The Secretary of State’s office released its “Final Report on Audit of 2020 General Election in Texas.” Over the course of 359 pages, the report details “very serious issues” with Harris Co. and “two large problems” with Dallas Co.’s election administration while lauding Tarrant Co. for its “quality, transparent election” and Collin Co. as “the model of how to run elections in Texas.” It also identifies “data inconsistencies” from the four counties it audited, noting that such “inconsistencies, even with valid reasons, weaken the public’s confidence that the election was run properly.”
Indeed, that appears to be the point: highlighting inconsistencies, especially in Democrat-run counties, with a very real outcome being weakened public confidence in elections in those counties.
The report states that “elections are trustworthy” when the Election Code and local procedures are followed. “As outlined in this report, in cases where procedures were not followed, discrepancies and irregularities ranging from small to large ensued.” At no point does the report question the outcome of the election, but that wasn’t its purpose, nor should its findings have led to that conclusion. However, the implication is clear: Republican-run counties run trustworthy elections, while Democrat-run counties do not.
“Texas has sone of the strongest and most effective transparency measures in the country when it comes to administering and auditing elections,” said Secretary of State John Scott, who is leaving the office at the end of the year. “The Texas forensic election audit – which is, by far, the largest undertaken in the nation to date – demonstrates how these measures can and should be used to make sure Texas voters can have confidence in the outcome of any given election, as well as which areas counties need to address to restore confidence going forward.”
Several findings can be easily sensationalized while any “valid reasons” for them are left in the details of the report. The first two findings under Harris Co. implicate more than 300K vote records from mobile ballot boxes, which is a much easier to understand talking point than the jargon-heavy discussions of those findings or Harris Co.’s explanation.
As to the latter, the Harris Co. election office issued a statement saying the staff followed the processes created by Hart InterCivic to ensure accurate counting of “stranded” votes. While much shorter in length, it too is jargon-heavy and difficult for the general public to understand.
The audit report presents information objectively, highlighting what the Secretary of State office’s team found during its lengthy work. The issue is not their work, thoroughness, dedication or documentation. The issue is the inevitable use of those findings, stripped from their pages of details and any responses from the counties, to continue to undermine confidence in elections by those who benefit from doing so.
In its entirety, the report should be considered further evidence that the 2020 election in Texas was secure, accurate and trustworthy. However, it doesn’t say that.
The report says elections are trustworthy when procedures are followed, and here are examples of procedures that weren’t followed. Most of them occurred in Harris and Dallas Cos. The elections run by Collin and Tarrant Cos., while not flawless, were by contrast models of transparency and quality. The implication is elections held by the other two counties are not trustworthy even though the report itself does not reach that conclusion.
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