Vigo County’s 2020 general election results will undergo a risk-limiting audit, overseen by Ball State University, that will sample ballots cast in various areas of the election — from early voting sites, votes cast before election boards, by mail and in person on election day.
The Vigo County Election Board Friday unanimously voted to approve the audit, which will take one to two days and conducted through the Voting System Technical Oversight Program at Ball State University.
The audit is to be done in February, LaDonna Ingram, deputy clerk in the county’s Absentee Voting Office, told the Vigo County Election Board.
The audit “doesn’t change the outcome of the election. It verifies that what our results say are true,” Ingram said. Not all races will be audited, but at least one state level race and one county level race will be audited, as well as potentially a judicial retention race or federal level race, Ingram said.
“At the end of it, what a risk-limiting audit does and the goal of a risk-limiting audit is to instill voter confidence in the election that you run,” Ingram said. The audit determines a percentage of certainty that election results are correct, she said.
“What is on your paper ballots is what was tabulated through your system. It is not a bad thing at all, but is actually a good thing for Vigo County voters that we are running an election with high integrity. It is a fairly new process,” Ingram said.
In 2019, the Indiana General Assembly, through the passage of Senate Bill 405, established a risk-limiting audit pilot program. The Indiana Secretary of State this year will conduct five RLAs, in LaPorte, Marion, Cass, Madison and Vigo counties, said Valarie Warycha, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State.
“The goal is to have every county conduct a risk-limiting audit after every election,” Warycha said.
Board President Kara Anderson said the audit “in no way, shape or form is a reflection upon the integrity of the election as we ran it. This is actually a pat-on-the back type of thing in that we ran an excellent election and [the state] wants to double check everything. We all feel confident that we are in a good spot with this,” Anderson said.
Vigo County Clerk Brad Newman said he thinks the audit “will do nothing but enforce what we have done and I think it is positive.”
The VSTOP also advises the Indiana Secretary of State and the Indiana Election Commission on the certification of voting machines and electronic poll books in Indiana.
Voting procedure error
After the vote, Democratic board member John A. Kesler II said, “We want an election of high integrity,” but said he has received communications from voters expressing concern about the general election.
“There was a trial in this courthouse a couple weeks ago and a voter testified under oath that she was permitted to vote at one of our vote centers producing only a Florida driver’s license,” Kesler said.
He was referring to Josie Swalls-Thompson, who testified during a court challenge of her residential eligibility as a candidate for Vigo County treasurer.
Special Judge Robert Pell, who conducted a hearing earlier this month in Vigo County Circuit Court, ruled Swall-Thompson is an Indiana resident and is the properly elected treasurer of Vigo County.
However, in the court hearing, Swalls-Thompson testified she didn’t get her driver’s license changed to an Indiana license until a few days after the 2020 election.
Kelser said Indiana law requires a voter to show an Indiana driver’s license, an Indiana issued ID or a U.S. government issued ID, such as military identification.
“This person testified under oath that they produced only a Florida driver’s license that contained a Florida address and that person was allowed to vote. In the communications I have received, people are very concerned,” Kesler said.
“If we want an election of high integrity, how in the world did a person violate the law of the state of Indiana by not having proper identification to serve as a voter,” Kesler said.
“We discussed voter fraud nationwide, and here in good ol’ Vigo County, the bellwether county, someone was apparently allowed to vote improperly,” Kesler said.
Board president Anderson said Swalls-Thompson should have been given a provisional ballot, saying there was a procedural breakdown.
“In this instance it would have been a poll worker error,” Anderson said. “We rely on 275 (people), I think is what it took for both early and election day, with regards to poll workers,” she said, adding poll workers go through training for the election.
“This obviously was a poll worker error,” Anderson said.
“I don’t want this to be about politics, it is about procedure. And in this instance, the procedure failed with regards to the poll worker,” Anderson said. “That should have been a provisional ballot right off the bat, and it wasn’t.”
Kesler said court testimony stated a call was “made downtown” to the courthouse allowing the voter to cast a ballot.
Anderson said the call was made to voter registration.
“She did have an ID showing her name, just not here. They called to verify she was registered here,” Anderson said.
Anderson said a provisional ballot should have then been issued.
“The poll worker should have provisionalized that and written on the back of it [ballot] this is what has occurred,” she said. “We’ve just got to keep hammering, when in doubt, vote provisional.”
“In the future, we need to make sure they [poll workers] understand that,” Kesler said.