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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Bonner County to conduct 2020 election audit as part of Idaho’s effort to rebut ‘freight train’ of Mike Lindell fraud claims

Founder and CEO of My Pillow Mike Lindell has spread discredited claims of widespread 2020 election fraud in Idaho. Officials there have sent Lindell a cease-and-desist letter and a bill of more than $6,000 over the businessman’s repeated accusations.  (Sam Thomas/Orlando Sentinel)

Local election officials in Bonner County will conduct a livestreamed hand recount of 2020 ballots on Saturday as part of an effort by the state to combat dubious allegations of election fraud.

Bonner, where Donald Trump bested President Joe Biden by more than 10,000 votes in November on his way to carrying Idaho’s four Electoral College votes, is the third Gem State county to set a hand recount. The Idaho Secretary of State’s Office already double-checked ballots in Butte and Camas counties last week, testing a theory posited by Trump ally and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell that has been widely discredited.

Mike Rosedale, the elected Republican clerk of Bonner County, said his office had received multiple complaints in recent weeks based on a spreadsheet circulated by Lindell. Rosedale compared the recent criticism to “a freight train coming at me.”

“It takes so long to build a level of confidence in our system,” Rosedale said. “It can be destroyed so incredibly and quickly.”

Rosedale was already in contact with the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office, which had conducted audits in the two smaller counties. Those were selected because Lindell’s allegation was that voting machine systems had been hacked, registering Trump votes as Biden votes, said Chad Houck, Idaho’s chief deputy secretary of state. But Butte and Camas, along with five other smaller Idaho counties, conduct their ballot tabulation entirely by hand.

“We call those ‘Flintstone gap,’ because there’s no equipment in the process. It’s still Stone Age,” Houck said.

A hand recount of Butte County’s ballots on Sept. 23 verified the vote total for Biden and found nine fewer votes for Trump than in the initial certified results. The Camas County count verified the vote total for Biden, and one fewer vote for Trump than in the initial certified results. Those errors, of 0.63% and 0.14%, fell well short of the vote totals alleged by Lindell’s document.

Houck said such a result was to be expected, because it appeared the spreadsheet circulated by Lindell took a vote discrepancy and applied it universally across all counties. He estimated it took him and his office 45 minutes, perhaps less, to determine that the document was using a formula, rather than verified accounts of fraud, in its estimations of ballot numbers.

For Bonner County, Lindell’s spreadsheet alleges a 2,200 undercount for Trump, who collected 18,369 votes compared with Biden’s 8,310.

“I said, ‘That’s impossible,’ ” Rosedale said. Bonner County does use a machine to tally its votes, but that machine is not connected to internet, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and thus has no IP address to be hacked.

To date, the state has spent $2,500 investigating the claims of fraud. Houck said those funds have come from a federal government grant included in a 2018 Congressional spending bill to assist local governments in enhancing election security. That’s what those funds are intended for, and it’s why Idaho is completing its hand recounts despite evidence the fraud allegations are not based in fact, Houck said.

“At the end of the day, it is critical that people both understand and trust the process, that we have a free, fair and accurate election,” he said.

Should the Bonner County results mimic those in the other recounted counties, it’s likely the process of reviewing the 2020 ballots will end there, Houck said. The recount will be broadcast live on the Bonner County Elections department website beginning at 8 a.m.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said there have been a few additional public records requests based on the outcome of the 2020 election. But the type of hand recount currently underway in some Idaho counties would be impossible in Washington, where recounts are triggered automatically by vote totals and any revisit of certified ballots requires a court order.

Rosedale said he asked for the involvement of the secretary of state to put to bed accusations that have not been based in fact elsewhere in the United States.

“I don’t know how elections are run in other states,” he said. “I know exactly how they are run in my county.”