Investigation uncovers truth behind voter fraud claims in Mason County

Watch the full investigation of a report published by the Voter Research Project in Mason County at 6:39 p.m. and 11 p.m

MASON COUNTY, Wash. — In late 2021, a group of volunteers turned onto Coulter Creek Road to expose fraud and incompetence in the Mason County election.

They met Paydirt – literally an empty lot of earth and trees with no home. Nonetheless, four electors were registered at this Belfair estate.

The vacant lot is exhibit #1 in the Mason County Voter Research Project’s “Voter Anomaly” report, which was submitted to Mason County officials this summer, along with a request for the county to correct any “error or act of fraud” in the 239 investigating anomalies in voter registration identified in their report.

“This is unacceptable. An illegal vote deprives every legal voter of the right to vote,” the report said.

Two other voters were registered at a nearby vacant lot on Coulter Creek Road, a possible violation because voters must register at the address where they actually live, according to the report.

But there was a problem. The volunteers took a wrong turn. The voters on the county’s registration records live in Coulter Creek, but they live across the street. Their address is correct in the research project records, but the volunteers seem to have overlooked that the houses are on Coulter Creek Road South.

The mishap was one of several uncovered by KING 5 investigators as they traced some of the steps of the Voter Research Project’s door-to-door advertising campaigns that allegedly visited 544 addresses of select Mason County voters.

“You need to do more research. It really didn’t seem that difficult to find us,” said Melanie, one of four voters who lives in the home on Coulter Creek Road South that was incorrectly identified as a vacant lot by research project volunteers.

“I really think it just seems like an error in the documentation,” said Brian at the house down the street, who confirmed two registered voters reside at the address.

The research project’s promotional campaigns in several Washington counties to expose voter fraud show how national claims of a “stolen election” in the 2020 presidential campaign leaked to local communities.

KING 5 examined some of the Mason County Research Project’s more glaring claims: a dead man who voted, multiple people registered at homes they don’t live in, voters who misregistered at PO Boxes where their Obtaining ballots, and mysterious “ghost voters” casting ballots for people who said they did not vote.

The “Deceased Voter”

The report identifies a “deceased voter” who lived in a home in East Lakewood in Shelton until he “died in the summer of 2019 ahead of the November 2020 general election in which he voted.” Two neighbors contacted by KING 5 disputed that schedule and said the man later relocated to live with a family member in Arizona. Additionally, Mason County Elections received a notice from the Post that the man had moved to Arizona in 2021, well after the 2020 election.

District election officials routinely check federal death records to deregister deceased voters, but sometimes the death goes unrecorded in the federal database for several months. Neighbors said the man died after moving to Arizona.

With all the evidence available, it doesn’t appear that a dead man was voted on.

The “Ghost Chooser”

In another instance, Mary giggled while speaking to a KING 5 crew on her doorstep, who told her she had been identified as a “ghost chooser” in the research project’s report. The Shelton woman had no recollection of recruiters coming to her door. Records show that Mary cast a vote in the 2020 presidential election, but research project volunteers said Mary told them she did not vote. Mary did not remember saying that and was puzzled by some of KING 5’s questions.

Records of the county elections show that Mary voted in the election. The county elections office said her ballot signature matched her signature on file and there was no evidence of fraud.

Sometimes the truth about voter “anomalies” could be found in the research project’s own report.

Fewer anomalies than reported

The report states that a man who formerly lived in a house in East Fairchild in Shelton was still registered at that address, although “… he joined the Coast Guard two years ago and no longer lives at that address.” The research project is apparently unaware that the Uniformed and Overseas Postal Voting Act allows military personnel and their families to remain registered at their last address in Washington and mail their ballots abroad. The service member’s information is kept confidential in voting records, but county records reviewed by KING 5 indicate the man’s voter registration is legal and active.

KING 5 visited more than a dozen addresses of alleged “electoral anomalies” and sent emails and messages to more voters. Most of the voter registrations checked by KING 5 were not anomalies and could be declared or verified as legitimate voters.

“I personally reviewed every (voter) name on this list,” said Paddy McGuire, Mason County CPA who directs the county elections office.

He said he investigated Research Project’s claims that they found 239 voter anomalies among the 411 residents they spoke to.

McGuire said more than 80% of the “anomalies” in the research project’s report were either incorrect or involved information already known to poll officials.

“They identified 67 voters that I would consider potential anomalies and not confirmed anomalies but possible. We have 44,500 registered voters in Mason County. One is too many, but 67 is a pretty small number,” McGuire said.

The report was authored by Steve Duenkel, a first-time candidate for Mason County’s auditor who received 49% of the vote during the August primary. He will face incumbent McGuire in November’s election – with almost two decades of voting experience.

Duenkel, a retired Boeing executive, has not responded to multiple interview requests from KING 5. Running on an “election integrity” platform, he has embraced some of the conspiracy theories surrounding the “stolen” 2020 presidential election.

“There are a lot of questions about our voting machines, a lot of uncertainties,” Duenkel told iFibreOne KMAS in May, long after conspiracies about Dominion voting systems and other devices were exposed. Duenkel suggested going back to voting in person and counting the ballots by hand as a solution.

Some accuracy found in report

Not all reports of the research project are inaccurate.

Volunteers reported that 12 voters are registered in post boxes at the Bear Creek store in Belfair. Another eight voters are registered in mailboxes at the nearby post office.

McGuire said voters would have to provide their residential address and could not substitute a PO Box instead. So these 20 voters are in violation of the registration requirements.

McGuire said his office is aware of these cases, and over the past three years he has reduced mailbox registrations using a new, more secure statewide voter registration system called VoteWA, which went live in 2019.

“When we started this process, there were more than 100[mailbox registrations],” McGuire said.

Still, he said he could not cancel the remaining post office box voter registrations without additional evidence. He said the law assumes registered voters are valid unless someone files a challenge to voter registration along with a signed affidavit. Nobody with the research project submitted such a challenge.

McGuire was asked if election deniers would use this as an example of the government’s incompetence in rooting out voter registration fraud.

“I think it’s important to realize that small issues don’t mean cheating,” McGuire said.

That’s what KING 5 found in the Mason County Voter Research Project report – mostly small issues, no conspiracies and a voting system that strives for full and fair elections.

McGuire said he shared his findings with the Voter Research Project, but its members didn’t seem interested in what he had to say.

“It’s unsettling to see people entering the process uninterested in learning the truth (and they only seem interested in proving fantasies about widespread voter fraud,” McGuire said.

This report is the first in a series entitled The Fraud Crusade, which will explore allegations of voter fraud and incompetence in western Washington.

CLOCK: KING 5 investigator reports Investigation uncovers truth behind voter fraud claims in Mason County

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