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Hand recount of 2020 votes in two Idaho counties shows less than 1% error rate

Staffers from the Idaho Secretary of State’s office joined a bipartisan team of local representatives to visit Camas and Butte counties, two of the smallest counties in Idaho, where 2020 election ballots could easily be recounted after MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell accused election officials of statewide manipulation of ballots. (Courtesy of the Idaho Secretary of State’s office)

Bipartisan team, Secretary of State staffers will also canvass Bonner County votes

Idaho Secretary of State staffers visited two Idaho counties last week to investigate allegations of statewide manipulation of the state’s election results that were circulated by Mike Lindell, chief executive officer of the MyPillow company. The canvass found a margin of error of less than 1% in both counties, according to a press release.

“The office of the Idaho Secretary of State takes free, fair and accurate elections seriously,” Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said in the release. “So when we are presented with allegations that come with specific details which we can examine, we want to do so.”

The document claimed votes cast for former president Donald Trump in the 2020 election had been switched electronically and recorded as votes for President Joe Biden. The document alleged this manipulation occurred in all 44 Idaho counties, but seven Idaho counties have no electronic component in the vote-counting process, the release said.

“That was a huge red flag, and one we knew we could either prove or disprove fairly directly,” Chad Houck, Idaho’s chief deputy secretary of state, said in the release.

Houck joined a bipartisan team of local representatives to visit Camas and Butte counties, two of the smallest counties in Idaho, where ballots could easily be recounted.

Houck told the Idaho Capital Sun the one-day recount cost about $2,500, using federal grant funds from the Help America Vote Act that were marked for auditing activities. The team used the state’s private plane for the trip to avoid paying for hotel accommodations and other associated costs.

Butte County’s official canvass showed 1,202 votes for Trump and 188 votes for Biden.

“The actual ballots, upon manual inspection and hand-evaluation in the presence of local representatives from both Republican and Democratic parties, in fact showed exactly the expected 188 marked votes for Biden, not 130 as alleged,” Houck said in the release. “The only anomaly was that only 1,406 of the 1,415 ballots originally tallied for the county’s canvas were counted, resulting in a lower number of 1,193 for Trump compared to the canvased 1,202.”

The remaining 25 ballots represent other candidates as well as disqualified ballots with more than one choice selected and write-in ballots.

According to Houck, the nine-ballot difference — which represents a 0.63% margin of error — was likely attributed to the thermal printed ballots that come from assisted voter terminals, which are the same size as the absentee envelopes contained in the same storage boxes. The officials recommended adjusted sorting and storage policies in future recount situations.

A similar hand inspection of Camas County’s 674 canvassed ballots was originally reported as 507 votes for Trump versus 149 for Biden, the release said. The 149 Biden ballots were accounted for, as well as votes for other candidates and disqualified ballots.

One extra ballot for Trump was found in the process, according to the release.

“This human error of .14% could easily have been in our own process, or on Election Day,” Houck said in the release. “But it was well short of the supposed 54-vote difference alleged by the ‘Big Lie’ spreadsheet.”

Overall in the 2020 election, Trump carried Idaho with 554,199 votes to Biden’s 287,021 votes, a 30.7% percentage gap.

Complete footage of the recount process in Camas and Butte counties will be available on the Idaho Secretary of State’s YouTube channel.

Another team will visit Bonner County on Saturday to conduct a hand recount of November 2020 ballots from several randomly selected precincts. Houck told the Idaho Capital Sun the recount was requested by Bonner County Clerk Michael Rosedale after he saw the spreadsheet alleging a difference of 2,244 votes.

“If I have something wrong, I want to know about it,” Rosedale said in a press release. “If I don’t, I want that exposed too.”

The Bonner County recount will take two days and involve an overnight stay for a group of five to six people, Houck said, and will cost roughly the same amount as the recounts for Camas and Butte of $2,500, also using Help America Vote Act grant funds.

The review will be monitored by several registered electors from the Republican and Democratic parties and conducted by staff from the Idaho Secretary of State’s office.

In a statement sent to the Idaho Capital Sun, Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Fred Cornforth said the report affirms that Idaho’s elections are safe and secure.

“This investigation was spurred by a small number of people from outside our state hoping to spread disinformation and doubt in our electoral process,” Cornforth said. “It’s time to stop letting unreasonable people dictate policies and practices in our state, costing Idaho taxpayers money.”

The video feed for the Bonner County recount will be available beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.