Election activists are seeking the ‘cast vote record’ from 2020. Here’s what it is and why they want it.


This article was originally published Votebeat . A non-profit news organization that covers local election administration and voter access,

People are requesting a document that was generated by the ballot-counting machines. This record is believed to be able to detect fraudulent voting patterns and help identify former President Donald Trump as the winner of the 2020 presidential election. This latest example is yet another in a long line of unsuccessful attempts to find a smoking gun. There has been no evidence of any wrongdoing that could have affected the election results.

Experts say that the “cast vote record” document cannot be used to detect such patterns and is not particularly useful for people who aren’t auditors or researchers. As they prepare for the general election, the sheer volume of requests is overwhelming elections offices .

“The amazing thing about this is that it’s actually a lot more here than it might appear in either direction. It’s far less alarming than it should be, but it’s still very useful,” Max Hailperin, a former computer science professor who studied election technology.

A cast vote record simply means that it is an electronic representation of the votes cast. These lines of data are displayed in a spreadsheet containing zeros and one to indicate how many votes were contained in an anonymous ballot.

The ability to make public the results of the vote records varies from one country to the next. The exact definition and appearance, as well as the appearance, of a cast vote record varies depending on where it is located and what voting technology it uses.

Recent instructions by people who promote bogus theories about election fraud have prompted requesters to bombard elections offices with cut and paste requests.

Mike Lindell, My Pillow CEO, is known for spreading baseless theories about election fraud. He also has a man called Jeff O’Donnell who goes by the name “The Lone Raccoon” online. Another far-right internet personality, Lady Draza, urges people to submit the requests and obtain the records in a repository. To generate a list potential lawsuits, they ask that requesters report back to officials if they deny them.

In late August Lindell spoke out about the need for listeners of cast vote records to be requested. There was a flurry of requests from counties. Colorado was one example. There were dozens of requests for Colorado counties after the summit. One local official said that the requests were similar to a “denial-of-service” attack that stops them from performing their jobs .

The elections department in Arizona’s Maricopa County has experienced a huge influx of requests to obtain the records. Megan Gilbertson, an elections spokeswoman, said that 11 requests were received for the cast vote records in 2021. Up to Aug. 25, 2022, the county received more than 90 requests, with more being submitted each day.

Experts disagree with Lindell’s suggestion that the records could be used in this way.

“I think many of those who are asking for them don’t even know what it is.” “They’re the mules,” Hailperin stated.

The files can vary in size depending on the county or the town. The files can be overwhelming for a layperson who isn’t familiar with the area or how it might be used.

You can count the cast vote record to obtain an unofficial election night result but not the final canvassed vote. The official results are the canvassed vote. It includes any ballots that were not valid or required adjudication.

Sometimes, the cast vote record includes ballot images. It is possible to match the ballot images with a particular line of data within a cast vote records spreadsheet. If there are questions about whether someone intended to vote in a particular way, this can be used by auditors to see how the ballot was adjudicated.

Researchers and auditors can use the records as a valuable tool. These records can be used to identify larger trends such as how many people split their ticket and how precincts have moved towards a party over time. They also provide information about how voting methods (in person vs. mail) change. The cast vote record, when combined with the ballot images, can be used to audit an electoral. However, paper ballots are a better tool.

Auditing should be done from the actual paper ballot and not from a digital image. Hailperin stated that you can have a little more confidence by looking at the cast vote record and image.

These records don’t contain your name or voter names. The ballots are private by law, so the names of voters are not there.

Hailperin stated that some people who seek these records believe they can find fraud based upon the order in which the ballots were scanned. They would, for example, flag if a large number consecutively voted for one candidate. However, the order in which the ballots were scanned does not always correspond with the date they arrived. It is flawed to cite ballot sequences in proof of fraud. Different political affiliations tend to vote with different methods due to their trust in early voting, or other factors.

They won’t tell the story you want them too. “If the story that you want to tell is that this was clearly fraudulent, they’re not going to get it,” Dan Wallach, a Rice University computer science professor who studies election security, said.

There is no national law that identifies which cast vote records or corresponding ballot images are public records.

Some jurisdictions make election records online. They also provide ballot images that enable anyone to verify the results of an election. While some jurisdictions will provide a cast vote record in response to such requests, they won’t release the ballot images. Some won’t release the information. Others have not received any requests for such records, so they are trying to figure out how to respond. Others don’t have a cast vote record due to the technology they use .

In small areas with fewer voters assigned to each precinct, election departments are careful not to reveal information that could identify individual voters’ votes. They are also faced with unclear state laws and codes regarding whether or not the cast vote record should be made public. These questions are being addressed by lawsuits in many places, including Arizona and Pennsylvania.

The release of the ballot images is more contentious than that of the cast vote record spreadsheet.

Wallach stated that there is an additional question about whether a CVR is legaly a ballot. Wallach explained that the whole concept of CVR was born because when something is called a ballot, a bunch of laws are put into effect.

John Brakey, a Democratic activist, co-founded AUDIT USA, and was a liaison to the Arizona Senate’s poll review in Maricopa County. He has sued multiple jurisdictions in an attempt to access ballot images and cast votes records, in a separate effort from Lindell’s. Brakey doesn’t believe that there was widespread fraud during the 2020 election. Brakey believes that both records should be combined in order to offer the best auditing option, other than the hand-marked paper ballots.

He stated that “we should be able use it to build trust in our electoral system in this country, and to offer people, prove to them that they are real.” “Elections are useless if they’re transparent, trackable, and publicly verified using a valid library system,” he said.

He said that providing both images and spreadsheets will increase confidence and transparency during elections.

“The secret act of voting is what actually happens. Counting is public. Brakey stated that if we have elections we can trust, we will not be able to count the votes.”

Brakey in Arizona has had difficulty accessing the ballot images or casting votes records. AUDIT USA filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County for access to the ballot images. A court ruled the images were not public records. The judge pointed out that state law requires electronic data and digital images from ballots to be treated “at minimum as protective as those prescribed by paper ballots.” must be kept in a secure location for 24 months for federal office election elections or six months for any other elections. appeal.

Santa Cruz County in Arizona took an unusual step last month and sought a judgment from a court over whether its cast vote record, which was turned over in the past by the county, was public. According to court filings, Brakey claimed that the county would sue it. Therefore, the court should decide whether the records are public. Brakey stated that he did not intend to sue Santa Cruz County. According to the county, requests for cast vote records violate secrecy and conflict with state law.

The possibility of a voter being identified by precinct vote records with timestamps or in sequential order raises the risk. However, Hailperin stated that randomizing the records and removing timestamps before releasing the record publicly helps to eliminate that threat.

Dane County, Wisconsin posts both cast vote records as well as images of ballots on its website under the heading Do it Yourself Audit. The county randomly sorted and sorted the records which don’t include identifying information. The website also notes that some locations’ cast vote records and images were not included due to saving errors or hand-counts.

If a voter has a unique handwriting or marks on their ballot, then the images of their ballot could be linked to that voter. Wallach stated that this could lead to privacy concerns and the possibility of vote-buying.

Wallach stated that a voter could mark their ballot in one way or vote in a certain pattern in down-ballot elections to prove that they were honoring their end of the bargain.

Other parts of the country may not have any voter records. For example, tabulators in Connecticut don’t create them. This is according to Gabe Rosenberg who is chief of staff for the Connecticut secretary. However, the office continues to receive requests. While some requests are in the Lindell style, others appear to have come from a local Facebook group. Rosenberg responded to the requests, explaining that there aren’t any records that can meet the request.

Rosenberg believes that the requesters are not doing it to waste their time. Rosenberg believes that the part of the benefit to those who coordinate the requests across the country is that it takes up a whole day.

Votebeat, a non-profit news organization that covers local elections integrity and voter access, is called Votebeat. Register for their newsletters by clicking here.

Rachel Leingang, a freelancer at Votebeat, is co-founder of Arizona Agenda. Contact Rachel at [email protected].

Experts say that the obscure document created by ballot tabulators will not prove fraud activists’ claims.

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