Review of 2020 election continues as Texas, Pennsylvania counties find ballot total discrepancies

There were seven county races within the 584-ballot margin of error in Smith County, Texas.

Published: February 10, 2023 8:40pm

Updated: February 11, 2023 11:02pm

An audit of the 2020 election found a discrepancy of nearly 600 absentee votes in a Texas county, while a hand recount in a Pennsylvania county found a far smaller disparity, as more states seek to implement election reviews.

In Smith County, Texas, an audit of the 2020 election showed 584 more absentee voters than absentee ballots, according to KLTV, a local ABC News affiliate. Seven county races were within the 584-vote margin of error, including council races and propositional elections. The audit also found five different totals for absentee ballots.  

There were also roughly 700 limited and provisional ballots that were either incorrectly logged or were missing logs, the Tyler Morning Telegraph reported.

In 2020, President Donald Trump won the county with 69% of the vote

The audit, which began in May, was conducted by Grassroots America — We the People and Texas Voter Verification. After interviewing voters and reviewing results and records, the audit found absentee ballot chain of custody issues, inaccurate or missing logs, and improper procedures, Grassroots America Executive Director JoAnne Fleming told Smith County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, according to the the Telegraph.

The audit focused on absentee ballots and voters because the paper records were available for examination, unlike the machine records for in-person voters, which were either not auditable or unavailable. 

Michelle Allcon, hired as Smith County elections administrator in 2021, said the new employees that have been hired since the 2020 election are very "attention detailed" and have rectified most of the issues from the audit with procedure changes, according to the Telegraph. 

Allcon said that while she doesn't know for sure since she wasn't in the elections office at that time, she believes that the ballots that appeared to go uncounted were actually counted, but not logged, "which means the voter has no way of knowing that their vote got counted," the local news outlet reported. 

"The underlying issue with what we saw really appeared to be lack of interest on the part of the staff," Allcon said. "It's like they didn't care." 

Fleming praised Allcon for how she has since established accountability and transparency in the elections office. 

Meanwhile, in Lycoming County, Pa., a hand recount of the 2020 presidential vote found a 26-vote discrepancy between the electronic tabulation and the hand recount. More than 59,000 votes were cast in the race.

Trump's hand count total dropped to 41,455 votes from the electronic tabulation of 41,462 votes. President Biden's hand count total, 16,956 votes, was 15 fewer than the official 2020 count. Libertarian presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen gained four votes, increasing her total to 825. 

Trump won the county in 2020 with about 70% of the vote

Elections Director Forrest K. Lehman explained that the vote count discrepancy was due to human error and the interpretation of marks on the ballot, according to PennLive

Karen DiSalvo, an attorney who is part of the organization Audit the Vote PA, said that her request to see the tally sheets from the hand recount has been denied and she hasn’t received a response to her right-to-know request. 

If, however, the reported results of the hand count are accurate, then "it confirms our position that hand counts can be done quickly and economically and should be a part of every election going forward," DiSalvo said, according to Votebeat

The recent audit and hand counts of the 2020 election have been completed as lawmakers in some states have sought to implement automatic hand counts and audits for elections. 

In Arizona, Republican state legislators have proposed a bill to hand count elections within the state and to ban the use of electronic tabulators. During the 2022 general election, at least 70 vote centers in Maricopa County had issues with ballot tabulation machines scanning ballots. In a lawsuit challenging the results of the state's 2022 gubernatorial race, GOP candidate Kari Lake claims that the issues effectively disenfranchised thousands of disproportionately Republican Election Day voters, contributing to her defeat by a margin of under 0.7%.

Meanwhile, in Utah, a bill that passed the state House and is heading to the state Senate seeks to implement a "comprehensive performance" audit of elections every other year. 

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