Ballots are loaded into a tray at the Snohomish County Elections Ballot Processing Center on Aug. 4, 2020, in Everett. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Ballots are loaded into a tray at the Snohomish County Elections Ballot Processing Center on Aug. 4, 2020, in Everett. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Lawsuits claim 2020 ballots in Washington were manipulated

Plaintiffs argue in Snohomish County and elsewhere — without evidence — that machines “obviously are not working.”

EVERETT — Those still convinced fraud and irregularities plagued the 2020 election are turning to courts throughout Washington for help.

In recent days, lawsuits have been filed in Snohomish, Whatcom and Clark counties alleging auditors used uncertified voting equipment and manipulated thousands of ballots in an unspecified statewide race last year.

Each suit seeks a “full forensic audit” conducted in the same manner, and with the same technology, as one carried out in Arizona earlier this year — which has thus far yielded no evidence of widespread fraud.

The legal pursuits in this state, expected to expand to more counties this week, are steered by Washington Election Integrity Coalition United, the lead plaintiff in the suits, and whose leader, Tamborine Borrelli of Gig Harbor, has crisscrossed the state in search of residents willing to join the effort.

One of those stops, on Aug. 15, was at a Snohomish church for an unofficial public hearing at which voters and others testified about fraud and irregularities they witnessed or experienced. State Rep. Robert Sutherland, R-Granite Falls, helped organize the event, along with four other Republican lawmakers. He later emailed some attendees with a direct pitch seeking participants for an upcoming lawsuit.

Twenty-eight people from throughout Snohomish County wound up signing on as plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed Sept. 16 in Snohomish County Superior Court against Auditor Garth Fell. And they all are serving as their own lawyers.

“I’m not personally alleging that there has been any specific impropriety. I am not out there alleging massive fraud and they need to overturn the election,” said Art Coday of Woodinville, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for state Senate last year. “I just want to see a more robust and transparent system in place with out elections. A forensic audit would go a long ways to reassure people things are as they should be.”

The notion of needing to reassure people of the integrity of elections is a mantra of former President Donald Trump. And it is gaining volume among his loyalists in spite of the absence of credible proof of widespread fraud. Moreover, a series of previous legal attempts to challenge the results failed.

Susan Mischel of Stanwood said she isn’t claiming to have seen or experienced illicit activity. Still, she and her husband, Jim, who are regular donors to GOP candidates, joined as plaintiffs because “we just felt let’s get it as honest as we can.”

“Everybody wants honesty and integrity in the elections, whether you are Republican or a Democrat,” she said. “The machines obviously are not working.”

Auditor Fell declined to comment on the specific allegations, deferring to county lawyers.

“We’re reviewing the complaint. We are aware that there are other counties named in similar lawsuits,” said Jason Cummings, chief civil deputy prosecutor for the county. “We’re disappointed that the themes of the Arizona auditing factions are trying to make their way into Washington.”

The suits are largely similar but not identical in content. For example, Fell is accused of using uncertified voting equipment, but the Clark County auditor is not.

Otherwise, in each suit, the auditor is alleged to have “engaged in wrongful acts, errors and/or neglect of duty” by allowing or facilitating “electronic manipulation of the voting results.”

In this May 6 photo, Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company Cyber Ninjas at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool, File)

In this May 6 photo, Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company Cyber Ninjas at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool, File)

The suits contend that approximately 6,000 votes were flipped and more than 400,000 were added or removed in one or more statewide races “before, during and/or after the Election.” They argue a portion of that occurred in the county where each suit is filed.

In the Snohomish County lawsuit, plaintiffs say the election integrity group filed a public records request in August for copies of actual ballots and were denied. They want judicial intervention to obtain the ballots for review.

“Defendants must be compelled to comply” with the public records request, “not only because the documents requested are public records, but also to prove (or disprove) the allegations herein,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit asks the court to unseal the ballots as the election integrity group “stands ready, willing and able” to have Jovan Hutton Pulitzer conduct a forensic audit using the kinematic artifact detection technology he designed and deployed in Arizona.

Pulitzer, a favorite among election-fraud conspiracy theorists, claims the technology can determine if a human or machine marked a ballot and if a piece of paper has been handled, folded or processed in the mail.

The litigation didn’t surprise Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican.

“This is the new reality on the ground for election administrators,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how wide a margin in the results. You call everything into question and it undermines the validity of everything in the process.”

Neither here nor elsewhere is anyone discussing the extensive audit trail compiled by local auditors, Wyman said. Nor are they requesting to see the logs used to track the flow of ballots from their arrival to their tabulating. Rather, she said, they allege fraud and “felony level crimes.”

“All these allegations and I’ve yet to see anything brought to a prosecuting attorney or the FBI that we could actually respond to,” she said.

Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com; 360-352-8623

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