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GOP protest over voting machine shutdown dismissed by Forsyth election board

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On a 3-2 vote, the Forsyth County Board of Elections on Wednesday dismissed a protest of the 2022 midterm election that was filed by a group of local Republicans after election officials made an error that affected the way voting tabulators were shut down on Nov. 8.

The board split along party lines, with the Democratic majority voting to dismiss the protest and the Republican minority wanting to give the protest a chance to go forward to a hearing.

Protest

A crowd watches as members of the Forsyth County Board of Elections talk about an election protest some of them signed.

The GOP members of the election board voiced confidence in the election results here, but said those filing the protest should at least get the chance to make their case. Those filing the protest said that the voting machine shutdown procedure was tainted in a way that could cast doubt on the results.

About 20 people, many of them backing the protest, attended the Wednesday hearing. When it was over, they gathered in the lobby of the Forsyth County Government Center to discuss their next steps. That could include an appeal to the state board of elections.

The split vote on dismissal turned on a technicality: The Democratic majority stood on language in the administrative code that governs election protests. That language specifies that a protest should be dismissed without a hearing unless it reveals some problem that could cast doubt on the election results.

The GOP members pointed out that the election protest law was rewritten in 2019 to make it easier to file a protest, making it possible to move forward to a hearing on an election protest without first demonstrating that the election results were tainted. But the language in the administrative code still reads otherwise.

GOP board member Adam Draper said he thought that it appeared “problematic” whether those filing the protest would be able to present convincing evidence at a hearing, but said that was not the point: “My reading of this statute is that it makes a hearing easier,” he said.

What happened on election night is that poll workers in all 108 county precincts discovered when they closed the polling places that they could not shut down their voting tabulators to deliver the results. The workers did not have a code the machines were requiring them to enter.

The workers eventually got an administrative code to shut down their machines, but the protest asserted that passing out the code created a security breach that could have allowed unauthorized access to the results.

Protest

A crowd watches as members of the Forsyth County Board of Elections talk about an election protest some of them signed.

Catherine Jourdan, a Democratic member of the elections board, said during Wednesday’s meeting that there was no question but that the machine shutdown procedure was irregular.

“Were there concerns? Absolutely, there were concerns,” Jourdan said. “And did it cause anxiety and nervousness? If I were there, I would have felt that way, too. But I’m stuck on ... (whether I think) there was evidence to prove that the election outcome was affected. And I don’t see any evidence to suggest that.”

Ken Raymond, who chairs the county Republican Party, was the lead name on the protest, which was filed Nov. 18 when the elections board met to canvass the 2022 election here. Election officials said Wednesday that Raymond’s participation in the protest was not valid because he had not signed a document, but that didn’t matter because three other people signed the protest in proper form.

Tim Tsujii, the elections director, pointedly declined to tell members of the election board how he felt about the protest. But after the board had dismissed the protest, he outlined extensively why he believes the citizens should trust the election results.

One key fact Tsujii had not mentioned previously: Even after using an administrative code to get access to the machines on election night, no one could have gone on to carry out any administrative functions without a second code, one that was never distributed.

Tsujii said after the meeting that he discovered the need for the second code in reviewing the procedures for operating the tabulator.

Other grounds for election trust mentioned by Tsujii included:

*The tabulator audit logs would have revealed any activity on the tabulators, but that the logs showed no irregularity or tampering.

*There is no record of additional votes scanned by the tabulator after the polls closed.

*One of the people filing the protest was a precinct official who signed to indicate that procedures were followed in accordance with law at the precinct.

*Results tapes from the machines were accounted for and certified, and chain of custody forms were by workers indicating the results were true and correct.

*The vote history and forms signed by voters when they showed up to vote were reconciled with the number of ballots cast on election day.

*All precincts were staffed by bipartisan precinct teams who were all present throughout the day and when the polls were closed.

*Poll observers appointed by Democrats and Republicans were present at various precincts during the day as well. No reports were shared of witnessing any unauthorized voting.

*The hand count of two randomly-selected precincts matched the machine results.

336-727-7369

@wyoungWSJ

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