As the Georgia Senate runoff results came in Wednesday morning and it became clear that both Republican candidates had lost, President Donald Trump once again spread lies and conspiracy theories about election fraud.
In a tweet, Trump claimed election officials "just happened to find 50,000 ballots late last night," in a clear attempt to cast doubt on the election's legitimacy.
This was a lie. Votes weren't found; they were counted.
Trump may have been referring to deceptive claims that Chatham County, home of liberal-leaning Savannah, had stopped their vote count overnight. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany complained as much in an earlier tweet that Trump had shared. "This sounds familiar," she wrote, hinting at something vague and nefarious.
In truth, Chatham County didn't stop their count, as the voting system implementation manager for the Georgia secretary of state's office, Gabriel Sterling, explained. The county had completed tallying all their ballots Tuesday night, but still needed to count the absentee ballots that arrived in the mail that same day, as is standard election procedure.
Still, the conspiracy theory spread rapidly, elevated by right-wing figures, including Fox News' Tomi Lahren, much like what had occurred during the presidential election.
When quizzed on Wednesday morning if Sterling had found any possible voting fraud or irregularities, the Republican official said none had been found. "No evidence of any irregularities," said Sterling. "The biggest thing we’ve seen is from the president's fertile mind of finding fraud where none exists.”
Sterling also expressed his frustration at Trump's tweets. “The president continues to say, 'Oh they’re finding ballots… [that] came out of nowhere’ — No, we have known DeKalb County had 171,000 ballots since Friday evening/Saturday morning," he said. “The statements he keeps putting out are incorrect and it undermines people’s faith in the election process. Again, this is a bipartisan problem."
On Sunday, the Washington Post published a recording of a phone call in which Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to just "find 11,780 votes" that would flip the state in his favor, alternatively flattering and threatening the state official.
Raffensperger, also a Republican, stuck to the facts, repeatedly telling Trump he was wrong and that the votes clearly showed he'd lost the state.
On Monday, Sterling expressed his concern about “continuing misinformation and disinformation concerning the value of people’s votes in this state.”
A poster displayed during the press conference laid out some of the most common conspiracy theories, debunking them point by point.
“Everybody’s vote is going to count — everybody’s vote did count," Sterling said. "I want to make that abundantly clear.”
Trump has spent the bulk of his last months in office making outlandish claims that victory had been "stolen" from him through election fraud. His campaign pushed several state courts for recounts, despite having lost the election by a significant margin, in both the electoral and popular vote.
He and his supporters spread wild election conspiracy theories in the lead-up to Nov. 3, casting doubt on mail-in voting and claiming ballots had been systematically dumped or tampered with.
Also during the presidential election, right-wing figures sowed suspicion when some counties paused their vote count overnight — which was done to allow poll workers to get some rest during the marathon of ballot tallying.
In a December press conference, Sterling expressed his fears that Trump's constant lies about election fraud could result in real-world violence, noting that a noose had been found hanging outside a young election worker's home.
"It has all gone too far," Sterling said. "Someone is going to get hurt. Someone is going to get shot. Someone's going to get killed. And it's not right."