Florida elections office has no oversight for ballots or chain of custody, whistleblower alleges

Orange County Supervisor of Elections office is in violation of state law governing chain of custody and transportation of ballots, alleges Brian Freid, former SOE Information Systems Director.

Published: January 17, 2023 7:22pm

Updated: January 17, 2023 11:47pm

A whistleblower in the Orange County Supervisor of Elections (SOE) office in Orlando, Fla., alleges there is no oversight of the creation and management ballots, allowing for the possibility of voter fraud to occur.

Brian Freid, a lifelong Democrat and whistleblower in the Orange County SOE, was fired from his position as the Information Systems Director in October after he called for the firing of another SOE official found by two separate investigations to have allowed unredacted voter data to be accessed by unauthorized personnel and kept private employee information and pirated software on his computer.

Freid has now filed a second sworn affidavit with the local FDLE following a prior affidavit alleging the exfiltration of private voter data to hundreds of workers, potentially jeopardizing the security of thousands of protected voters. 

His new affidavit alleges there is "Unsecure and Unsupervised creation, printing, management and storing of live ballots" at the Orange County SOE. Security cameras are kept "out of critical areas where live ballots are stored," Freid told Just the News on Friday, and while "state regulations say they have to be monitored and in secure location," the ballot storage location "is not very secure, or not secure at all."

Freid alleged that this is because Orange County SOE Bill Cowles, a Democrat who has held office since 1996, has not put necessary security measures in place.

"There is no management of ballot creation, ballot tracking, or the management of the thumb drives used to copy the ballot PDF's [sic]," Freid's affidavit reads. The ballot PDFs — live ballots that are created in a PDF format — are "written to a thumb drive so that they can be printed."

There are also thumb drives that are only to be used on the morning of Election Day to transfer the voter database between ePoll book tablets. The thumb drives used for ePoll book tablets "contain unredacted voter data for all voters, including protected voters," according to Freid's affidavit.

Protected voters include domestic abuse victims, police, firefighters, politicians, and judges whose personally identifiable information (PII) is supposed to be redacted. There are 4,100 protected voters in Orange County out of about 900,000 total voters.

However, the thumb drives with the voter databases on them "are not erased when they are returned after the election so this data may be stored in [the tablet] room for years," Freid explains in the affidavit, alleging: "This room is easily accessible by many fulltime and part time employees." 

There is also a records vault at the Orange County SOE "where live ballots and voted ballots are stored" in addition to "all supplies used for every election (envelopes, secrecy sleeves, ballot stock, etc)," but it "is easily accessible," he claims, "by many fulltime and part time employees." There's also a tabulation machine in the records vault that is "used for early voting to count votes and stores live ballots during elections."

Freid alleges that the office is in violation of state law governing chain of custody and transportation of ballots.

He witnessed vote-by-mail ballots "delivered from the Supervisor of Elections (SOE) Office multiple times per day to the local Post Office by only one SOE employee or a single temporary worker," according to his statement. "I was unable to find any documented procedures or chain of custody forms of how many Vote by Mail ballots are sent out or picked up."

Freid was also "unable to find any documented procedures or tracking of information on who retrieved Vote by Mail ballots, when they were picked up, what form of transportation was used ... how long the process took or how many were retrieved from the post office."

He warned that there's also no accounting for ballot supplies, which could easily allow fraud to occur with vote-by-mail ballots.

"There is no tracking or management of the ballots created and the ballot stock that is used," according to his affidavit.

Freid additionally alleges that there's no chain of custody for managing ballots or oversight of ballot materials. "There is the ability to print an unlimited number of live ballots undetected either in the technical services area or offsite by using the ballot thumb drive," he claims.

"There is the ability to use unlimited Vote by Mail envelopes and the ability to either bring them back on site unobserved or by making use of drop boxes," he says.

His two affidavits show "how easy and extremely likely in the past 20 years to have election fraud take place in Orange County," Freid told Just the News.

Without oversight of ballot supplies, someone could create and mail tens of thousands of ballots without anyone knowing, he explained, adding that a person could also tabulate ballots without any oversight.

While "Florida does a very good job of creating election law," the state has "not addressed how the election office is to be run," Freid said, adding that there's "no standard operating procedure, regulations, governance, or transparency."

Cowles' Orange County SOE "has been a standalone entity for the past 30 years," he said, managing its own budget and human resources without any accountability.

Cowles has not responded to requests for comment.

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