 12,000 votes, said Gabriel Sterling, voting system manager in the secretary of state’s office.

Trump overshadowed the runoff by pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn the presidential election results, asking him to find enough votes to invalidate Biden’s victory.

While shooting down Trump’s allegations of wrongdoing in the presidential election, Sterling said concerned voters can make it harder for the election to be stolen if they show up in large numbers on Tuesday.

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“I strongly beg and encourage you: Go vote tomorrow,” Sterling, a Republican, said during a press conference at the state Capitol. “Do not let anybody discourage you. Do not self-suppress your own vote. Do not make a self-fulfilling prophecy out of doing this.”

Large election day turnout will be critical for Republican U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue’s reelection hopes against Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. Over 3 million early and absentee votes have already been cast. Voting has been especially heavy in metro areas that tend to favor Democrats. Turnout has lagged in rural parts of the state that generally support Republicans.

Trump acknowledged that suspicions of election fraud could hurt Loeffler and Perdue, saying in his call Saturday to Raffensperger that “a lot of people aren’t going to vote” because they blame him for the election’s outcome.

“I’ll tell you, it’s going to have a big impact on Tuesday if you guys don’t get this thing straightened out fast,” Trump said in the recorded call, asking Raffensperger to say he has “recalculated” election results.

But Trump’s scattered assertions of election problems are meritless, Sterling said. Biden received the most votes in an initial count, a manual audit of all 5 million ballots and a machine recount.

There’s no truth to allegations that election workers inflated vote counts, shredded absentee ballots or allowed ineligible voters to cast ballots, Sterling said. Small numbers of potential fraud involving double-voting are under investigation.

“If you believe in your heart of hearts that there was (fraud), the best thing for you to do is to turn out and vote and make it harder for them to steal,” Sterling said.

Over 2,600 voting locations will be open across Georgia from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, and then results will start pouring in.

Ballots will likely be counted more quickly than in November because turnout is lower so far and fewer people have returned absentee ballots, which take longer to process. About 964,000 absentee ballots had been cast for the runoff as of Monday, compared with 1.3 million in the general election.

But the results of the races might not be known for days if they’re close. Georgia law gives county officials until 10 days after election day to finalize the outcomes, and then Raffensperger has another week afterward to certify the election.

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