Georgia is on America’s mind. At 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, the state is supposed to complete its recount of votes in the presidential election.
Brant Frost V, second vice chairman of Georgia’s Republican Party, joins the show to explain the state’s recount process and why he is suspicious of the recount in Fulton County, which includes the city of Atlanta. Frost also describes his own experience as a poll watcher and why Georgia appears to be turning a little more blue with each election.
We also cover these stories:
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.Scott Atlas, a top adviser to President Donald Trump on the coronavirus, counsels families to gather for Thanksgiving if they can. Joe Biden identifies who some of his top White House officials would be if he is inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
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Virginia Allen: I am joined by Brant Frost, the second vice chair of Georgia’s Republican Party. Brant, welcome to “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
Brant Frost: Thank you very much.
Allen: Brant, Georgia is on the minds right now of many Americans. And over the past several days, Georgia has been going through a recount of presidential election votes. And as of right now, The Associated Press reports that former Vice President Joe Biden is winning Georgia by only about 14,000 votes. And that’s out of about 5 million votes in total from Georgia.
So, both President [Donald] Trump and the Republican Party requested that there be a recount in the state because it is so close. And you actually have been really, really involved in Georgia state politics for a long time. Probably a decade, correct?
Frost: Yes. That is correct. Mainly since 2008 when I turned 18.
Allen: OK. Right as soon as you could, you jumped in. So tell us a little bit just about how common this is, to see a recount in Georgia. Is this something that’s happened before where we’ve seen calls for a presidential recount in the state of Georgia?
Frost: No, this is very unusual. This is also the first time we’re using our new paper ballot system. Since 2001, when we began the transition over, we have only used electronic voting with no paper ballots, unless you were voting absentee by mail. This is the first time we’re using our new paper ballots for voting in elections.
And so this is also the first time we’re having a recount in a presidential election in Georgia as well. A lot of firsts in this year. Also, the first time we’ve ever had two Senate elections at the same time as well that both went to runoffs. So it’s definitely a year of firsts in Georgia, as in America.
Allen: It is. It’s a big year in the state of Georgia.
You mentioned that transition of going from electronic to paper ballots. Dominion Voting Systems is the new kind of organization group that Georgia tasked, essentially, with handling the election process, as far as implementing those new machines.
What do you know about Dominion Voting Systems? We’re hearing a lot about maybe how they’re not credible. Are you very familiar with them and with the states that have formerly used them?
Frost: I am not. So, unlike some other folks, I’m not going to pretend to be an expert and talk at length about it. So I can’t speak to that other than to say that in our own county where I was one of the [people] observing the electoral process of doing a recanvass—which I should point out is different than a recount.
A recanvass is what most people think when they think [of] the word recount. During recanvass, a particular race goes, and in this case, the presidential election, and all the paper ballots that were cast before Election Day and on Election Day are counted. And just that one race, just a single race is counted.
The amount of time it would take to recount every single race or recanvass every single race would just be enormous.
So one race is chosen, in this case the presidential election, for obvious reasons. And each ballot is counted by hand. And you have tables set up in a room with two people at each table. And they will count the votes.
First they will separate them out. They take a big stack. They know how many votes are in the box. Then they’ll separate them by candidate they voted for. Then they will count them out.
Each group will be counted and the amount written down. And if all those numbers put together of votes for Biden, Trump, [Jo] Jorgensen, write-in, and indeterminate votes, if those numbers equal to the amount that was on the box originally, then that is considered a successful recanvass.
In Coweta County with over 77,000 votes, it was determined that every single vote cast President Trump indicated by machine was also indicated by a hand count, 51,501 votes, both machine and human count. For Joe Biden, the same was correct.
However, he added one vote because one Joe Biden voter who apparently did not realize that Joseph R. Biden was Joe Biden wrote in the name Joe Biden for his absentee ballot. So the election review board determined that his vote should count as a Joe Biden vote.
And the ballot review board consists of one Republican and one Democrat representative, which I appointed the Republican representatives since I’m the chairman of the county party here.
So we did not find a problem with the scanners indicating a massive shift, or indeed any kind of shift whatever, in our county. But I can’t speak to other counties. And I certainly can’t speak to the ethics of the people who run the Fulton County board of elections, for example.
Allen: Sure, sure. So, Coweta County, where you live and where you were participating in that recount, is, gosh, about little less than an hour south, southwest of the city of Atlanta. So tell me a little bit more about that experience. You were there helping to do the recanvassing on both Friday and Saturday.
We’ve heard a lot during this kind of poll-watching scenario as it’s played out with mail-in votes that people have complained about not being able to get close enough to actually see the ballots. Was everyone who you were there with able to be close to see the ballots and to all agree, Democrat and Republican, “Yes, this vote is for this individual”?
Frost: Well, the county employees who are poll workers who have been pulled in for this special task, they actually count the votes.
Typically, you will find a fairly even mix of Republican volunteers and Democrat volunteers who are poll workers, but they’re not chosen based on their party. But there’s a good chance that one of them is a Republican.
What you have is you take a typical room of about 10 tables. Depending on the county, there will be either one or two people observing, allowed to walk around and see the process. Realistically, you can’t stand at one table for very long without missing what’s going on at other tables.
Some people might think it makes more sense to have one observer per counting table watching the process, but the limits that were imposed, and it varies from county to county, were one person for every five tables. And that’s what we had.
You have a room with eight tables, two people counting at each table, and two representatives from both parties are allowed to walk around the floor where the tables are, walk around the floor and stop at places. They’re not allowed to speak to the counters and disrupt their count, but they are allowed to watch what’s going on and keep their own count if they wish.
We also have a lot of observers who are permitted to stand at the back of the room, but they really can’t see anything from there. So basically, each party is permitted two people for every five tables.
Allen: It sounds like Coweta County is a great model for the rest of the state. You all have really done this quite well. It sounds very organized.
Have you been hearing from other counties in Georgia? Have they experienced a similar smooth process or have there been complaints?
Frost: The recanvass did not indicate any major shift in votes, except for in Floyd County where a computer card was found with some votes from a precinct, which had previously not been counted.
When the voting machines in each precinct print out a ballot, you type it in on a screen, you type in your choices, the ballot is printed, and then you scan it through a scanner, and then the ballot goes through. And on the other side, you have a big box, which is locked. Well, they don’t open up the box and count the ballots. They take the result of the little scanner, so like a USB drive.
Well, one of those drives in Floyd County, and of course it’s not a drive, but I just use that an example, was missed. When they brought in the precinct results, each precinct brought in their box and their little chips and draws, one was left, [it] had just been not uploaded.
So that recanvass found those extra votes and it added about 2,600 votes to the total statewide. And we think about two-thirds of them were for President Trump.
Now, if this election were like Florida with a 600-vote margin, that would have been enough to flip the election in President Trump’s favor. But of course, when the margins [are] more than 10,000, that’s not going to be the case.
But other than that one example, we did not see any major shifts. However, the issue really does not come down to a statewide problem. It comes down to one or two and really about six counties that are all Democrat, all large, all urban.
In particular, one county where there have been very credible accusations that Republican poll watchers at the Fulton County board of elections where they were counting votes were told to go home at a big arena, because it’s a huge process in Fulton County, that’s Atlanta, Georgia. They were told to go home and they were going to start in the morning.
So, the Republican observers went home at about 10 p.m. And then shortly thereafter, Fulton County started counting their votes again with no Republicans present and then kept counting until about 1 a.m.
So, if there was any kind of illegal voting or any kind of fraudulent ballots being counted, that would certainly have been a time when we just don’t know what was happening. And no Republicans were permitted to be there. No one apparently thought to call them to tell them to come back.
Now, Fulton County is an overwhelmingly Democrat county run top to bottom by Democrats. The Democrats’ well-known respect for the integrity of elections can be demonstrated in that they were so distressed over the 2016 election results, though curiously not distressed over the 1960 election results.
And of course we all know very well, the Democrats are well-known pensioned for fair and equitable elections in big cities like New York and Chicago and where the dead will not only rise again at the second coming, but they rise every four years and vote Democrat.
Allen: It’s certainly problematic when we begin to see the number of deceased individuals who are still on those voter rolls in, like you say, a lot of these big cities.
Now, I want to ask a little bit more about this Atlanta situation. Was there any explanation given by the mayor of Atlanta, by those that were in charge overseeing that polling location, as to how this error was made, that Republicans were sent home and then still ballots were continued to be counted late into the night?
Frost: Everyone has an excuse. I don’t know if it’s a good one, but everyone has an excuse. Every child caught with their hand in the cookie jar has a good reason, or at least a reason why they were doing it. Whether or not anyone believes them and it saves them from punishment is another matter altogether.
There have been multiple explanations and so it’s hard to say which one is the correct one. There’s talk about a major water leakage, a pipe burst. There’s talk about how the secretary of state and others were asking for them to continue the count, because after all, 10 p.m. is rather early to stop counting votes, particularly in an election as close as this and with Georgia being a swing state.
So there were calls for them to come back … and at least a plausible deniability situation where under such a stressful situation, someone can always claim that, “Well, I just forgot,” or, “It slipped through the cracks to remind everybody to come back.” So it’s very difficult to prove malice of intent.
Allen: Sure, sure. So, do you foresee any situation where all other Georgia counties [are] given the green light, but Fulton County, that Atlanta county, has said, “Let’s double check this and let’s recount this county one more time”? Or is that probably not possible?
Frost: Unfortunately, today it is very difficult, as in previous times, to, after the fact, detect voter fraud and malfeasance for the simple fact that a ballot cannot be pulled out of the stack once it’s stuck into it.
In other words, you may have an illegally cast vote or 1,000 of them, but to look at them, they don’t look any different than any other ballot. They do not have a person’s name on them. They do not have a bright neon sticker that says, “Hey, I’m a fake vote.” They look like anyone else’s vote. And it is impossible to identify them once they’d been cast in with all the legitimate votes.
Allen: Let’s talk just for a moment about Georgia as a whole. I lived in Georgia for a number of years. Went to high school there. And back in 2010, 2011, Georgia really was a solidly red, conservative state.
So, Brant, what has happened? As someone who’s been so involved in Georgia politics and policy for so long, what has happened in your state to where now it’s definitely solidly a swing state?
Frost: You have to remember that the Democrat Party in Georgia had been living off the residual effects of over 100 years of domination in our state politics. We hadn’t had a Republican governor since 1872. So by the 1990s, there was a definite shift beginning in Georgia politics.
And starting in 1992, the Republicans had a major surge with every two years, we gained substantially in the state Legislature. We gained congressional delegations. We took control of the majority of the Congress from Georgia in 1994. And we came very close to winning the governor’s race in 1994.
And as a result, the Republicans continued to build up and gain in strength and momentum. And the Democrats, without a strong grassroots base, because they’d been in power for so long it had atrophied, they hadn’t felt the need to have one. As a result, the Republicans in 2002, in a big upset, won the governor’s race.
Many people expected Republicans to be competitive in 2006 for the governor’s race, in 1998, but we lost in ’98. And in 2002, it was thought that Gov. Roy Barnes was too hard to beat, but Sonny Perdue, who is now agricultural secretary in the Trump Administration, actually defeated, in a big upset, Gov. Barnes.
And ever since 2002, the Republican Party has been very strong in Georgia, has dominated statewide politics, won every governor’s race, won every Senate election, and won every constitutional officer starting in 2010.
But that obscured … two major factors: Lack of funding and resources for the Democrats and the fact that the Obama presidency destroyed most of the Democrat Party in the South.
Across the South, you saw from states like Arkansas and Oklahoma to West Virginia and Kentucky, Democrat candidates going down to the seat largely as a result of the unpopularity of the Obama administration.
So when you consider that from 2008 to 2016, Republicans had great years in Georgia, you have to realize that that was during the Obama presidency and the fact that the Democrat Party had no real operation capable of contesting Georgia.
But starting in 2013, the Democrats began to rebuild their effort. Stacey Abrams was a major leader in that effort. And since 2013, they have spent seven years rebuilding. And to today, we now find ourselves in a situation where they’re able to compete with us.
Georgia’s demographics are largely the same as they were four years ago. In fact, exit poll data indicates that on key levels, it’s almost exactly the same. The difference is that the Democrat Party is more well-equipped, better funded, and able to compete.
And they also believe they can win in Georgia. Four years ago, they saw Georgia as a possible bonus, but they didn’t see it as a major target state like they did this year.
The Republican Party, until recently, has also not been as prepared as it might be, largely due to the fact that the Democrats appeared to be weak. So why do you have to train extra hard to fight an opponent who seems weak and easy to defeat?
Fortunately, last year, when I was elected vice chairman, we also elected a new chairman, David Shafer, former state senator and former executive director of the Georgia Republican Party, under whose leadership we have been able to basically accomplish the work of about four years in less than 18 months.
And since he was elected, we’ve trained over 13,000 volunteers, we’ve held voter drives around the state, we’ve knocked on over a million, I believe it’s over 2 million doors now, and we’ve made millions of phone calls.
This is more than any the Republican Party has done in Georgia in any two presidential elections combined, going back for many cycles. So we have been very encouraged to see the outpouring of support since the November election right here.
You would think people would be discouraged, but actually it’s caused people to sign up and volunteer and to do their part because there is so much that we have seen in the last few weeks with Democrats talking about moving to Georgia that has inspired Republicans to become more active and to do more because you saw so many Republicans feel that Georgia was a safe state and they took it for granted.
Not our leadership, but just a rank-and-file Republican who might have, if they lived in Florida or Ohio, have gone out and volunteered, maybe knocked on some doors or made some calls. But because they felt they were in a safe red state, they did not do what they could have done.
The scales have fallen from people’s eyes. They now realize they have to fight because Georgia is a swing state, as much as Florida ever was.
Indeed, if you look at the results, Georgia was much closer than Florida or Ohio. So in some ways, Florida is now a pink state leaning red and Ohio is a red state, but North Carolina and Georgia are swing states. So we have to take that into consideration.
But we are prepared to meet the challenge. We have thousands of people all over the country who are offering to come on their own expense to volunteer to help in these efforts in Georgia, in the upcoming runoffs. So we’re very encouraged.
And I think it’s important for people to realize that the differences in Georgia are not so much due to changes in demographics, although we have seen some of that, but mainly due to the fact that up until recently only one political party was actually playing to win and the other party did not have the resources to compete, much like a major athletic event where you have two teams at a baseball or basketball game.
And in a major sporting event, one team is obviously better funded, has better players, has the resources to hire the best coaches and such, and they’re going to roll over their opponents because they simply are outclassing them.
Now that the two parties are much more evenly classed, you see Georgia being what it truly is, a competitive state.
Allen: Brant, we just so appreciate your time today. It’s just fascinating to hear some of this history and get into a little bit of just the details of what is happening on the ground in Georgia, what you’re seeing, what you’ve experienced. Thank you so much for joining the show.
Frost: Thank you.