Election Integrity Lawsuit Filed Against Missoula County Office
The Missoula County Election Integrity Project and John Lott, Ph.D. have filed a lawsuit in Missoula District Court against the Missoula County Elections Office and Bradley Seaman in his official capacity as Elections Administrator.
The gist of the lawsuit ‘enjoins Defendants from their systematic practice of destroying video, data, and documentary election records. It is, therefore, a request for prospective relief. 2. Upon information and belief, the Missoula Elections Office installed video recording device(s) (hereinafter referred to as the “vote count video”) for the 2020 election cycle in the vote count room to ensure election transparency and public trust in the elections process.
KGVO reached out to John Lott to explain the purpose of the legal action.
“We've had two recounts of the envelopes that were used in the all mail-in election that we had on November 3, 2020, and they've gotten very different counts,” began Lott. “One had 6.3% more votes counted than envelopes which, in an all mail-in election, is impossible basically or shouldn't happen.”
Lott said there was another recount of the 2020 election ballots.
“There was another recount where the difference was 70 some,” he said. “Two more ballot boxes were discovered after about 16 months or so, which had more envelopes in them. But you know, either they misplaced the boxes of envelopes or some people have claimed something more nefarious has happened.”
Lott said at the heart of the dispute is the failure of the County Elections Office to store and protect the video evidence of the actual vote count on Election Night.
“We really shouldn't have to have a debate about this stuff,” he said. “If they had kept the video records that they're required to do under federal law for 22 months, then one could simply go and watch. Once the discrepancy was discovered, simply go and watch the video and count the number of times that they opened envelopes on election night. Unfortunately, the county erased the video and the county records don't require them to keep them that long.”
Lott said he and the other litigants with the Missoula County Election Integrity Project believe the basic issue is a lack of transparency when it comes to the video record.
“This is just a transparency issue,” he said. “Whether you're a Democrat or Republican or Independent, it's just important that Missoula keep the records so that people can check to see what happens. I'm not saying that anything happened, and I'm not saying that any election outcome would have been changed. But when you're talking about the possibility of an error that could be 6.3 percent of the total votes in the county, it's at least something that people should have confidence in.”
See the lawsuit below.
In response, KGVO reached out to Missoula County Elections Administrator Bradley Seaman for his comments on the issue.
“We can't comment on ongoing litigation against the county, but transparency is critically important,” said Seaman. “And that's why we maintain a 100 percent transparent process around elections to help educate people on the way elections truly function. That’s why we encourage anybody to come by at any point in time and have held public tours, while we make sure to send out press releases to media outlets like yourself, to candidates to elected officials, and members of the public, so that they can see how elections truly function.”
Seaman said his office complies with all the directives maintained by the Montana Secretary of State’s Office.
“The policies are established through the Secretary of State's office, which guides local election offices and local county governments on retention schedules,” he said. “The Secretary of State's retention schedule is 30 days. After 30 days, any footage in Missoula County is automatically erased and recorded over. We follow the law that states the 30-day retention period. Missoula County also has an additional one stating that no video can be kept for more than 60 days. So we're meeting both policies by recording it, keeping it for 30 days, and not keeping it for more than 60 days."
Seaman said the results of the 2020 election have not been challenged. However, one of the points that Seaman was careful to delineate was the difference in requirements for election records and security footage (the video recordings).
“Nobody has contested the 2020 election,” he said. As Mr. Lott stated earlier, there have been no cases and no evidence of widespread voter fraud or irregularities. And as for following through with standard retention policies, we are keeping those records for the 22 months required under retention. So 22 months is required for election records. Videos are not election records. They are security footage. And that's I think the big confusion for the people who aren't participating in elections who are questioning the integrity.”
Seaman said he could not comment on the pending legal action against his office.