Georgia election official says latest audit is based on Trump's voter fraud lies

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Gabriel Sterling said a review of some 145,000 ballots in Fulton County is based on meritless claims of fraud.

A top election official in Georgia slammed a group of election conspiracy theorists for forcing yet another audit of the Peach State's 2020 election results, saying it's based on unfounded claims of fraud.

Gabriel Sterling, the chief operating officer of the Georgia secretary of state's office, was commenting on a judge's order on Friday to allow for an audit of some 145,000 absentee ballots in Fulton County, one of the state's most Democratic-leaning regions.

Already, three other audits in the state have found no evidence of fraud or wrongdoing and each confirmed that Joe Biden won Georgia by 11,779 votes.

Sterling said in an interview with CNN that the lawsuit that forced the audit is "from Trump supporter-ish kind of people," including a man named Garland Favorito, who Sterling said has been filing meritless lawsuits about voter fraud in Georgia for years.

"The claims are there are pristine ballots, that there are unfolded ballots inserted, that there are machine-marked ballots. There's no evidence for any of that," Sterling told CNN's Pamela Brown. "Our law enforcement officers from the secretary of state's office spent literally thousands of hours examining ballots in Fulton County and other counties trying to track these kind of claims down, and so far we've seen nothing give any merit to it."

Sterling said, however, that a judge ordered the audit, so Georgia election officials will comply to make sure it's an "actual audit."

He said it won't be like what's going on in Arizona, where GOP members of the state Senate forced an audit, which is now being run by a Donald Trump-supporting conspiracy theorist who tried to overturn the 2020 election.

The Arizona audit has been looking to prove wild conspiracy theories, such as a racist and false claim that ballots were flown in from Asia, as well as a QAnon conspiracy theory about watermarks on ballots.

The Arizona audit has also been plagued by embarrassing debacles, with auditors not following proper election procedures and making up audit rules as they go — something election experts say makes the audit invalid. Even Republican officials in the state are saying the audit is an embarrassment and needs to end.

Ultimately, Arizona's secretary of state says the audit compromised millions of dollars worth of election equipment in the state, with the Department of Justice saying that the entire audit itself may be in violation of federal voting laws.

"The thing in Arizona — and the thing with some of the people here if it gets handed off to them directly — is they are preternaturally disposed to find things that are normal processes and saying, 'Aha this is the fraud!" Sterling said.

"Because they are going to want to find it. And if they do not find it, they're going to intellectually manufacture it. And they are going to go on to other news organizations who are then going to pump these things up into things that aren't real, which is what we're seeing in Arizona, and that's what we fear," he added.

Sterling said in order to avoid such a disaster in Georgia, election officials are going to "make sure that the rules are set up upfront" and that it will not be outsourced to a third party like in Arizona.

Trump has been trying to overturn the results in states including Arizona and Georgia for months.

There is currently a criminal inquiry in Georgia over Trump's demand that Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger "find" the exact number of votes in order to declare Trump the winner.

Ultimately, voting rights groups in Georgia say the audit is a scam and shouldn't move forward.

"To be clear: The latest Big Lie news out of Georgia is a sideshow, not an audit," Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group launched by Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, tweeted after the judge allowed the audit to move forward. "Media must not give it credibility through false word choices. Like Maricopa County's discredited 'audit' this is and will be a sham."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.