As they prepare for the November general election, election officials across the country say they have been inundated in recent weeks with what they consider frivolous public records requests from supporters of former President Donald Trump.
The requests range from broad requests for all records related to the 2020 election to letters seeking voter records, the dark reports generated by the voting system reveal how the election management software recorded each vote. Experts say the voting records do not provide evidence of election fraud claimed by Trump-aligned activists.
But some election officials say the avalanche has served another purpose: straining busy election offices to prepare ballots, hire staff and perform other key election-related functions. Some states have already begun sending absentee ballots to certain classes of voters, such as those in the military.
“It’s a little bit concerning because some of this is primarily an effort to break the system or stress the system,” said Chuck Broerman, clerk and recorder for El Paso County, which includes Colorado Springs.
Broerman, a Republican who has overseen elections in this GOP stronghold for eight years, said his office receives 20 requests a week, less than a month before the 2020 election. Some require “all election records,” while others seek all electronic communications between county election officials and local vendors or the secretary of state, he said.
Added an additional staff member to help handle orders.
Matt Crane, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, said applicants often tell clerks, “‘I don’t know what this is. I don’t know what it does. I know I have to apply.'”
“It’s crazy. Mass requests like this are an attack on the service of election offices,” Crane added, referring to the practice of flooding websites with fake traffic. “It’s trying to create chaos and confusion and ultimately force people to make mistakes.”
A recent surge in requests by some election officials follows an August rally hosted by Trump ally and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell in Missouri, who urged onlookers to request registrations.
In a phone interview with CNN, Lindell said he first learned about the voter registrations in June and saw them as a way to “detect machine tampering” in the 2020 election.
Asked how they would do it, he said, “You should talk to a cyber guy… It’s sequence and patterns.”
Lindell has spent nearly two years spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election. Dominion Voting Systems, a frequent target of his attacks, has sued Lindell and his company for defamation.
Lindell said the records would bolster efforts to de-machine the election system. Some of the applicants, he said, are taking what they find to local county officials and sheriffs to ask them to remove the machines from their counties.
“I want computers and voting machines gone,” he said.
Election experts say election ballot records are a useful tool to limit election risks: they allow officials to count a randomly selected batch of paper ballots and cross-check those results with vote records to verify vote-counting systems. he accurately interpreted what was in the votes.
But voting and IT experts said there is no basis for Lindell’s claims that voting records have or could detect fraudulent behavior.
Dan Wallach, a computer science professor at Rice University and an expert on voting systems, said: “As far as I know, nobody has ever found anything in this data. Time”.
Some of the patterns detected in the records have simple explanations, he added. If the ballots, for example, are scanned in the order they arrive at a central tabulation facility and aren’t random, votes from a single precinct could be lumped together and that pattern would be detected by a voter register, he said. But that is not evidence of fraud, he added.
“This is not news that people in my district are like me in the way they vote,” Wallach said. “This happens all the time.”
“This thing that Lindell is doing is just blowing smoke,” he said. “There’s nothing there.”
In Maricopa County, Arizona, the state’s most populous county and the seat of Phoenix, public records requests rose to more than 830 this year through the end of August, up from 369 in 2021, officials said.
In just one week last month, county officials received 300 identical requests for voter records, which are digital records of all votes cast for each poll scanned.
The requests have been filled — although once the data is received, some requesters have said they don’t know how — or lack the software — to open the file, said Ilene Haber, who oversees public records requests at the county recorder’s office. Records said the official count was correct.
In the nearly two years since the 2020 election, results skeptics have been “grabbing at straws,” unsuccessfully trying to find widespread fraud to cast doubt on the results, Haber said. (Last year, Maricopa County was the focus of a widely mocked Republican-ordered partisan vote in the state Senate that ultimately confirmed President Joe Biden’s victory.)
Voting records are “definitely the shiny object of the moment,” Haber added. “Now, we wait for the next bright object.”
Laws regarding public access to these records vary by state.
In North Carolina, where the state’s top election official recently told CNN that counties are being “choked” by requests, the State Board of Elections requires local clerks to vote and vote records are confidential under state law.
But that hasn’t stopped their requests.
John Lyman, a Republican who lives in High Point, North Carolina, recently sent a letter to the state board asking him to inspect or obtain copies of public records between state and local officials since May 1 “discussing voting conditions.” Record’, ‘CVR’ or ‘Mike Lindell’”.
In an interview with CNN, Lyman said he turned to the state after failing to get information from officials in Guilford County, where he lives. He said he learned of the voting records during the Lindell hearing. “He is the one who expressed the need to get these,” he said.
Lyman, 67, said he believes the 2020 election was “stolen” from Trump and doesn’t trust the vote-counting machines. And he said he doubts the current wave of public records requests is disrupting the work of local election officials, who he said are “hooked” on the election management machinery.
“I don’t think it’s going to affect them because I don’t think they’re doing anything other than using the machines,” Lyman said.
In Colorado, where it is legal to share ballot images with the public and provide voting records, Broerman, the El Paso County Clerk, has created an online portal where voters can log in to view ballots (minus any personally identifiable information) to compare the two voting systems. created voter register. “You’re like your own citizen auditor,” he said of the tool.
It also publishes the complete voting record in spreadsheet form online for anyone to download.
Broerman said he has fielded “hundreds and hundreds” of calls about the 2020 election. “I understand where these people are coming from,” he said. “They are passionate and concerned about the direction of our country.”
He said election officials in Colorado and other states have “done yeoman’s work trying to prove that our elections are fair, accurate, transparent and verifiable.”
But, he added, “there are some people we will never reach”.