ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Port: Auditor Josh Gallion says his office will be auditing North Dakota's election systems

"We are looking purely at the system. It's not about contesting the outcome," Gallion says.

State Auditor Josh Gallion
State Auditor Josh Gallion. File photo / Bismarck Tribune

MINOT, N.D. — Auditing elections has become something of a rallying cry among die-hard Donald Trump supporters convinced that President Joe Biden only ascended to the office because of fraud at the ballot box.

Pillow impresario Mike Lindell has led a bizarre and high-profile national push to reveal what he claims is election fraud though, so far, he's failed to produce evidence he claims to have.

Election fraud is fodder for much debate among conservative talk radio hosts (who are often hawking Lindell's products even as they promote his election theories).

At least five states — Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia, per the Brennan Center — have made serious progress toward auditing elections. In other states, including Texas and Maine, there has been a concerted push for an audit.

In July, Biden's Justice Department issued a warning to state's auditing elections out of concern "that some jurisdictions conducting them may be using, or proposing to use, procedures that risk violating the Civil Rights Act." Specifically, the Biden administration warned against destroying or altering election records that must be maintained under federal law and intimidation of voters.

ADVERTISEMENT

READ MORE FROM ROB PORT:

Thanks to Auditor Josh Gallion , North Dakota may soon be plunging into this political morass.

Gallion confirmed the impending audit to me and acknowledged the fraught politics around the issue. "We are looking purely at the system. It's not about contesting the outcome," he told me.

Throughout our conversation, he was careful to stress that this review was not about any particular result from the 2020 balloting.

His office gets a routine appropriation from the Legislature to conduct cybersecurity audits of the state's various agencies and campuses. This year that appropriation was $450,000, and Gallion says this review of the election systems, right down to the voting machines, will be a part of that larger effort.

Rob Port column mug sig fsa.jpg
Rob Port

He was hesitant to estimate how much this review would cost in total, let alone the election component, noting that negotiations with a contractor to carry out the review hadn't been completed. As a point of reference, he noted that a previous iteration of this audit, which did not scrutinize election systems, cost taxpayers $425,000.

ADVERTISEMENT

This cybersecurity audit will be the first to look at the election systems.

When asked if he believes there were problems with North Dakota's last election, Gallion said, "At this point, I'm going to leave this up to the contractors." He said his office had received phone calls and emails from members of the public encouraging an audit and that he's aware of the "national issues" around election audits.

He added that he doesn't believe North Dakota has the same problems as these other states.

"Josh gave me a call to let me know he was doing this," Secretary of State Al Jaeger told me when I reached him for comment. "We're open to the audit if that's what's going to happen."

Asked if he felt the audit was appropriate, Jaeger said it's "his call," referring to Gallion. "I'm confident in our voting systems. We have a very good system. High integrity. I'm confident it will come out fine."

Coachman.jpg
A petition spearheaded by Michael Coachman, a former candidate for governor, seeks to recall Gov. Doug Burgum. (Photo courtesy of Michael Coachman for Governor)

There has been some visible activism in favor of an election audit, mostly on social media.

ADVERTISEMENT

Michael Coachman , a hardcore Trump supporter and a fringe candidate who has run for various offices both as a Republican and an independent over the years, has been vocal in his calls for a "forensic audit" of the 2020 election both on social media and in the ears of state elected officials.

In July, Coachman sent an email survey to state lawmakers demanding to know their position on a "full forensic audit" of state voting machines, among other issues, and requesting a live stream interview on Facebook.

Here's an example one lawmaker sent me:

PHOTO: Michael Coachman audit email
A screenshot of an email sent to North Dakota lawmakers by fringe candidate and activist Michael Coachman inquiring as to their position on a forensic audit of state election machines (Photo provided by source)

During the 2020 election, Coachman staged a write-in campaign for governor with some promotion from state Rep. Rick Becker , founder of the secretive Bastiat Caucus of Trumpy state lawmakers. It's not clear how many votes Coachman, specifically, received, but write-in candidates received 4.88% of the vote last November .

In addition to promoting an election audit, Coachman is also pushing a recall campaign for Gov. Doug Burgum , who received over 65% of the vote in 2020 .

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
What To Read Next
When Katie Pinke directed her daughter to a beef expert in preparation for her speech meet, it made her think about the need for trusted ag sources of information.
Two bills before the Legislature in Bismarck would end the state's ability to remove drivers' and occupational licenses for nonpayment of child support.
Rep. Mike Motschenbacher represents District 47 in the state legislature. He's also the executive director of a powerful gambling group. Can he ethically do both jobs at the same time?
"I'm not going to be backed off on this with some phony fiscal note," North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley said, referring to his push for new minimum sentencing laws.