SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KETK) — Grassroots America said 584 absentee voter ballots from the 2020 general election were not counted in Smith County, according to an audit done by the organization, Executive Director JoAnn Fleming said Tuesday.
Grassroots America requested that the item be put on Tuesday’s agenda for the Smith County Commissioners Court meeting.
According to the nonpartisan audit, seven local races in Smith County were within a 584-vote margin of error.
“We do think that every vote matters,” said Smith County Judge Neal Franklin.
Fleming said that Grassroots America provided a dozen volunteers to survey 634 voters and record 385 interviews.
“Those interviews documented unusual anomalies between voter memories and Smith County voting records,” Fleming said.
Fleming said the audit was a fact-finding mission to help the county.
“We have the count vote record show 8,242 votes, the official count said 8,372 votes, the voter list said 8,398 votes, the history file said 8,621 votes and the Secretary of State said 8,310. So that wide range of vote totals would cause a reasonable person to ask a simple question, ‘why?'” Fleming said.
Fleming said this was a nearly yearlong effort invested in the audit and the diligence used to develop fact-based results.
“This is not a partisan issue. I don’t care if someone is a member of the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the Green Party, the Neptune party… if you are an American citizen and you are legally eligible to vote in these United States, your vote should count,” Fleming said.
She said there were problems with records management and chain of custody control in “virtually every aspect of the 2020 General Election processes in Smith County.”
“The records boxes were an embarrassment… Smith County has a slogan ‘striving for excellence.’ This was not excellent,” Fleming said.
The auditing team reportedly compared absentee voting numbers against physical ballots.
“The results were shocking,” Fleming said.
“The county had 584 more absentee voters than absentee ballots. There were 584 disenfranchised absentee voters, that should appall and even make angry everyone in this room. It should also compel us to make sure this never happens again,” Fleming said.
She said the team focused on absentee voters because there were paper records and that machine records were not available or auditable.
Fleming said Former County Judge Nathaniel Moran was willing and eager to find the answers to the questions they had.
“I was a little appalled I was just in shock wondering how we could miss that many ballots,” said Hector Garza, Chairman of the Smith County Democratic Party.
She said that Grassroots America is working for standardization in election processes across the state.
“We commend Smith County Elections Administrator Michelle Allcon for the remarkable job she has done thus far to make her office accountable, transparent and compliant with the rule of law,” Fleming said.
Allcon said that during the 2020 presidential election, the COVID-19 pandemic was impacting the country and a lot of changes were made on the state level that impacted the local level like extended early voting periods and the extension of drop-off dates for absentee ballots.
“Mail ballots were actually processed in a separate building. Where the mail ballots were accepted, this was not the same location where the main ballots were actually processed,” Allcon said.
She said that uploads to the state and other logs did not appear to be done in a consistent manner.
“If there was fraud and disenfranchisement then you should know immediately, and if there wasn’t, the appearance of the same is just as bad to an election and the belief to the voters’ confidence of the election and of the county, that’s just as bad of a result. There should never be any question of fraud or voter disenfranchisement during any election at all,” Allcon said.
A request has been put in for a similar audit of the 2022 Gubernatorial Race to make sure changes were successfully implemented. Allcon said her office is open to the team reviewing the records.
“If you see the way she works, and how she has conducted elections she is very, very good at what she does. In addition, the county has been completely transparent,” said David Stein, Chairman of the Smith County Republican Party.
“We want to make sure that people are confident and secure in the knowledge that we are doing everything we can to make sure that every vote is actually counted,” Allcon said.
She attributed the errors to a lack of organization and detail management among working staff members, as well as not having enough staff to handle an election of that size, according to Allcon. The office is working on more in-depth training for election workers.
“The underlying issue with what we saw appeared to be lack of interest on the part of the staff. It’s like they didn’t care,” Allcon said.
Grassroots America will present its findings to the public on Monday, Feb. 13 in Tyler at the Holiday Inn Tyler Convention Center on South Broadway Avenue at 6:30 p.m.