West Virginia’s Secretary of State was the only ‘no’ vote among top elections officers voting on recommendations for post-election audits. Mac Warner mostly took issue with how locked in states would be to following the guidelines.
The recommendations before the National Association of Secretaries of State dealt with a range of issues from the timeframe for a post-election audit to be in place to chain of custody of election materials to the transparency of post-election audit processes.
The recommendations came after months of turmoil over post-election audits in states following unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in presidential battlegrounds. An audit in Arizona by the private company Cyber Ninjas has been going on for months, and pressure has built in other states to conduct similar unorthodox examinations.
“As experts in the field, the bipartisan task force came together to tackle the important issue of post-election audits to promote a greater public understanding of the processes, procedures, and necessary elements for successful audits,” the secretary of states association’s task force wrote.
Warner voted against it, and Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft abstained.
Warner, a Republican, came under scrutiny after last year’s presidential election when he expressed public support for a lawsuit questioning electoral results that were already certified in four swing states. The chief elections officer also held a “Stop the Steal” sign at a Charleston rally for supporters of President Donald Trump.
Some of Warner’s concerns about the resolution amounted to semantics.
Mike Queen, spokesman for the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, said Warner thought the organization’s formal resolution went a little too far.
The wording of the association’s resolution was that it “encourages states to consider the following recommendations for all types of post-election audits.”
“Secretary Warner believes that the policy guidelines included in the Resolution should only be ‘recommendations for state legislatures to consider,’ not guidelines for states to implement. As such, he believed the Resolution to be inappropriate and he opposed NASS taking an ‘Official Position’ on recommendations,” Queen stated.
“The NASS Resolution was void of any legislative input… especially from the West Virginia Legislature. Secretary Warner has long held that the state Legislature is the proper venue to implement election law.”
Queen said the West Virginia office will share the recommendations with its Elections Division, county clerks and legislative leaders. He expressed confidence in the post-election audit process that West Virginia already has in place.
“Robust discussion with county clerks and legislators has always been the most effective way for Secretary Warner to implement sound public policy to ensure safe and secure elections in West Virginia,” Queen said.
The association’s resolution suggested states should have requirements and a timeframe in place for post-election audits prior to an election, ideally in the form of a statute. The defined requirements should include conducting the audit as soon as possible after the election, the resolution stated.
The resolution underscored that “ensuring chain of custody procedures throughout the post-election audit process is paramount.” Elections officials should be able to track the movement and transport of ballots, voting machines and other elections materials through witnesses, signature logs, security seals, video and other methods, the resolution proposed.
State and/or local elections officials should be an integral part of the post-election audit process, the resolution advised, including in the selection of the precincts or equipment being audited.
Efforts to be clear and open about audit methods and processes are crucial, the resolution noted. That should include identifying who may observe the audit, which should include members of the public, media, political party and/or candidate representatives. Once the results of the post-election audit are completed and certified, they should be made publicly-accessible consistent with state law, according to the resolution.
“States should make every effort to educate the public on their post-election audit process, as well as other processes and procedures in place to ensure the accuracy and public trust of the results,” the resolution stated.
To assure voting systems won’t be rendered unusable, states should have criteria in place prior to an election for the use of a federally or a state accredited test lab to perform any audit of voting machine hardware or software, the resolution suggested.
“It is reassuring that our Secretaries of States are fully aware of how post-election audits can be abused by bad actors and are working together to keep our elections safe, secure, and reliable not only while ballots are being cast, but after the elections are over,” said Amanda Carpenter, director of the national organization Republicans for Voting Rights.
“Establishing recommendations, with lessons learned from the Arizona debacle, is a responsible idea that we hope state legislatures across the country will take into careful consideration.”