Mason County Washington had 44,161 registered voters at the time of the 2020 Presidential election. From 2016 to 2020, Trump had a 38% vote increase, and the Democrat vote had a 45% increase. The county population growth for those 4 years was 5%.
The county issued 2,375 more ballots than there were registered voters in the November 2020 general election. 2,022 of which were replacement ballots. 732 of the replacement ballots were issued online, through VoteWA, our statewide election management system.
Town Hall Discusses Elections in Mason County
ClearVote 2.1 is Not EAC Certified
Washington State received money from the Help America Vote Act for purchasing updated election equipment. Accepting the funds means that their “Voluntary Voting System Guidelines” are no longer voluntary, but rather required. The VVSG requires election systems be federally certified by and accredited VSTL. Washington State law also requires that our systems be certified.
In 2020 the SOS certified ClearVote 2.1, even though it was not federally certified. 2.0 was certified by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The OSOS decided the update/upgrade was a de minimis change and didn’t require re-certification.
There were also some emergency security patches done in 2020, during the restricted time period before elections, which the SOS approved for several counties.
Today, the EAC website still has no documentation for ClearVote 2.1 and the counties still using that version show up on the EAC website as not using certified election systems. We used improperly certified equipment in 2020, and we are still using improperly certified equipment now, in 2022.
Deleted Election Records
Despite the 22-month record retention requirement for federal election records, Mason County was unable to produce certain records in response to a public records request. The records we requested are referred to in the Clear Ballot manual as the “audit” records of the system. Here is the response we got from the Prosecutor’s office after requesting they review the county’s inability to provide the requested records:
“Prior to performing the software update Clear Ballot sent out notifications to remind customers, including Mason County, that certain data needs to be backed up or it will be ‘wiped’ upon update. Clear Ballot specified what data needed to be backed up prior to performing software updates. However, the backup notification sent by Clear Ballot to Mason County (and other Countys as I understand) prior to the December 2020 software update failed to include a reminder to back up the web activity log but did include a reminder to back up the election activity log.
It is also my understanding that Clear Ballot is currently drafting a statement reflecting their failure to provide the necessary reminders relating to backing up data. This statement is anticipated to be available in the next couple of weeks.
While it is true that the Clear Ballot Manual says what to back up prior to doing an update, there was no reason for the Election Department staff to consult the manual, since it was Clear Ballot employees that did the update and they failed to follow the instructions in the manual.
This situation is not unique to Mason County. It is my understanding, after discussing this issue with a Clear Ballot representative, that each County in Washington using the Clear Ballot system have also lost their web activity logs. The Clear Ballot representative explained that they are taking measures to avoid this situation from happening in the future. They will be drafting and distributing a more comprehensive pre software update notification regarding data back up along with additional training sessions with individual County Election Departments.
This is an unfortunate and unintentional set of circumstances that we are dealing with. This is not a situation where Mason County has the web activity log and is not providing it to you. The web activity log was ‘wiped’ once the December 2020 software update was performed. Mason County was able to provide the election activity log because it was backed up after being informed by Clear Ballot to do so in its pre software update notification.”Mason County Prosecutor’s Office
As you read from their statement, this is not unique to Mason County. Read more about that HERE.
Clear Ballot’s Statement
We followed up on the statement from Clear Ballot regarding the matter and were very disappointed with what they offered. It shows no remorse, and they assume no responsibility. See their statement below.
Auditor Expresses Disappointment with Clear Ballot
After a chain of emails back and forth between Clear Ballot and the County Auditors office, it appears Paddy is disappointed with Clear Ballot for their lack of ownership over the deleted records. Remember, the county is the custodian of the record, and they are ultimately responsible for preserving these records.
Litigation Hold Notice
Mason County received a litigation hold notice from attorney Pete Serrano in regards to election records preservation for 2020 and later. See below.
Logic and Accuracy Test
We requested records regarding the Logic and Accuracy tests done prior to the 2020 general election. The county provided documents that show the county was using Clear Vote 1.4.2 that five people signed off on. The problem is, the election activity log Mason County gave us show they were using Clear Vote 1.5, not 1.4.2.
The Mason County Voter Research Project went door to door to canvass the neighborhood in an effort to check the accuracy of the voter registration data. Read the report below.
Using Covid to change the election observation rules
Mason County did not allow in person observation of the ballot processing and other election related events which Washington state law allows citizens to monitor. Instead, they set up some web cameras and people were only permitted to watch online. Additionally, there was no audio on the video.
This does not suffice as a transparent process that citizens are supposed to be able to observe. There could have easily been blind spots which observers had no supervision over, or questionable instruction provided to the election workers which the public wasn’t able to question, or even hear for that matter. See video pointing out the problems from Mason County election observers above.
Follow the Money
Mason county received a grant in the amount of $32,904 from CTCL, funded by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. The tax return for the organization states the funds were for the “safe administration of elections during the Covid-19 pandemic”. Mason County initially failed to report this extra funding. Read more about that HERE.
Using records provided by the Auditor’s office, we reconstructed a timeline of the vote count. You will see the results below. What is strange, is it appears the voters who selected democrat candidates on their ballot appear to have coordinated to be among the first to turn in their ballots.
These charts start on October 13th and go through the certification of the 2020 election, which was on November 24th. The counties scan and process ballots as they receive them. They are scanned in batches of 150 or less in Mason County.
In this first visual, the blue lines going up represent a democrat win for that batch of ballots, and a red line going down represent the batches won by republican candidates. The longer the line, the larger the margin of victory for the batch. (A short line means the batch was won by only a few votes, and a long line means the batch was won by several votes.)
Of the counties we have these records for, Mason was the first to start scanning ballots for the general election. The bulk of batches were scanned between October 16th and November 4th.
When comparing the different races within the county in 2020, suspicions arise due to the differences in the republican and democrat votes. There was a district 35 Representative Position 1 and Position 2 races which the republican candidates wone by a significant amount.
Comparing the Presidential and Governor races to the Representative races there are similarities in the shape of the vote count lines, but the Governor and Presidential races were much closer than the other races.
We also looked at the County Commissioner race, and the republican vote totals are similar in shape. There was a republican and an independent running for the commissioner position. Surprisingly, the independent candidate had more votes at the end, and during the entire time, unlike the others.
Ballot Processing Schedule
Something that we found to be interesting in the data was that Mason County did not scan any ballots on election day. They scanned from October 13th through November 2nd and picked up again on the 4th.
In many other counties, election day had more scanned batches than any other day. Why didn’t Mason County scan and tabulate ballots on election day? Instead, their initial results were whatever was scanned and counted up to the 2nd. We believe that is the reason for the jump in Republican votes in the charts above near the end. That was the time frame going from the 2nd to the 4th. Doesn’t explain the independent votes though.
The resolver tool is the Clear Ballot adjudication tool. When a ballot cannot be read by the scanner, and is not auto adjudicated, election workers log into the Clear Count system and use the resolver tool to tell the system who to credit the vote for. These actions are recorded in the election activity log. It shows up as “remaking the ballot”. In November 2020, Mason county’s log shows 2,774 remade ballots, about 7.4% of the total ballots counted in the election.