Missoula Ballot Review Team Shares Letter, Evidence Detailing 4,592 Ballots Missing Required Envelopes in Missoula 2020 General Election
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Last October, a group of citizens interested in election integrity coordinated with the Missoula County Elections office to perform a ballot signature envelope count to ensure the chain of custody requirements for 72,491 mail-in ballot submitted in the 2020 General Election conducted in Missoula County. Missoula County’s election was an all mail-in ballot election in 2020, under the direction of former Governor Steve Bullock.
The ballot signature envelope count was planned for the second Tuesday after the election, however Missoula County Elections Administrator Bradley Seaman notified the group that they would be required to pay elections officials $3000 before scheduling staff time and securing a location.
The group raised the $3000 that Seaman requested and the elections administrator secured Building 35 at the Missoula County Fairgrounds which he scheduled for January 4th.
On January 4th, 19 volunteers gathered at Building 35 at the Missoula County Fairgrounds under the supervision of Missoula County Elections staff and Elections Administrator Bradley Seaman. The volunteers were provided with boxes of ballot signature envelopes one at a time with two volunteers counting each box. Elections staff provided counters with vote tabulation sheets used in past elections.
Two members of the ballot review team, Attorney Quentin Rhoades and former Missoula City Councilwoman Lyn Hellegaard, shared a letter detailing the process and the findings. They noted, “to date, no person from the news media has interviewed a single-one of the counters who participated in the January 4, 2021, affirmation envelope count,” a reference to a local news media shutout of the reviewers findings. Only one reporter, John R. Lott with RealClear Investigations, has since covered the news.
Missoula County Tyranny was also able to secure the tabulation sheets used during the ballot envelope review process overseen by the Missoula County Elections Department in addition to the adding machine receipts totaling the ballots and revealing the discrepancy.
The following is their letter:
Quentin Rhoades coordinated with Bradley Seaman, the Missoula County Election Administrator, to obtain access to the voter affirmation envelopes. Due to COVID-19 protocols, a large building had to be used. Mr. Seaman’s staff also had to have time to move the envelopes from where they are warehoused to where they would be counted. We originally asked for the count to occur on the second Tuesday after the November 3 election. Mr. Seaman, however, required an advance deposit of almost $3,000 before he would schedule the staff time and find a building.
Once those funds were raised and deposited, it took him some time, but Mr. Seaman eventually secured the old Building 35 at the Fairgrounds for the week of January 4, 2021. Building 35 had one large room sufficient to accommodate 25 people under COVID-19 rules.
Mr. Seaman imposed a requirement that counters “may not take video, photos, or photocopies of any of the signature portions of an envelope. If a copy of an envelope is requested, elections staff will photocopy the envelope for the requestor and omit the signature area of the envelope.”
Lyn Hellegaard, a former City Council member, served as the team leader for the 19 volunteer counters. We all showed up at Building 35 at 9:00, on January 4, 2021. Mr. Seaman and his staff were already present. They had configured the room with a large table in the center with ballot envelopes in their sealed boxes. The Election Office staff had placed ten long tables around the room, with two chairs each six feet apart, so 20 people could count, four staff could assist by unsealing and moving the boxes of envelopes to and from the counting tables, and Mr. Seaman could be personally present during the entire process.
The initial plan was for the counters to keep track of the count tallies using note paper. Mr. Seaman, however, suggested that to be as accurate as possible, that we should use forms the Election Office had created for the purposes of election recounts. He had plenty of these forms leftover from prior elections and provided them to the counters for their use in counting envelopes. Quentin and Lyn accepted Mr. Seaman’s suggestion.
Shortly after 9:00, Quentin and Mr. Seaman gathered the counters together to discuss the process, the forms and instruct the counters on details. First, Mr. Seaman spoke and discussed his requirements. Quentin then gave directions for using the recount forms for the purposes of counting envelopes. Mr. Seaman was present during Quentin’s discussion and gave no indication of disagreement, publicly or to Quentin privately, with the method described.
The process of counting some 68,000 envelopes took about five hours. Lyn then took the count spreadsheets from the volunteers and tallied the total number of envelopes with an adding machine, preserving both the tally sheets and the adding machine tapes for future reference and inspection as necessary. Anyone who would like to see them should coordinate with Quentin, where they are kept in the custody of his law firm.
In Missoula County, there were 72,491 mail-in and absentee votes tallied in the November 3, 2020 general election. But the Election Office produced only 67,899 affirmation envelopes for our count. This is a discrepancy of 4,592 or 6.33% of the total votes tallied. It is important to note that many people voted in person in Missoula County. Upon inquiry, however, Mr. Seaman told Quentin that these people were all given absentee ballots in envelopes, with the result being that every single ballot had an identical envelope, whether the voter voted in person, by mail, or by dropping ballots into collection boxes.
A random additional count was done on a subsample of 15,455 envelopes. Of these envelopes, 55 did not have dates and 53 did not bear Election Office marks that should have been placed on them when they had the signatures checked.
Further, it was noted that dozens of ballot envelopes had identical signatures, but the Missoula County Elections Office would not allow pictures to be taken of these envelope signatures, so no systematic count was made of this problem.
During the counting process Mr. Seaman expressed no concerns about the counters’ methodology or accuracy. The process flowed smoothly. Election Office staff unsealed the boxes, brought them to the counting tables, the counters worked their way through the envelops, the staff returned the boxes of counted envelopes to the center table for resealing and the process proceeded. The Election Office staff did monitor the counters, as they expressed a concern at some point that some of the envelopes could have been doubled-counted. If so, however, the envelope discrepancy would be even greater and therefore all the more troubling. The staff expressed no worry of any undercounting.
Finally, during the process of arranging for the envelope count, in an email exchange, Quentin asked Mr. Seaman on December 22, 2020, as follows: “Were video images of these processes captured on media? If so, is the media available?” Mr. Seaman responded: “I will have to work with our IT department to see if the live stream was recorded or just broadcast. If it has been recorded and is available we will provide it with other digital records.” On January 4, 2021, Mr. Seaman sent a hyperlink in an email that read: “Here are links to the audit logs from the tabulators and a link to the live stream from the Counting Center:” When the link would not function, however, Andy Nelson, of the County IT department reported to Mr. Seaman’s inquiry on January 7, 2021: “Our Milestone system recorded the video, but those videos are only held for a month before being archived and purged. The latest videos we have there are from December 20th.” What is troubling about this explanation, however, is that the County’s video retention policy, which is freely available at the County website, requires video to be archived for “60 days.” Quentin asked for the video 49 days after the election. No explanation was given for why the video was purged in violation of written County record retention policy.
On February 4, 2021, Quentin met with Mr. Seaman at the Election Office to discuss the envelope discrepancy and to review some of the questioned envelopes that had been reserved from the resealed boxes. At that time, Mr. Seaman expressed great concern over the discrepancy. His only explanation was to speculate that perhaps his staff had mislaid a couple of the boxes, although he felt that was unlikely. Having watched the counting process, he did not say he felt the counters could have made large errors in their findings.
Finally, it is important to note that the count we did is sufficiently reliable that it would be admissible evidence in a court of law. Opinions are not typically something lay persons are allowed to express in court. Opinions are allowed only after a foundation of expertise, based on education, training or experience is first demonstrated. But this is not true with the results of a mere count. Lay people are trusted by the courts to understand the requirements of counting and are thus allowed to testify in court to their “opinion” as to the results of a count. So as much as Mr. Seaman now insists the count was not accurate, it is sufficiently reliable to consist of admissible evidence in court. Moreover, he suggested the method we used, and he was personally present with his staff during the entire process. Again, not once did they express any concern for our methodology or our accuracy.
Evidentiary and supporting documentation
The Montana Election Integrity Project announced its first educational event focused on providing Montana citizens with data and analysis of the Montana 2020 General Election. The three speakers who will…
A recent report published in RealClear Investigations by John Lott summarizes the findings of a ballot signature envelope review of the 2020 General Election conducted in Missoula County. The review…