Under the category of “What is the News?”
Hundreds of signed letters and notarized affidavits requesting an investigation into state elections were mailed to legislators across the state in late December of 2021. Something that the people who took the time to sign those letters, probably consider newsworthy. These people made a significant and unique effort to legally contact their representatives.
Some of the letters were simply refused. Yup, that’s right. Constituents mailed letters requesting help to their dully elected representative and many of the representatives refused to accept the mail.
Accepting the mail, however, did not yield the results hoped for either. It is reported that Representative Howard Anderson, when asked what action(s) he had taken in response to the letters replied in an email with the following, “I laid the packet on my desk for a few days while considering if I should make a response to each petitioner but decided not to do so and discarded the petitions.”
Yup, he threw them away.
What else happened? It seems that some of the state representatives, rather than contact the people who sent these letters, contacted the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State then sent out a memo to all representatives with a response to the cover letter that was included.
The cover letter included 10 simple points of concern regarding our elections. One of these statements was,
“Did you know that “test votes” are completed in a separate section of the ES&S tabulators specifically for the purpose of preventing them from getting left in the system on voting day? In fact, it’s quite impossible to ‘accidentally leave test votes in the system.”
Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum responded:
“Who knows where the author is getting this information, but they should get different sources because they are way off base. A detailed response could be given, but the best way to know the truth is to observe the voting system in action. Tests of the system are open to the public for observation both before and after each election. My guess is that the author has not taken advantage of this and would rather spout off with whatever fits his or her own narrative. I don’t believe the author is even aware of what the narrative would be. Reason? The author and others like him or her claim to be “conservatives.” If that is the case, why are they complaining when Republicans won so many contests and by such wide margins in the 2020 election? It doesn’t make sense.”
In regards to that issue, let’s begin with the fact that the state of North Dakota does not provide it’s election manual to the public except for the following, the front page only:
Black and White photocopies of the front page of the manuals for our election equipment, is all that the citizens of North Dakota are allowed to see. However, most other states using the same equipment have made their manuals entirely public. There are many available online at official Secretary of State websites or Board of Election websites across the nation.
For example: https://sos.idaho.gov/elect/Clerk/DS200%20Procedures/ESS_EVS5000_SOP00_DS200_Operator%20Guide.pdf Really, just do an internet search for DS200 Manual and see what you can find.
When reading the manuals, here’s what’s found:
The Election Systems and Software (ES&S) tabulators used, have three unique modes, as shown in the operation manual:
To access the Administrative Mode, you have to select Admin on the top right screen, as seen below. The testing system is separate from the election day processes. Opening a DS200 tabulator on the morning of election day begins with the following screen:
Once the Open Poll button is selected, the tabulators can start accepting ballots. Note the white letters in the center of the top blue bar:
Public Count: 0
Protected Count: 0
To continue, the poll worker has to touch the screen button that says “Open Poll.” At this point the tabulator is preprogrammed to print a “Zero Totals Reports” to verify that there are no votes in the system before the polls are opened on election day. The ES&S Poll Worker Guide v.1.1 explains, “The DS200 should be configured to automatically print at least one (1) Zero Totals Report when the poll opens. North Dakota like most states across the nation require two signatures on the printed paper copy of the Zero Totals Report prior to selecting “Go to Voting Mode.”
Multiple high-level local election officials in North Dakota have confirmed that this step is completed every time.
Even the Federal Election Assistance Commission, Election Day Checklist includes, “Step 16: Touch Open Poll. Two Zero Totals Report will print. Verify all results on the reports are 0.” DS200_Election_Day_L_A_Checklist.pdf (eac.gov) Further, the Poll Worker, according to this guide, is supposed to “Verify the Public Count at the top of the screen is at “0” before voting starts on the first day of tabulation or testing.”
The Elections Systems and Software Manual’s states, “If any of these checks fail, the failure is logged and system operation may be limited or disallowed.”
After selecting “Go to Voting Mode” the next screen reads, “The poll is open and the voting device is now ready for voting. For Reporting Options, press “Reporting Options” now. To start accepting ballots press “Go to Voting Mode.”
Once Voting Mode begins the people of North Dakota can feed the big, black box with paper ballots, one at a time.
Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum mentioned pre-election tests, but did not provide details.
The ES&S Tabulator Administrator Guide does however provide details. For example, it states, “Users will use live, printed ballots to conduct Logic and Accuracy testing of the DS200s to the accuracy of the election programming definition.
During this testing, Contractor verifies:
• All locations and accepted ballots per location.
• The desired handling of over-voted, under-voted, and blank ballots.
• That sets of scripted results are transferred correctly into the reporting system.
• The types of reports the jurisdiction wants for Election Day and generates the reports using test data”
The EAC confirms this Microsoft Word – 2-Logic and Accuracy_Final_2.0_031416 (eac.gov) (page 3)
ES&S legal claims take it a bit further,
“DS200 The DS200 circuitry provides diagnostic testing for verifying the condition of the system. Upon startup, the DS200 automatically performs a series of internal system diagnostic checks. These checks are always executed on startup. Automatic self-tests include checking the scanner software, checking the printer, and other system checks. A report of the test results will be generated automatically. Reports include the automatic printing of the Configuration, Status, and Zero Reports, which provide all the information needed to verify equipment readiness. Users also have the ability to print the Audit Log – a report showing all scanner operations since election definition loading. If any of the system tests fail, the unit will not enter the vote mode.”
There are multiple systems in place to prevent test votes from being left in the system.
The issue of audit logs – the Election Systems and Software equipment is designed with an “audit log.” The audit log keeps a detailed record of events. Yet, this was not mentioned in the response to this question.
Specifically ES&S states that, each tabulator
“records two types of event reports.
One is a summary of critical events, and the other is a printout of all election events (also known as the Audit Log Report).
Each event logged includes a timestamp identifying when the event occurred and a brief description of the event. …
The Critical Events Report is a report of all the critical events that have occurred thus far in relation to the Election Definition. Examples of such events are Polls Opened, Clear Totals Report, Election Definition Loaded, and Election Test Mode.”
It seems clear that had test votes been left in the system that there would be a significant, detailed paper trail, complete with dated, signatures from the election officials on site. Where is that information?
After more than a year, there is still only the initial statement from Deputy Silrum, indicating that the reason that the losing candidates lost votes while the winning candidate gained votes was due to a human error of leaving test votes in the system.
For this one reason alone, an investigation is warranted in the eyes of many. The remainder of the cover letter will be discussed point by point in following Justamom articles.
Why are we covering this now? Well, this is a volunteer only thing and we do our best. Elections are coming around the corner again. Let’s hope we all pay better attention this time.