Despite Potter County going 70% for former President Donald Trump in 2020, GOP leaders there are raising unfounded claims of election irregularities and fraud. Potter County GOP chair Dan Rogers wants to reintroduce hand-marked, paper ballots for people voting in the March 2022 Republican primary, despite warnings from statewide election officials that this change could actually increase the risk of voter fraud. Rogers also wants to run his own election, rather than relying on county officials to do it.
Jessica Huseman has been reporting on this for VoteBeat.org, an online publication dedicated to reporting on elections and voting in the U.S. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: First, why does the Potter County Republican Party want to conduct their own election in the 2022 Republican primary?
Jessica Huseman: The chairman of the party, Dan Rogers, has said that his voters do not trust the machines or the central count system that Potter County uses. He hasn’t presented any survey data to back that up, but that is what he claims.
Does this have anything to do with President Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 presidential election he claims was stolen from him?
Absolutely, it does. A few weeks ago, they had a presentation from Jeff Zink, who is running for Congress in Arizona and believes that the Arizona audit was, for example, manipulated and that the CyberNinjas audit there was false and hid a lot of the fraudulent numbers. And so I think that this is definitely a continuation of “the big lie.”
CyberNinjas, by the way, is the name of the company that Arizona hired to do the to do the audit. So how would they be able to do this? And by bypassing county election officials, is that something they can do under the Texas Constitution?
That is something that they can do. The parties are entirely responsible for the conduct of the primaries on Election Day, but not during early voting. And so the county will continue to conduct early voting through the normal means. And then on Election Day, they will run their own, using paper ballots that they will hand count. And the hand counting process is really where the experts tell me things are going to go awry. It’s harder than it sounds to hand count lots of ballots, especially when there are more than two dozen races on there. And so I anticipate it will take them quite a while if they if they end up doing it at all.
Well, I guess one question would be whether or not other counties might try to follow suit. Is that something people are talking about right now?
That is something that Dan Rogers really wants to happen. He sent an email out on December 3 to every party chair in the state, encouraging them to follow their lead. I have not heard of anyone doing this quite yet, nor has the Secretary of State’s Office. So it seems like it’s Dan Rogers out there on his own in Potter County, but who knows what will catch on in the next couple of months?
How have state election officials been responding to this? Have they made any sort of official pronouncements? Have you heard anything from your sources?
They have no power to stop Mr. Rogers from doing this, if that’s what he’d like to do. The party chairs can run the primaries however they like as long as they comply with Texas’ election code. The state has not been shy at telling Mr. Rogers that they think this is a terrible idea though. They think it will cause massive voter confusion and potentially lead to fraud. The checks and balances of the system that Potter County uses would all go away in this iteration of Mr. Rogers’ vote counting method. I think that the state the state has told Mr. Rogers under no uncertain terms that they prefer he not do this, but they have no power to stop him.
What about local Potter County election officials? Are they anticipating separate voting sites for Republicans and Democrats, or how does this play out
That’s exactly what they’re anticipating. Mr. Mr. Rogers also declined to use the e-poll books that that check voters in, which allow voters to vote at any precinct in Potter County. So because he wants to use paper pull books, voters will have to turn up at an assigned precinct and can only vote there. So it really is going to be a radically different voting system than what Potter County voters are used to.