Washington County’s elections director disputed a report that has been circulating in the community in recent months claiming fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
Melanie Ostrander spent nearly 30 minutes going line-by-line pushing back on the 11-page “Election Integrity Report” that Monongahela resident Ashley Duff produced in July.
Ostrander’s presentation came after public comments during Thursday afternoon’s commissioners meeting in which a dozen county residents reiterated their support for a “full forensic audit” of the election, which has been a common theme during meetings in recent months.
One aspect of Duff’s report claimed to show differing vote totals between Nov. 3 and when the election was certified Nov. 23. Ostrander said the results Duff found on the website were unofficial and did not include provisional or late-arriving ballots, such as votes from members of the military and overseas civilians, which can be accepted until Nov. 10. Duff said after the meeting she pulled the screenshot of results off the website in January, although the certified results match what the state Department of State recorded.
Ostrander also said one page in Duff’s report discussing a lawsuit filed in Antrim County, Mich., appears to insinuate it uses ES&S voting machines, which are used in Washington County. But Antrim County uses Dominion machines, according to the lawsuit against that county. Duff said after the meeting the lawsuit has references to ES&S in other counties and she wasn’t claiming Antrim County uses them.
But the overall point in that portion of Duff’s report is that modems are placed inside the voting machines that can be manipulated. Ostrander denied any of the machines have modems, and that they wouldn’t be certified by the state if they did. Ostrander offered attendees the opportunity to come to the elections office to see that there are no internet connections in areas where voting machines are tabulated.
After the meeting, Ostrander added that workers with ES&S did its bi-annual preventative maintenance per their contract in which they cleaned some of the voting machines over the summer. Ostrander attended and said she looked inside one of the machines during the process and did not see anything resembling a modem.
In other analysis, Duff cited research posted on websites by Mike Lindell, an avid supporter of former President Donald Trump and owner of MyPillow, claiming to show “scientific proof” of voter fraud. Ostrander responded that in one chart, it uses predictive models that don’t prove fraud occurred in Washington County. Ostrander published information from political scientists from Stanford that she used in her own research review in the report, which brought jeers from the audience.
“This is a prediction model. No evidence of fraud. … His report fails to address that the 2020 election overall was an unprecedented election,” Ostrander said of one of the research tables cited in Duff’s report. “We had a global pandemic, and it is hard to predict humans. They act in unpredictable ways.”
Ostrander also explained apparent discrepancies in inactive voters, mail-in ballots and registrations that were removed. She later went line-by-line explaining the process in which they handle duplicate registration, remove inactive voters and handle mail-in ballots with people who do not have identification.
Duff said after the meeting that county officials have been “stringing me along” for months since she began raising her concerns about the election. She said her problem isn’t with Ostrander, but the voting machines themselves, which were purchased by the county in 2019 when the state required all election equipment to have paper ballots or receipts to allow for recounts, if necessary. Duff said she is compiling more information that she is including in her report.
“We need a pertinent discussion,” Duff said. “This isn’t going away.”
And it appears it will likely be a continuing theme at future commissioners meetings.
Bridget Loutzenhiser, who provided Duff’s report to the commissioners at their August meeting that prompted Ostrander’s review, alluded to it again in her comments Thursday.
“There’s nothing you’re going to say that we haven’t heard before. … We’re saying we don’t believe anymore. We simply don’t trust,” Loutzenhiser said.
“We are asking for nothing more than accountability,” she added. “There is none.”
The county is expected to post Ostrander’s slideshow on its website, although it was not immediately known when it would be published. A video of Ostrander’s demonstration, along with comments from the public during the commissioners meeting, was posted on the Washington County Board of Commissioners Facebook page.