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It's official: 'Big Lie' is a big bust in Idaho

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | October 10, 2021 1:00 AM

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SANDPOINT — It's now official: the 'Big Lie' is a big bust in Idaho.

Following last week's partial manual recount of Bonner County votes as well as full recounts in Butte and Camas counties, the Idaho Secretary of State wrapped up its review of allegations challenging the accuracy of Idaho's November 2020 election.

The findings: As expected, the election was executed with both integrity and accuracy, with the office finding only a roughly 0.1% margin of error across the three counties, according to state officials.

In the end, the vote count showed a 0.116% margin of error — a total of nine ballots with eight attributed to Trump and one to Biden.

“Of those ballots, at least 7 could likely be attributed to extremely light markings that the tabulation machine could not pick up on election day,” Houck said.

If the faint markings are taken into consideration, Houck said the margin of error on the ballots would drop to around 2.5 in 10,000, or 0.025%.

Bonner County Clerk Michael Rosedale volunteered the county for the effort because it offered a unique fit to the review – a machine count county with a single point of aggregation.

“Every vote in Bonner County ultimately goes through one computer during the tabulation process," Rosedale said. "For a digital manipulation to happen, it would have had to have been on that machine, but the computer is not connected to the internet via LAN, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. I know it was secure.” 

The Bonner County recount on Oct. 2 of about 7,900 ballots was the third conducted by the state over a two-week period. In total, eight precincts were included in the partial recount to get to about 7,900 votes out of the roughly 27,000 cast by Bonner County voters on Election Day. That statistical sample allowed the Secretary of State's office to extrapolate the numbers to see if the margin of error is plus or minus 0.2 percent — within the range of human error.

In counties where a full recount was done — Butte and Camas counties — both tabulated ballots by hand with no electronic counting. Camas saw a difference of .14% difference and Butte initially had a .63 difference. However, following the review in Butte County, where results initially showed 9 fewer votes counted, county officials did their own review of the poll and tally books. That review uncovered a math error that accounted for a 10-ballot overall difference.

Adjusted for this finding, Butte County’s margin of error dropped to 0.07%, bringing all counties well below the 8.4% margin of error alleged by the Lindell and his supporters.

“We jealously guard Idaho’s election integrity reputation, and this was a shot directly aimed at each state,” Houck said over why the office undertook the review. “While our team is always looking for possible vulnerabilities, this allegation was patently without merit from the first look. It takes hard work to build confidence in a State’s elections system, and careless accusations like this can cause tremendous harm. Doing nothing and saying nothing would have been like conceding its truth.”

The investigation was prompted by citizen submissions of a spreadsheet and website linked to MyPillow founder Mike Lindell.

The site lists of every county in the country, sorted by state, and then purports to show how much each county was electronically manipulated, referencing dates, times, and IP addresses that supposedly connect to the particular attack, Secretary of State officials said.

“I had received numerous phone calls and emails over the last month from constituents wanting my office to ‘look into Lindell’s data,’ but until recently, that data had never been available,” Secretary Lawerence Denney said.

Once the data was posted to the website, Chief Deputy Secretary Chad Houck said that the office started receiving copies.

“We have always said that if you have information regarding election fraud that we can look into, put it in our hands," Houck said. "Once this came out publicly, and especially given that it implied that all 44 county’s results had been altered, we felt it was important to address it publicly.

“This questioned the integrity of the Secretary’s office, and the integrity of the 44 elected county clerks across Idaho, and that is something we won’t take lying down.”

No further review of the data is planned, state official said.

The costs associated with the review were paid with federal grant funds earmarked for audits in 2018 by the secretary under the Help America Vote Act.

The first review covering Butte and Camas counties is estimated to have cost around $2,500, with the Bonner County review estimated at $4,000. The Secretary of State's office has offered to reimburse any expenses incurred at the county level from the same funds.