While not exactly discussing the video and the the allegation of "suitcases of ballots", the topic of "secret counting" at the State Farm Arena was actually discussed by election officials with the media before this hearing:
State Election Board member fact-checks fraud claims, including 'secret counting' in Fulton
Taking a roughly 15-minute aside toward the end of the State Election Board meeting, board member Matt Mashburn went through more than a dozen allegations he said he has heard frequently either in media accounts or from the public.
Among the most authoritative debunkings that Mashburn offered concerned the allegation that on Election Night, Fulton County sent observers home and then continued to count in secret at State Farm Arena.
The more extreme claim tied to that allegation was that the county was somehow manufacturing fraudulent ballots in the early hours after Election Night.
Mashburn, a Republican, said he knew that wasn't true because there was a board-appointed observer on site. Further, the counting itself wasn't going on in secret, he said, because he himself was posted at the English Avenue precinct until 3 a.m. that night and it was plainly apparent to the handful of people there that counting was still going on at State Farm Arena.
"The true explanation happened right in front of me – on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. the elections director announced they had 30,000 ballots left to count. Both I and the election monitor were standing right there together when this press conference took place and we both compared notes and knew that Fulton County was processing ballots at approximately 2,000 per hour," Mashburn said. "So that meant 30,000 divided by 2,000 per hour - that meant that 15 hours were left before they were finished. But the elections director unfortunately said they would be finished by midnight, which was five hours away. So anybody paying attention to what he was saying knew they had at least 10 hours more left to count (past midnight).
"I even thought to myself at the time, 'Well that’s gonna cause some suspicion when they're nowhere near finished at midnight and in fact still have 20,000 ballots left to count'... I knew that was gonna be a problem."
Actually, Lead Stories has (now) fact-checked the allegations surrounding the video as false, after talking more extensively to election officials:
Fact Check: Video From Georgia Does NOT Show Suitcases Filled With Ballots Suspiciously Pulled From Under A Table; Poll Watchers Were NOT Told To Leave
Two high-level officials with the Georgia secretary of state's office and a state elections board monitor each told Lead Stories that their investigations revealed nothing suspicious in the video.
The officials said the ballots seen in the video were in regular ballot containers -- not suitcases -- and they had been removed from their envelopes and processed while news media and election observers for the Republican Party and Trump campaign were present. The media and party observers were never told to leave because counting was over for the night, but they apparently followed workers who left once their job of opening envelopes was completed, the chief investigator for the secretary of state told Lead Stories. The observers were free to return at anytime, she said. Georgia law allows observers, but does not require them to be there for ballots to be counted, she said.
Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and Georgia's voting system implementation manager, told Lead Stories during a phone call on December 3, 2020 that what can be seen on the video is normal procedure and nothing looks "bizarre or odd."
Election workers known as "cutters" because their job was to open absentee ballot envelopes and verify ballots for eventual scanning and counting were dismissed for the night sometime after 10 p.m. on November 3, 2020, because their work for the evening had been completed, he explained. Those workers who remained were responsible for conducting the scanning portion of the process, since ballots could not be left without being scanned overnight. He said:
If you look at the video tape, the work you see is the work you would expect, which is you take the sealed suitcase looking things in, you place the ballots on the scanner in manageable batches and you scan them.
Frances Watson, chief investigator for the Georgia secretary of state, told Lead Stories during a phone call on December 3, 2020, that the ballots were in standard containers, and the work during the time in question had nothing to do with pulling ballots from under a table. She said:
There wasn't a bin that had ballots in it under that table. It was an empty bin and the ballots from it were actually out on the table when the media were still there, and then it was placed back into the box when the media were still there and placed next to the table.
There was never an announcement made to the media and other observers about the counting being over for the night and them needing to leave, according to Watson, who was provided information by the media liaison, who was present. She said they just followed the "cutters" as they left.
Nobody told them to stay. Nobody told them to leave. Nobody gave them any advice on what they should do. And It was still open for them or the public to come back in to view at whatever time they wanted to, as long as they were still working.
In addition, she explained that the only ballots that were scanned after the media and other observers had left were those that had already been opened in front of these observers.
Contrary to the claim, the ballots were not in suitcases, she said. The black boxes and bins seen in the video are the standard container used for the ballot counting process.
Section § 21-2-408 of the Code Of Georgia, which addresses poll watchers, explains that political bodies and parties are "entitled" to have official poll watchers. The secretary of state's chief counsel told Lead Stories it was not a requirement that observers be present for counting to continue -- only that it is their right to be there is they choose.
The official response has made it to news agencies now; there's not much to add from the latter coverage but this:
The Georgia secretary of state’s office said it was aware of the late-night counting, and confirmed that both its investigator and an independent monitor observed scanning “until it was halted for the night.”
The office said it had launched an investigation into why partisan poll observers left before scanning ended.
The president’s team is “intentionally misleading the public about what happened at State Farm Arena on election night,” Sterling tweeted Friday. “They had the whole video too and ignored the truth.”