Carbon County and SoS Stories Conflict on Tampered Election Machines Seals: “No More Questions”

Carbon County Elections Administrator Crystal Roascio shared a press release Thursday to quell growing public concern regarding broken warranty seals discovered by citizens at a public test of the county’s ES&S DS200 election tabulation machines last Thursday.

At the test, warranty seals shielding access to the inside of each of the county’s DS200 tabulation machines were found to have been broken with pieces of the warranty seal embedded into the screw head, indicating that something had pushed the seal into the screw’s head.

One of four damaged warranty seals covering machine access service screws on Carbon County ES&S DS200 electronic tabulators.

When the elections administrator was confronted with the broken seals, Roascio said she had not noticed the broken seals before and offered to observers that the broken seals were likely due to support struts from the lids covering the devices rubbing against the seals. Roascio provided photos to the Montana Secretary of State’s office which, Roascio said in emails to Western Montana News, also determined that the cause was rubbing of the support struts against the warranty seals.

After WMN published photos of the screws with the seal material embedded into the head of the screw, Roascio distanced herself from the claim that the struts were responsible for the broken seal stating that the Secretary of State’s office made the determination.

“We are not the ones that determined what the cause of this damaged label was. I sent pictures to the SOS and they felt that is what the issue was,” Roascio’s May 18th email stated.

WMN forwarded questions to the Secretary of State’s office May 17th asking if office head Christi Jacobsen had inspected the photos herself and how her office determined that the struts were the culprit. The Secretary of State office communications director, Richie Melby, said they would get back to WMN, but so far have not replied back.

In Roascio’s May 18th email in which she distanced herself from the claim that the struts were the culprit, the elections administrator offered a new explanation for why the warranty seals were broken, contradicting the determination made by the Secretary of State’s office.

Roascio stated that she spoke with the ES&S technician on the morning of the 18th and the technician told her that they had removed the screws from the machines, breaking the warranty seal, shortly after they were purchased and received in 2020, because the machines “were not equipped for higher altitude.”

“This morning, I personally spoke with the technician and he informed me that when we purchased these machines back before the 2020 primary, they were not equipped for higher altitude. He did come in and perform maintenance on the machines before the 2020 primary, removing that screw in question. He said he did not have the labels on him to replace it when he was here and didn’t even think about it when he did maintenance on our machines in April of this year. I have informed the SOS office about this and they feel we got to the bottom of the issue, so no further investigating was warranted.”

Carbon County Elections Administrator, Crystal Roascio. May 18th email to Western Montana News.

WMN asked Roascio if she could get clarification from ES&S regarding why the altitude of the tabulation machine would affect the performance of the machine and necessitate opening the DS200 tabulation devices to modify their operation. WMN also asked the elections administrator what was done to the machine to equip it for a higher altitude. In an email reply Roascio said, “I am forwarding this email to the SOS. I do not have answers to your questions below, they are above me.”

WMN asked for access, maintenance, and seal logs for the DS200 machines to determine when the breach of the warranty seals may have occurred, but Roascio only provided logs for 2022.

In a phone call with Carbon County Clerk Recorder Christine Stovall, Stovall told WMN that 2020 access, maintenance, and seal logs were “not available” because they were past the federal election records retention schedule which mandates that elections offices must keep election-related records for at least 22 months. Since 22 months would include half of 2020, WMN asked that no further election records be destroyed at least until our public records request could be filled.

Stovall said that WMN’s request for subsequent logs would not be filled immediately and would take up to 30 days. “At this point time in our election we are not going to take time to do that in the next two weeks,” Stovall said.

Since WMN published our original story bringing the warranty seals breach to light, the Carbon County Clerk & Recorder’s office has been inundated with questions from the public asking if there will be an investigation and inquiring what exactly happened to the machines.

“We are unable to keep answering questions in regards to this matter,” Roascio said in the press release, citing the upcoming election in June where the breached DS200 tabulation machines are set to be used. “These tabulators have passed every public test that has been performed. There has also been a post-election audit conducted for both the 2020 Primary and General Elections. The counts were correct on both.”

The Carbon County Clerk and Recorder’s office is not answering further questions regarding the matter, forwarding additional questions to the Montana Secretary of State’s office which continues to remain non-responsive.

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