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Texas secretary of state releases 2020 election audit, highlights procedural issues in Dallas County

The Texas Secretary of State office ordered a full forensic audit of the election for Collin, Dallas, Harris and Tarrant counties.

DALLAS — The Texas Secretary of State office has released its final report on the audit of the 2020 General Election, highlighting some procedural issues in North Texas. 

The office ordered a full forensic audit of the election for Collin, Dallas, Harris and Tarrant counties to "ensure that all Texas voters can have confidence in the elections systems in our state."

Collin and Tarrant "represent the largest Republican-controlled" county governments in Texas, while Dallas and Harris "represent the largest Democratic-controlled" county governments, according to the Secretary of State's office. 

Monday's release was the second phase in the final review of the 2020 presidential election. Phase one of the audit was completed last year and found no substantial issues and a few discrepancies.

In Collin County, the audit reported that it "proved to be the model of how to run elections in Texas." 

"While not perfect, the county’s records management, record quality, and procedures were unmatched," the audit said. 

The only finding from the audit the report shared that was out of the ordinary was that "21 voters received ballots by mail who were not entitled to vote by mail." 

In Dallas County, the audit found that it had problems with its electronic poll books and lost several "experienced" staff members that contributed to other issues in the general election. 

Some of the key findings from the audit included: 

  • Dallas County's poll book issues created "phantom voters." The Secretary of State said when a voter would check in, the electronic poll book would check in a different voter, which affected 188 voters. 
  • The audit also found that the county misplaced 318 provisional votes that were discovered in February 2021, after the election had been certified. The office said that 63 of the 318 found "would have counted if processed correctly." 
  • According to the audit, vote history records found that 21 voters had received credit for voting by mail but their unopened ballots were found in "sealed carrier envelopes." 
  • Dallas County provided four sources of data showing mail ballot statistics that differed from the canvass

In Harris County, the audit reported that it had "very serious issues in the handling of electronic media." 

The audit's key findings included: 

  • In at least 14 polling locations, mobile ballot boxes containing 184,999 cast vote records included in the tally did not have proper chain of custody
  • Harris County did not have an inventory of its warehoused records for the 2020 General Election

In Tarrant County, the audit reported it administered a "quality, transparent election." 

Findings from the audit included: 

  • Tarrant County’s electronic media containing mail ballots were named inconsistently
  • Election workers were not consistent in "printing zero tapes prior to the opening of polls." 

"The 2020 General Election, administered during the COVID-19 pandemic, presented the counties with extraordinary challenges that likely led to procedural errors," the audit said. "These challenges, combined with staffing shortages, strained local election officials." 

The audit said issues found in the 2020 election were unlikely to occur again in the future due to legislation made after, including Senate Bill 1, which tightened state election laws.

Methodology of the audit

According to the office, the audit consisted of analyzing data on several facets of the election, including: 

  • Polling location and tabulation data to perform basic reconciliation of the data on as many levels as possible from poll book check-ins through the canvass process, and all points in between, to ensure that the number of voters accepted matched the number of ballots cast
  • The physical security of election equipment
  • The adequacy of the counties' training materials 
  • The ballot-by-mail process in detail to ensure that ballots were issued and returned appropriately
  • The provisional balloting process
  • Certain aspects of voter registration, including whether or not voters were registered at non-residential addresses
  • Complaints concerning the 2020 General Election received by the four counties and the Texas Secretary of State

The audit said the Forensic Audit Division was able to review a lot of data but was at times limited by the data the counties kept, as not every county kept the same data or in the same way as others. 

The audit comes after the state's top election official announced earlier this month that he was stepping down. 

Scott announced on Dec. 5 that he was stepping down as Secretary of State to return to his private legal practice. Scott was appointed to the position on Oct. 21, 2021. 

Gov. Greg Abbott announced his intention to appoint State Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) as the next Secretary of State. 

To view the report, visit this website

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