Early voting begins Thursday in Surry

In Surry County, concerns over the 2020 election have been reignited and coupled with rhetoric so strong it is making national headlines.

Last Monday, a group of eight people expressed concerns during a door-to-door visit they conducted using 2020 voter records. They told county commissioners they were finding and hearing from repeated allegations of voter fraud and wanted to bring the matter before the board to their attention.

Complaints are summarized as voter registration irregularities, vote totals that do not match expected population figures, fears of voting machines, a desire to revert to a paper ballot, as well as a ballot mail-in ballot that never happened. The group also wants what it calls a forensic audit done on the 2020 election to include a full inspection of all voting materials.

Reuters News Service reported over the weekend that Surry County Republican Party Chairman Keith Senter “told Chief Electoral Officer Michella Huff he would make sure she lost her job if she refused her request for access to the county’s vote tabulators, 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 board of elections said, citing testimony.”

“We just had a difference of opinion,” Huff said Monday of those two meetings in March with Senter about his concerns and his desire to look inside the voting machines. “That’s just not how it works in North Carolina.”

She gave Senter and Dr. Douglas Franks avenues of recourse if they found errors in the canvassing, and that her office would immediately investigate all voter challenge forms. She also informed them that any allegations of fraud should be dealt with by the state board of elections.

Senter said Huff’s office told him an audit had been done, but he countered that only a recount had been done. If there were erroneous data, counting the same data sets again would produce no difference.

“If you line up ten apples, and five of them are wooden, you still have ten apples, but five of them are fake. It’s the same with votes, you can count the votes again and again and get the same result. What if five of them are fraudulent? »

Mark Payne, a solicitor retained by Surry County, submitted the following to the Board of Elections on April 20: “To date, the only specific query/request made is a request for a ‘forensic audit’. It should be noted here that there is no legal definition of a “forensic audit” and due to the colloquial use of this term nationally, at present the request is vague . »

There is a common thread of mistrust in voting machines that permeates voter fraud arguments. A county elected official said they were told a microchip or modem inside would have caused the election results. “There was a problem with the internet connections, that’s what I heard Mike Lindell say,” said solicitor 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 have been certified to meet federal and state standards. Under state law, they cannot be connected to the internet and do not contain modems despite widespread misinformation,” Huff said in response.

“No electoral system or voting system in North Carolina has ever been the target of a successful cyberattack. Every piece of voting equipment is tested before each election, and the results are verified afterwards. Bipartisan teams participate in every step of the process, and the public can observe pre-election testing and post-election audits. We are happy to provide additional information on these topics if the parties so desire,” she wrote on Thursday.

There was a request for access to the voting machine by canvassers, to which Payne offers: “Under North Carolina election law, it is neither legal nor proper to authorize anyone other than election staff authorized to have physical access to the machines.”

He said the law forbids it and that 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 ratepayers to significant financial loss to purchase new voting machines or recertify current machines.”

Kevin Shinault pointed out what he called “statistical improbabilities and statistical impossibilities”. He said in Surry County that “everyone over 80 is registered to vote, it’s a statistical impossibility if you know the math”.

Huff replied, “We would like to ask where the voter information over 80 was and the methodology used in this claim. Such claims often derive from comparing registered voters of a certain age with the voting-age population in a county, as reported by the US Census Bureau for a different time period. Comparison of these data is not statistically or mathematically sound.

John Bose summed it up like this: “I know the heat is on, but I beg you to have some courage. We do not trust the electoral process. He, along with other speakers, offered stories of veterans, freedom and sacrifice to set the tone before dispensing with serious allegations of voter fraud.

“When we got there for practice, they started with 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 which gave her the right to speak to the council.

“They sacrificed themselves, and I never want to forget that. This is what gives me freedom. I thought about my grandchild and what I will say to him when he lives in tyranny in 20 years and does not have the freedoms that I have.

“What I would like to address is the door-to-door canvassing that is happening right now,” Huff continued. “We, the Board of Elections, and staff want to remind voters that we would never go door to door asking voters for information about any election activity. These people are not election officials. We would ask any voter to ask the canvasser to verify their identity and organization.

Canvassers told council they had data-driven stops and weren’t just going door-to-door. Also, they said the casual citizen may have offered who they voted for in 2020, but it wasn’t asked and it wasn’t their mission to find out.

“Most people thanked us and said it was long overdue,” Paula Stanley shared of her door-to-door experience.

Gayle Norman echoed this: “I took a different route, but the end result was the same. We have seniors who say they voted in person when our newspapers show an absentee/mail-in ballot.

“To date, we have not received any evidence or clarification regarding this second-hand account, so we have no way of verifying it or responding,” Huff said.

A specific complaint from a traveling nurse who asked twice and never received her mail-in ballot while out of state caught Huff’s attention. “My vote has been taken away from me, I’m crazy,” Ms Bose told the commissioners. A US Air Force veteran, she said she tracked her application for an absentee ballot online and when she saw her first ballot never arrived, she requested one another – which also did not happen.

Not having been able to vote is understandably upsetting, especially for an armed forces veteran. “We are concerned if she requested a ballot, was eligible and did not receive one. To our knowledge, no one has contacted the county board of elections about this,” Huff said.

Huff continued, “My number one focus is the current election which we are actively working on day and night. I want to assure all voters in Surry County that the security of election equipment is a priority for this office and that any complaints about the validity of our equipment are taken seriously.

“I do not want voters in Surry County walking out of a precinct without voting after registering and being given a ballot due to vote tabulator misinformation. If a voter wishes to call our office regarding any voting process, I encourage them to call our office.

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