South Carolina Safe Elections Group NEEDS HELP in Fighting for Election Transparency | Joe Hoft

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South Carolina Safe Elections Group NEEDS HELP in Fighting for Election Transparency

Guest post

Grassroots group SC Safe Elections (SCSE) continues fight for access to valuable election audit report information.

Grassroots group SCSE (scsafeelection.org) sued eight counties and South Carolina’s state election commission for access to Cast Vote Records (CVRs) which are produced by election systems during elections.  CVRs show the actual votes for each ballot recorded during an election. Twenty-seven states and DC already have access to CVRs—why not South Carolina? These records are valuable digital records from elections.

SCSE repeatedly was denied access to CVRs through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that the group started filing in January of last year (2022). The state authorities are claiming that they cannot provide the CVRs due to PII (Personally Identifiable Information) on the ballotsor the potential for tying a ballot back to a voter. There is no substantive evidence of this and these issues can be easily rectified by customizing and redacting these reports.

Why can’t South Carolinians gain access to Cast Vote Records (CVRs)?

In August of 2020, the executive director of the South Carolina Election Commission {SEC), Marci Andino, sent a letter to the Attorney General’s (AG’s) office asking that the CVRS not be made public due to “Personally Identifiable Information” (PII) on the ballots and the potential for a ballot to be tied to a voter.

The AG’s office had to rely on the facts as presented by the SEC and issued an opinion to not release these records to the public. At the SCSE’s request, in the summer of 2022 about nine legislators (House Representatives and Senators) wrote a letter to the AG’s office asking them to reconsider their opinion. Unfortunately, the AG’s office submitted a second opinion doubling down on the first and told the SCSE the only way to remedy this was through the courts.

A pattern of lawfare and character assassination

The SCSE filed a request to prevent the 2020 election data from being destroyed and were successful in preserving 2020 election data. However, the defendants are dragging this process out through lawfare tactics and stonewalling discovery answers. This is costing the SCSE tens of thousands of dollars.

The SCSE filed a lawsuit in August of last year which is finally anticipated to be held in August/September of 2023. The defendants are countersuing the SCSE to restrict them from ever submitting another FOIA (Freedom of Information) request for information related to the 2020 election.

Their countersuit is egregiously unconstitutional.  It goes far beyond a mere “chilling effect” on First Amendment rights and (1) seeks a prior restraint to bar free speech (such as requesting election records), and further (2) seeks a prior restraint to bar investigation (e.g., of elections), which IIRC both the 8th and 10th circuits have held to be unconstitutional.

The defendants are trying to characterize the SCSE as conspiracy theorists and election deniers asking questions in depositions such as “did you attend January 6th?” “Have you met Mike Lindell?” and “do you believe Trump won the presidency in 2020?” The whole point is it doesn’t matter.

The SCSE is a group of South Carolina citizens looking to gain access to public documents related to the 2020 Election.

It’s about the law!

The South Carolina Constitution is somewhat unique in that in Section II Article 1 it states that votes shall be cast in secret, but not counted in secret; the current black box method of counting is unconstitutional. Once a voter puts their ballot into the tabulation machine that scans it, they can’t see how it is being counted.

If the public can’t see how their vote is being counted in the tabulation machines, then the state should provide some information (like CVRs) that help voters understand the progression of votes over time.  The CVRs provide enhanced data— versus the “total vote count”.

If you wanted to audit a bank account you wouldn’t look at the ending balance, you would want to see the flow of funds over time. That is what the CVRs provide – a sense of the flow of votes over time.

What the meaning of “is” is

The defendants are claiming they don’t have possession of the CVRs, don’t know what PII personally identifiable information is and can’t “generate” CVRs since creating records is not required under FOIA law. However, in depositions they admitted that they do have these CVRs, and in fact, have given ballot images and or CVRs over to Clear Ballot –a third party virtual auditing firm.

The defendants also state that a ballot contains PII—this is simply not true.

SCSE experts will testify to the fact that the CVRs are created or birthed at the time of tabulation and can be easily exported via the ES&S software.

Additionally, the defendants claim that the CVRs are from the old 2020 system which has an old operating system/software and thus they can’t export using the current operating system. However, they have admitted that an old version of this software exists at the state SEC offices so the 2020 data could be restored and exported from that system once the counties provide it.

Note that the whole reason South Carolina bought these new machines in 2019 was to provide a “paper audit trail.” Why don’t they know how to produce a key report for that audit trail? If ballots have barcodes that are read by the tabulators how can a person verify their vote?

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster and the Attorney General Alan Wilson could show their commitment to election integrity by calling for a change in this policy. They should ask that our election commission allow public access of the Cast Vote Records.

What is needed from you –

Please go to the SCSE’s website scsafeelections.org

Call Governor McMaster’s office at (803)734-2100 and Attorney General Wilson’s office 1-803-734-3970 and politely ask them to drop the countersuit and to stand for election transparency by allowing public access to Cast Vote Records!

Give to the SCSE to help them raise legal funds for this effort. They are a small grassroots group doing this on our own time and dime so any support you can give us is greatly appreciated. GiveSendGo.com/SCFOIA

Pray for the SCSE team to prevail in this lawsuit to ensure South Carolina elections are more transparent, accurate, accountable and auditable. This is a spiritual battle as much as anything else.

Members of the SCSE share:

This is an important battle. We are fighting hard for election integrity; we believe we can win this battle and also set a precedent for other states in the nation. If FOIA laws are disrespected and citizens need to spend thousands of dollars to fight this in our courts we have lost government accountability and transparency.

Please help the SCSE.

Laura Scharr from SCSE was on Lindell TV where she discussed their efforts in GOP-led South Carolina.

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