As a follow-up to our post the other day, another aspect of the FOIA received from York County Elections office is a batch of emails following the 11/8/22 General Election between York County Elections office and Clear Ballot (They contract with the SEC to do post-certification virtual audits of ballot images to supplement in-house hand count audits, which, as we saw in Aiken, didn’t take place at the time they reported them to have occurred because a key employee was not even in the building at the time the audit was supposed to be taking place!). What prompted me to submit this FOIA to York in the first place were the results from the Clear Ballot audit located on scvotes.gov. Scroll down to the last page to find York. I’ve included a screen shot of the top part to allow side-by-side comparison of reports, but look for yourself and see that these reports were generated on the same day, 11/17/22.
Compare that to this report obtained via FOIA (screen shot of top section below for comparison):
Compare the vote totals in the Governor/Lt Governor races, for example. The numbers don’t quite add up. While it may not be enough to flip results, it certainly warrants closer scrutiny.
Attached to an email prior to the Primary were instructions from Clear Ballot (NB: This particular one is from the June Primaries, but there is an email below with clear details re: the submission deadline being 11/10/22. I am assuming the November instructions were accidentally left out of my FOIA response.) detailing the uploading of ballot images and processing of the external hard drives, including instructions to pay close attention to security seals/chain of custody. This is a good thing! When issues with broken security seals were brought to the attention of the SEC after the June 2022 Primaries, the SEC made the citizens out to be the bad ones for trying to ascertain how widespread the issue was and reporting them to the SEC.
Across the state there were many documented instances of either missing or voided security tape on election machines, some of which I personally witnessed or saw documented with photographs. If you’re skeptical of the importance of security seals, the next time you’re getting gas at a gas station look right around the area of the pump where the keypad is. There is often red tape spanning a gap that if the tape is voided, alerts the gas station to potential issues or possible tampering. Like this:
I can guarantee you that if that tape was missing or voided at the gas station, you wouldn’t be wise to put your credit card in that machine, and the gas station would shut down the pump until a technician had the chance to check that everything is ok and replace the tape. Our tabulation machines have the same security tape and when it was pointed out to the SEC by concerned citizens, some of those citizens were reported to SLED and DHS by Executive Director Howard Knapp and Deputy Executive Director Chris Whitmire, according to another FOIA received last week by Palmetto State Watch. Incidentally, the FOIA also revealed that Whitmire doxxed these same people to a group of partisan poll watchers in an email, labelling them “election deniers.”
Are we getting our money’s worth?
As you can see from the emails below, counties were to upload their ballot images by 11/10/22, and also mail back the external hard drives by end of business that same day. As of 11/14/22 Clear Ballot had only received 32,209 of the 96k ballots cast in the 11/8 General Election. It appears these were finally uploaded after close of business on 11/15. However, a subsequent email reveals that the physical hard drive had not been mailed as of 11/30!
To be honest, this leaves me with more questions than answers. Why had York County only uploaded 1/3 of the ballots as of 11/16, 6 days past the initial deadline? Why did it take them so long to return the hard drive to Clear Ballot? Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of having an external audit company if you’re not going to utilize it in a timely manner? What about the other counties? Are they using this audit system in the right manner? And is anyone checking that they are? And once again…these elections are being held on behalf of the public, so why is a third party contractor able to have access to South Carolina’s ballot images, but South Carolinians aren’t? The argument that the Attorney General is maintaining after a brief conversation with him last week is that bad actors might use the ballot images to try to figure out who people voted for. So we’ll take that gamble with an outside company who does who knows what with our ballot images (which the state claims is part of the cast vote record), could potentially share them with outside companies, and analyze them in heaven knows what way, but regular citizens are left out in the cold. Somehow this just doesn’t seem right. What do you think?