Concerns about the 2020 election have been fueled again in Surry County and coupled with rhetoric so strong it’s making national headlines.
Last Monday, a group of eight people raised concerns they found in a door-to-door solicitation using 2020 voter logs. They told district commissioners that they wanted to find and hear repeated allegations of voter fraud and bring the matter to the board for their attention.
The grievances are summarized as irregularities in voter registration, vote totals that don’t match expected population figures, fears of voting machines, a desire to return to a paper vote, and a postal vote that never arrived. The group also wants a so-called forensic audit of the 2020 election, which will include a full inspection of all voting machines.
Reuters reported over the weekend that Surry County Republican Party leader Keith Senter “told Elections Commissioner Michella Huff that if she accepted his demand for access to county vote tables, he would have her fired refuses to receive, the North Carolina State Board of Elections said in written responses to questions from Reuters,” the news service wrote. “Senter was ‘aggressive, threatening and hostile in two meetings with Huff,’ the state elections commission said, citing testimony.”
“We just had one disagreement,” Huff said Monday of those two March meetings with Senter about his concerns and desire to look into voting machines. “It just doesn’t work that way in North Carolina.”
She shared Senter and Dr. Douglas Frank’s recourse if they found any errors in the election and that their office would promptly investigate any election challenge forms. She also advised them that all allegations of fraud would have to be dealt with by the state election committee.
Senter said Huff’s office told him an audit had been done, but he said it was just a recount. If there were incorrect data, counting the same records again would make no difference.
“If you line up ten apples and five of them are made of wood, you still have ten apples, but five of them are wrong. The same goes for votes, you can count votes over and over again and get the same result. What if five of them are fraudulent?”
Mark Payne, an attorney hired by Surry County, submitted the following to the Elections Committee on April 20: “To date, the only specific request/request made is a request for a ‘forensic review.’ It is important to note that there is no legal definition of a ‘forensic examination’ and due to colloquial use of the term nationally, the query is currently vague.”
There is a common thread of distrust of voting machines that runs through arguments about voter fraud. An elected county official said he was told a microchip or modem inside was rumored to have been responsible for the election results. “There was a problem with the internet connections, I heard that from Mike Lindell,” said advertiser Suzanne Richards. Lindell is the CEO of My Pillow Inc. and also a well-known conservative activist who has insisted that President Trump did not lose the 2020 presidential election.
“The voting machines and systems used in North Carolina are secure and certified to state and federal standards. They must not be connected to the Internet under state law and must not contain modems, despite rampant misinformation,” Huff replied.
“No electoral system or voting system in North Carolina has ever been the target of a successful cyberattack. Each voting machine is tested before each election and the results are then audited. Bipartisan teams participate in every step of the process, and the public can watch the pre-election tests and the post-election tests. At the request of the parties, we are happy to provide additional information on these issues,” she wrote on Thursday.
There was a request for access to the voting machine by the recruiters, to which Payne offers: “Under NC voting law, it is not lawful or appropriate to allow anyone other than authorized voting staff to have physical access to the machines.”
He said the law forbids it and allowing such access would void the warranty on the machines, resulting in the decertification of some or all of the county’s voting machines. “This will expose commissioners and taxpayers to significant financial loss to buy new voting machines or recertify existing machines.”
Kevin Shinault pointed out what he called “statistical improbabilities and statistical impossibilities”. He said in Surry County, “Everyone over 80 is registered to vote, which is a statistical impossibility if you know math.”
Huff replied: “We would ask where the information is on voters over 80 and the methodology used in this claim. Claims such as these often arise from comparing registered voters of a given age to the voting-age population in a county, as reported by the US Census Bureau for a different time period. A comparison of this data is neither statistically nor mathematically sound.”
As John Bose summed it up: “I know it’s hot, but I’m asking you to have courage. We have no faith in the election process.” Along with other speakers, he offered stories of veterans, freedom and sacrifice to set the tone before making serious allegations of voter fraud.
“When we got there for practice, they started a video, and it was nothing but graves of men who had died for someone like me,” Shannon Senter said. She mentioned the sacrifice of her own ancestors that gave her the right to speak before the board.
“They made sacrifices and I never want to forget that. That gives me freedom. I thought about my grandchild and what I’m going to tell him if in 20 years he’s living under tyranny and doesn’t have the freedoms that I have.”
“What I want to address is the door-to-door promotion that’s happening right now,” Huff continued. “We, the Elections Committee and staff would like to remind voters that we would never go door-to-door asking voters for information on electoral matters. These people are not campaign workers. We would ask each voter to ask the recruiter to verify their identity and organization.”
The recruiters told the board they had data-driven stops and weren’t just going door-to-door. In addition, they said that on occasion citizens have offered who they voted for in 2020, but that was not asked nor was it their job to find out.
“Most people have said thank you and said it’s long overdue,” said Paula Stanley of her prospecting experience.
Gayle Norman repeated: “I took a different route, but the end result was the same. We have older people who voted in person when our logs show absentee voting/postal voting.”
“To date, we have not received any second-hand evidence or details on this account, so we have no way of verifying or responding,” Huff said.
A specific complaint from a traveling nurse who twice requested and never received her absentee ballot while out of state caught Huff’s attention. “My vote has been taken away, I’m pissed off,” Ms Bose told commissioners. A United States Air Force veteran, she said she tracked her absentee ballot application online and when she saw that her first ballot had never arrived, she requested another — which also hadn’t arrived.
Not being able to cast a vote is understandably upsetting, especially for an armed forces veteran. “We are concerned if she applied for a ballot, was eligible and has not received one. To our knowledge, no one has contacted the county electoral authority about this matter,” Huff said.
Huff continued, “My number one goal and focus is the current election, which we are actively working on day and night. I want to assure all Surry County voters that the safety of voting equipment is a high priority for this office and any claims regarding the validity of our equipment will be taken seriously.
“I don’t want Surry County voters walking out of a county without casting their ballot after they’ve checked in and been given a ballot due to misinformation about the voting tables. If a constituent wishes to call our office about a voting process, I encourage them to call our office.”