2020 Election Audit: No Fraud Found (Yet)

No widespread voting fraud found in initial phase of audit demanded by Trump


Photo by Jana Birchum

A state forensic audit of the November 2020 general election has yet to yield the hotbed of fraud predicted by former President Donald Trump when he urged Gov. Greg Abbott to devote the state's time and money to a review of results in a state Trump officially won by more than 600,000 votes.

The two-phase audit, currently being completed by Texas Secretary of State John Scott's office, is narrow in scope, looking specifically at Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, and Collin counties, which combined to account for about a third of the 11 million votes cast by Texans in 2020. The first (and largest) three counties were all carried by Joe Biden – in Tarrant's case the first Democrat to win the county since LBJ in 1964. Trump won in Collin with 51% of the most votes ever cast in that county in any election.

The first phase of the audit, released by Scott on Dec. 31, focused on the removal of ineligible voters from the rolls:

people who have voted in more than one state;

deceased voters who somehow ended up casting a vote; and,

most significantly, felons and noncitizen residents who have registered to vote but should not be voting.

Here's a thumbnail sketch of what the SoS has found, statewide: A total of 509 people may have cast votes in multiple states. An estimated 224,585 people have been removed from the voter rolls across the state since Novem­ber 2020. And, when it comes to dead voters and noncitizen voters, the totals are 67 and 11,737, respectively.

These are not necessarily final tallies. Many of these records are still being examined, according to the report. For instance, the SoS started with 236 potentially deceased ­voters. Of those, 169 have been eliminated as erroneous matches. That leaves 67 records still to be reviewed, of which 17 belong to the four audited counties. The same goes with the identified 509 voters who potentially cast ballots in more than one state. The actual number – which requires verifying individual records and cross-referencing that information with other states – won't be available until the end of this month at the earliest, according to Scott's office.

The nonpartisan good-government watchdog Common Cause, which already objects to the method the state uses to identify noncitizen voters, considers Scott's audit to be a meaningless exercise. "This still seems to me to be entirely about partisan politics, about the governor positioning himself for his primary and possibly for a presidential run," Executive Director Anthony Gutierrez said. He thinks it's unlikely any widespread fraud will be uncovered, given the information Scott's office has chosen to review: "It sounds like they're doing mostly the same audit processes that are already in statute – a whole lot of window dressing – with the secretary of state trying to pretend like they're actually doing some additional things," he said. "The only substantive thing I think they're actually doing is intimidating and confusing voters of color; particularly, naturalized citizens."

Some of the bigger fraud claims made by conservatives – that some polls stayed open later than they should have; that counties failed to prove a chain of custody for live ballots; that more votes were cast in some precincts than registered voters; that poll workers failed to qualify voters adequately – will be reviewed in a second audit phase. Texas lawmakers failed to move a bill to audit the entire election during their 10 months in town last year. But a September letter from Trump – and some nudging by Abbott's primary opponent Don Huffines – resulted in some post-session choices: Moving $4 million in state funds (replaced by COVID relief funds) out of the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice budget to fund a new election audit division at SoS.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

November 2020 election, Donald Trump, Greg Abbott, Texas Secretary of State, John Scott, Joe Biden, Anthony Gutierrez, Common Cause

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