Georgia lawmakers aired claims of 2020 election fraud Thursday afternoon at a hearing that featured President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani.
The former New York City mayor’s appearance came after state senators fielded testimony at a separate hearing Thursday morning from a top state election official who stressed no evidence has been found of widespread fraud in Georgia.
At the second hearing, members of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee heard from witnesses on alleged issues with the state’s voting machines and watched a video alleging ballot-counting irregularities that state election officials have dismissed as unfounded.
That evidence is expected to be included in a lawsuit Giuliani and his legal team said they plan to file in Fulton County Superior Court.
Giuliani’s team also pressed state lawmakers to appoint electors to the Electoral College who will cast Georgia’s 16 votes in Trump’s favor next month – despite the secretary of state’s website showing the Republican president lost to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden in Georgia by at least 10,422 votes, with around 3,000 votes left to be recounted Thursday night.
“This is your power, your obligation,” Giuliani said. “You are the final arbiter of who the electors should be and whether the election is fair or not.”
At the earlier hearing before the Senate Government Oversight Committee, the general counsel for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office, Ryan Germany, reiterated state officials “have not seen anything that would suggest widespread fraud or widespread problems with the voting system” after two recounts of the 5 million ballots cast in Georgia’s presidential election.
Germany and the state’s voting system manager, Gabriel Sterling, were present to answer questions but were not invited to the afternoon hearing in which Giuliani and his witnesses aired their claims.
Republican state senators convened the two committee hearings to address allegations of voting fraud and irregularities circulated by Trump and his supporters, who have flooded lawmakers in Georgia’s more conservative regions with complaints and angry reaction to the election.
Giuliani, who has floated fraud claims and conspiracies in other battleground states including Michigan and Pennsylvania, brought witnesses alleging Georgia’s voting machines potentially switched thousands of votes in favor of Biden. They have called for a forensic audit of both the machines and signatures on absentee-ballot envelopes.
One witness, who also provided an affidavit in a separate lawsuit filed by Trump ally Sidney Powell, presented statistical modeling purporting to show Biden received more votes than he should have. That witness’ affidavit claims the voting machines were “compromised by rogue actors” in Venezuela, China and Iran and feature software that “can be easily obtained on the dark web.”
Giuliani’s attorneys also unveiled surveillance video they alleged shows ballot-counting irregularities at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, though they acknowledged they obtained the video late Wednesday night and had not finished reviewing it yet – nor shown it to anyone else prior to Thursday’s hearing.
Other witnesses discussed issues with election workers handling paper print-out and absentee ballots during the initial counts and recounts, including one witness who said ballots were kept in “cardboard boxes” and kept “less secure than a urine sample.”
During the earlier hearing, Germany of Raffensperger’s office noted a third-party group did perform an audit of a “cross section” of the voting machines last month after the Nov. 3 election, which found “the machines were working exactly properly.”
He also described to lawmakers how signatures on absentee ballots are verified once when a voter requests a ballot, then again on signature-bearing envelopes sent to county election boards. Those envelopes are separated from the absentee ballots to protect voters’ ballot selections and preserve voter privacy, according to state law.
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez, Fulton County’s external affairs director, said county officials followed all the rules and procedures for verifying and counting absentee ballots that have been set by state law and Raffensperger’s office.
“It is our intent to follow the law, to follow the process that is provided by the secretary of state,” Corbitt-Dominguez told lawmakers Thursday. “And to our knowledge, that is what happened.”
Democratic lawmakers at the hearings called them a farce, noting claims from Giuliani’s witnesses faced no scrutiny from election officials and that Republican lawmakers in the GOP-dominated General Assembly had the heaviest hand in selecting Georgia’s new voting machines last year.
“[Raffensperger’s] office just explained to senators and the public how the election was run and that Biden won,” said state Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta. “Now we are being forced to listen to bonkers conspiracy theories out of Rudy Giuliani’s team. What a disservice to the public!”
Republican lawmakers took the claims from Giuliani’s witnesses more seriously. Senate Majority Whip Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, said he has “never seen this level of mistrust” in the election system after fielding concerns from constituents in his heavily conservative North Georgia district.
“Maybe that’s not totally fair … [but] that’s how they feel,” Gooch said Thursday. “I have a duty to let you know that. This issue isn’t going to go away unless we make some changes.”