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Election Anomalies, Public Record Denials, & Legal Actions
South Dakota Canvassing continues its push to move South Dakota from its "D" Heritage Foundation grade with legal action to correlate public vote count records with reported election results.
For years people of all political parties and persuasions have been yammering about problems with voting systems.
Then in 2020, President Trump encouraged people to watch the vote tallying. At that point, people began noticing what appeared to be blatant manipulation. Then a number of documentaries, like 2000 Mules, began surfacing that used data to highlight foul play.
Pretending that voter fraud does not exist puts the integrity of our voting process at risk. — Mercedes Schlapp
Since South Dakota is small and uses paper ballots, most South Dakotans thought the problems were elsewhere.
All that changed when a few concerned citizens formed South Dakota Canvassing (SDC) and began asking questions and discovered concerning anomalies. Among other things they noted:
The 2020 election was certified November 10, 2020, but the official South Dakota Secretary of State (SOS) website showed the total votes cast shifting upwards and downwards through December 29, 2021.
In that election, 256 voters were over 120 years old, 11 voters voted twice, 4379 ballots cast could not be connected to a registered voter, and 472 people voted without proper registration (data compiled by SDC from reports that are generated by the SOS after each election — form for the reports).
At this point, SDC was concerned enough that they started asking their county auditors, the people in charge of the elections, pointed questions. In the course of the questioning and associated research, the group learned:
It appears all counties count votes using electronic tallying machines. These machines are paper ballot optical scanners provided by Election System and Software (ES&S). There are several different ES&S tallying machines in use in South Dakota (Board of Elections meeting minutes that describe tallying machines).
Some counties hand count ballots for specific races. However, there does not appear to be a standard procedure that combines electronic tallying machine counts with hand counting or hand count audits even though South Dakota law requires precinct hand counts (legislation on how to count votes for candidates, legislation on how to prepare returns).
The software and firmware on electronic tallying machines are updated from time to time. SDC does not know how the updates are made in South Dakota, but from a short conversation with ES&S it appears there are firmware and software updates. Malware and counting algorithm changes can easily be transferred onto computers (tallying machines) via firmware and software updates. In addition, security flaws in the hardware can make access easier (vulnerability in CPUs lets hackers steal encryption keys, listing of some hardware security issues).
Voting rolls are shared through a centralized electronic system called TotalVote. TotalVote is owned by a company called knowink. Since the TotalVote system is electronic, the rolls are open to hacking. Right now there is no easy way for county auditors to make sure all the registrations in the system are real. To make matters more challenging, there are claims the TotalVote software is out of compliance with Federal law and the laws of some states.
During the 2022 election, the vote counts on the SOS site for several candidates in state legislative races, one candidate in the Secretary of State race, and several candidates in the Minnehaha County Commission race dropped during the course of the updates. The Secretary of State candidate lost close to 4000 votes in a few minutes.
In a further effort to gain insight into the 13+ months of changes to the voting tallies after the 2020 general election and other vote counting and reporting anomalies, the group began asking county auditors around the state for copies of the Cast Vote Records (CVRs), Excel spreadsheets that summarize the ES&S tallying machine vote totals by county and precinct. The thought was these totals could be compared to the SOS site numbers to find out why the SOS site numbers for the 2020 general election kept changing for over a year and why some candidates showed significant vote count drops during the 2022 general election.
SDC believes the CVRs are public records. They do not include personal data and there is nothing proprietary about columns of vote totals in an Excel spreadsheet. Interestingly, the county auditors were not allowed to release copies of the CVRs.
Unfortunately, the counties SDC contacted denied the CVRs are available. SDC believes ES&S gives the county auditors CVRs after each election. As a result, SDC took legal action in three of the larger counties; Minnehaha, Pennington, and Lincoln; to force the counties to provide them with copies of the CVRs so they could complete their analysis.
Sadly, these counties have hired outside legal counsel to represent them rather than providing copies of the CVRs. While it may be a requirement of the surety bond insurance companies to hire outside counsel when someone files on a surety bond, it seems like a waste of taxpayer funds.
SDC is not interested in throwing people under the bus or casting blame, but is anxious to find out what is amiss so the state can make whatever adjustments are necessary to make sure its elections are fair and honest.
The judge is expected to rule on whether the counties have to release the CVRs in early May.
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