Ohio election boards flooded with record requests seeking 2020 voting machine tapes

Local election offices already burdened with voter doubts about 2020 now face unprecedented records requests that it would be practically impossible to fulfill without bringing in outside contractors.
FILE - Vote-by-mail ballots are shown in sorting trays on Aug. 5, 2020, at the King County...
FILE - Vote-by-mail ballots are shown in sorting trays on Aug. 5, 2020, at the King County Elections headquarters in Renton, Wash., south of Seattle. Washington state voters will winnow the field of candidates in dozens of races in the state's primary on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. Washington is a vote-by-mail state, and voters must have their ballots postmarked and in the mail by Tuesday, or they can drop them off at drop boxes by 8 p.m. Under the state's primary system, the top two vote getters advance to the general election in November, regardless of party. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)(The Associated Press)
Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 5:56 PM EDT
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LEBANON, Ohio (WXIX) - Some county boards of elections in the Tri-State are receiving an influx of records requests from the 2020 elections, potentially clogging up public resources ahead of the 2022 contests.

One of the requests obtained by FOX19 seeks 12 categories of records from the Warren County Board of Elections. Officials tell us these are the largest requests they’ve seen in more than a decade.

“All of a sudden, a month ago, we started receiving public records requests—all identical,” said Brian Sleeth, director of the Warren County BOE and president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials.

Ballots are routinely destroyed 22 months after elections occurs. These record requests, according to Sleeth, came in just before that deadline for the 2020 election.

The requests seek information on local, county, state and national races. The 2020 presidential election, in which President Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump, looms largest among them. It’s a sticking point for some conservative candidates and pundits who continue to call the results into doubt despite no evidence of widespread fraud.

A portion of Ohio’s electorate remains unconvinced: Sleeth notes his staff is still fielding phone calls and emails about the election’s outcome. Trump, it bears noting, carried Ohio in 2020 by more than 400,000 votes.

The requests present an extra burden for Sleeth’s staff in a year where Ohio is holding three elections due to Statehouse Republicans’ twice-rejected Congressional redistricting maps. Ohio’s legislative primaries took place Aug. 2 under a map that the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional earlier this year.

“It appears to be a coordinated effort,” Sleeth said of the records requests. “All of the boards of elections across the state that I have heard of have received identical request from these requestors.”

The requests, Sleeth explains, seek thousands of pages of records that could take several months to compile and would require an outside contractor to complete.

“They’re wanting our voting machine tapes, and some of those tapes are just like the tapes you get from the cash register of the grocery store, but they’re at least 70-80 feet long,” Sleeth said. “So you can imagine trying to copy those on a standard copy machine.”

The Warren County BOE is awaiting more specifics on the requests before taking any next steps. But even the prospect of having to fulfill them is dispiriting for Sleeth and his staff.

“We’re feeling a little beat up here in the election process,” he said. “We know our elections here in Ohio are safe, secure—that’s why hearing these kinds of things really puts a black eye on the process here in Ohio.”

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