Nebraska Secretary of State pushes back against claims that 2020 vote was amiss

‘Fake vs. fact’ PowerPoint rejects election fraud claims and concerns, one by one

By: - February 6, 2022 5:11 pm

(Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

LINCOLN — Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen, in a PowerPoint presentation sent Saturday to all 49 state senators, is pushing back against contentions of election fraud and irregularities during the 2020 election.

The PowerPoint, entitled, “Fake vs. Fact,” rejects, one by one, allegations made by a group claiming to seek “accuracy” in elections.

The presentation, among other things, said some laws cited by critics don’t exist; allegations that some votes couldn’t be matched with registered voters were false; and claims that the state’s voting machines aren’t tested were not true.

Secretary of State Robert Evnen
Secretary of State Robert Evnen
(Courtesy of Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office)

“The Secretary of State’s Office is fully informed of the concerns and claims that have been raised and has fully investigated them,” the PowerPoint says.

Evnen, in an interview, said he sees “no justification” for a full, forensic audit or a hand recount of the 2020 election results in Nebraska, as called for by at least one group of critics. 

The first-term Republican said his office doesn’t have the authority to take such steps without approval by the State Legislature.

“But if (the Legislature) wanted it, and was filling to pay for it, I’d do it,” Evnen added.

He said he produced the presentation for lawmakers and held two briefings with senators last week because it was important to provide a response to “people who are of a rational mind.”

Brewer wants to see a meeting

Evnen said some people won’t be convinced no matter how much information he provides. “They’re not looking for information, they’re looking for confirmation” of conclusions they’ve already reached, he said.

But State Sen. John McCollister of Omaha, who has seen the PowerPoint, said some people’s opinions may be swayed by it.

State Sen. John McCollister
State Sen. John McCollister of Omaha
(Courtesy of Unicameral Information Office)

“I thought he did a fairly good job of totally answering the points raised by those people who thought the election was unfair or badly managed,” McCollister, a Republican, said.

Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer, a Republican who chairs the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, said he thought the PowerPoint did a good job of answering most of the criticism. But Brewer said he still thinks a face-to-face meeting between Evnen and the main group alleging irregularities, the Nebraska Voter Accuracy Project, would be helpful.

I think you could put some closure to some of these things if they met,” Brewer said.

 Many of the allegations about the 2020 election count — including one that 4,001 votes cast could not be linked to registered voters — came out during a public hearing last week before the Government Committee on a bill to ensure security of election “drop boxes.” 

Proponents of Legislative Bill 1263, which was introduced on behalf of the Secretary of State’s Office, said there are no current laws concerning how drop boxes should be secured or how often ballots should be collected. The bill seeks to provide security standards for drop boxes. It was supported by a major voter rights group, Civic Nebraska.

The hearing also featured testimony from a handful of members of the Nebraska Voter Accuracy Project group, who claimed there had been widespread fraud during voting in 2020 in the state.

State Sen. Tom Brewer
State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon
(Courtesy of Unicameral Information Office)

Members of the group charged that Evnen’s office “wasn’t listening,” “wasn’t looking” for fraud and had “underestimated” the cunning of those committing the fraud they suspected had occurred.

Equipment tested

That group also alleged that the state’s election counting machines aren’t tested for accuracy — a claim Evnen said was entirely false. In 2019, the state spent $7 million to update its ballot counting system, purchasing equipment from Omaha-based Election Systems and Software.

Evnen said the equipment, according to a state contract, is subject to “penetration and vulnerability scans” by an independent “tester,” either the Department of Homeland Security or a third party with expertise. The scans are not shared with the public, he said, because of security concerns that a “bad actor” could tamper with voting.

In addition, representatives of ES&S recently came to Nebraska to demonstrate their equipment to state senators and answer questions.

 “I don’t see any evidence that there’s problems with the machines of any kind,” Evnen said.

The 4,001 votes allegation was false, the PowerPoint stated, and was based on a comparison of voter registrations on Election Day  2020 and on Jan. 1, 2021.

Voter registration lists are updated almost daily across the state, Evnen said, and the difference in the votes cast on Election Day 2020 and the number of registered voters the following Jan. 1reflects that. For instance, 4,238 registered voters were reported to his office to have died in the two months after the 2020 election, which accounts for some of the difference, he said.

No affidavits received

The accuracy group maintained that the Secretary of State’s Office had received “hundreds” of affidavits alleging voter fraud, while the PowerPoint said no affidavits had been received.

Another allegation was that there was an election-night “reduction” in the vote count for then-President Donald Trump. 

That, the PowerPoint said, was a mistake by Edison Research, a third-party service associated with the New York Times, which erroneously reported results posted by the Secretary of State’s Office.

Brewer said after last week’s hearing on the drop box bill that he would arrange a meeting with the accuracy group and Evnen. On Sunday, Brewer said he would share the PowerPoint with that group but would also like to see a meeting happen.

Evnen, a Lincoln lawyer, was elected Secretary of State in 2018. During the campaign, he pledged to seek voter-ID laws.

He is seeking re-election this year. One other GOP candidate has filed so far for the post, Rex Schroder of Palmyra.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and was named editor of the Papillion Times in 1982. He later worked as a sports enterprise reporter at the Lincoln Journal-Star. He joined the Omaha World-Herald in 1990, working as a legislative reporter, then roving state reporter and finally Lincoln bureau chief. Paul has won awards from organizations including Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation and secretary of the Nebraska Hop Growers.

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