Understanding Clear Creek ISD’s Lack of Transparency Regarding the May 2021 Board of Trustees Election

Page Rander says she took one for the team

This post explains a series of events leading up to and following the May 1, 2021 election for positions on the Clear Creek Independent School District Board of Trustees (school board). To this day, Clear Creek ISD continues to hide critical election data that would serve to validate the results, and it continues to take advantage of the complexity of the issues involving this data in an effort to manipulate the public’s perception of these events.

Clear Creek ISD’s Responses to Texas Public Information Act Requests

The reported results of the May 1, 2021 Clear Creek ISD Board of Trustees election featured numerous oddities. In an effort to understand what really happened, members of the public have submitted multiple Texas Public Information Act Requests to the district; more on these requests below.

First, the election oddities:

  • The total number of votes cast more than tripled versus the most recent previous District 5 election (in 2018), while overall population growth for the voting area during that time did not match that pace. Statistically, increased interest in school board elections alone does not explain such a large increase in total voters.
  • Only 5% of the 2021 voters in the District 5 race also voted in the 2018 District 5 election. Many of the voters in the 2021 District 5 election have no record of voting in any previous election, CCISD or otherwise. That so many first-time voters would vote for the incumbent in a time when the need for new leadership in CCISD was clear seemed odd to many following the race.
  • It seemed suspicious that the incumbent could perform so well by running what many believed to be an uninspired and uninspiring campaign, with a strategy that consisted solely of encouraging his supporters to slander his opponent. 
  • Other conservative school board candidates in Texas whose elections were on the same day came out victorious; in some cases, winning by a landslide, including two candidates in Southlake ISD, and one in Spring Branch ISD.

But as has been established, key district leaders had already tried to tip the scales against the challenger. Earlier in the campaign, then-CCISD Board of Trustees President Dr. Laura DuPont authorized CCISD Chief Communications Officer Elaina Polsen to interfere in the May 2021 election on behalf of the incumbent by contacting a reporter and pressuring the reporter to rescind a question to candidates about CRT. An electioneering complaint was submitted regarding this incident to the Texas Secretary of State.

Additionally, there were several specific irregularities about the way in which CCISD conducted the election that also raised red flags:

  • The total number of votes cast in District 5 on Election Day reported by CCISD’s results did not match the total number of District 5 votes cast on Election Day as reported in the voter roster CCISD posted online following the election.
  • An election integrity expert who observed the tallying process reported that three of the Hart InterCivic eSlate voting system machines used to cast ballots did not have corresponding internal paperwork that matched their external validation seals. Such a discrepancy is often a sign of election tampering. One of these machines, which held over 1,200 votes, was later used again during the recount.
  • CCISD’s tallying process ultimately requires data to be read from memory cards and manually entered into a spreadsheet, creating the opportunity for human or machine calculation errors.

A Brief History of the HART InterCivic eSlate Machines

The history of the voting technology used by CCISD is rife with questions about the integrity of elections involving these machines. Security researchers have reported that the Hart InterCivic eSlate voting system machines – which are approximately 20 years old – have played a role in numerous inaccurate election vote tallying incidents across the country. That’s because they have many fundamental, built-in system vulnerabilities, including insecure computer network interfaces, improper use of cryptography, and susceptibility to malicious inputs.

In layman’s terms, anyone with a cursory knowledge of and access to the machines could quickly alter the results of an election. This is possible primarily because the eSlate voting machines store vote data on Mobile Ballot Box (MBB) external      memory cards. Researchers have run tests where they removed the eSlate’s memory card, plugged the card into a separate Windows PC, manipulated the data on the card, and then re-inserted the memory card into the eSlate voting machine. The eSlate read the memory card with the altered data as if it were perfectly normal, without indicating that the data had been changed. In short, anyone with a bit of know-how and unfettered access to the machines – such as a school district running its own election – could easily conduct this tampering.

The Recount Relied on the Same Flawed Data

After discovering this information, and in light of all the other unusual circumstances noted above, a recount of the May 1 election for District 5 was requested. In light of the research noted above, it was clear that any recount conducted using the memory cards would be based on the same questionable data and likely yield the same questionable results.

Fortunately, the eSlate voting system also stores vote totals in two other locations: on an unremovable internal memory system, and on something called internal JBC memory, which is inside the eSlate’s master controller device. If the election data was counted accurately on election night, these two other data sources would show the same result.

On May 19, 2021, the day of the recount, it was requested that the recount be based on JBC internal memory data and eSlate internal memory data. At the time of the recount, two representatives from Hart InterCivic were in attendance. Hart InterCivic is the company that produced the eSlate voting machines, and was under contract with CCISD to support and maintain the machines. Even though CCISD has claimed on numerous occasions that the JBC internal memory data and eSlate internal memory data does not exist, during the recount Hart InterCivic’s representatives confirmed that the JBC internal memory and eSlate internal memory sources do exist, and that they could easily retrieve them for use in the recount. Yet inexplicably, the request was denied by the recount supervisor, a CCISD employee. Instead, the district conducted the recount using data from the same eSlate Mobile Ballot Box (MBB) memory cards. Unsurprisingly, the outcome was unchanged.

The JBC Internal Memory and eSlate Internal Memory May Tell a Different Story

It is believed that an expert audit of the JBC internal memory and eSlate internal memory data would result in a different outcome than the one presented to the public on May 1. Shortly after the election, two Texas Public Information Act Requests (TPIARs) were filed with CCISD:

  • On May 4, 2021, custom configurations that CCISD had commissioned for the HART InterCivic eSlate machines were requested. That included any modifications to the Windows operating system registry. This data would likely reveal whether CCISD manipulated the eSlate machines in any way, such as switching a vote from one candidate to another.
  • Immediately after the recount, on May 20, 2021, the JBC internal memory and eSlate internal memory vote tallies were requested. During the recount, Dr. DuPont stated in front of numerous witnesses that this data would be released via a TPIAR. HART representatives in attendance at the recount confirmed that this data could be retrieved.

According to the Texas Election Code, §§1.012-1.013, the JBC internal memory and eSlate internal memory vote tallies are considered election records, as they memorialize the actual election and conduct of the election. And CCISD is required to produce these records for inspection upon request, no later than 15 days after the election. As of the date of this publication, CCISD has yet to release this data.

CCISD Has Flouted TPIA

CCISD has consistently sought to stonewall TPIARs related to the May 2021 election, even going so far as to have an employee sign affidavits falsely attesting that the data requested via TPIARs does not exist.

CCISD has tried to claim that the eSlate machines do not run on Windows in response to a TPIAR. This has been documented as false:

  • All of the components of the eSlate machine run on Windows. An independent research paper noted that the eSlate machines extensively use the Windows registry to configure the machines and turn features on and off – use of the Windows registry is impossible if the systems in question did not run on Windows.
  • During the recount, observers watched as Hart InterCivic representatives literally plugged the PC cards into a laptop running Windows to examine their data.

CCISD has maintained that the JBC internal memory and eSlate internal memory tallies do not exist. This is verifiably false:

  • HART InterCivic’s own training manual for the eSlate states the following: “The voter casts his/her ballot and the vote count is stored on the eSlate and on the JBC and MBB.”
  • Academic research (the same research that showed it is possible to alter vote tallies on MBB cards, then re-insert them into the machines and tally votes) has shown that MBB, JBC internal memory, and eSlate internal memory tallies must match in order to unequivocally validate the results of an election.
  • A leading eSlate security researcher has verified that the machines must have the internal memory sources in place to record votes.

Yet emails between CCISD and HART InterCivic, dated May 20, 2021 – coincidentally, the same day the TPIAR requesting the JBC internal memory and eSlate internal memory tallies was submitted — prove that not only did CCISD have the JBC internal memory tallies, but also by backing up the eSlate machines, it was capable of retrieving the eSlate internal memory tallies.

Contrast that with Laura Donnelly’s response to the requestor:

On September 17, 2021, the eSlate machines were backed up, further confirming the existence of the JBC internal memory data and eSlate internal memory data. The document below serves to confirm the system backup.

The Curious Case of Machine C05BE7

Another oddity of note is that CCISD used four early voting locations, but during the recount, had five JBC machines to count. One of those machines, one with the serial number C05BE7, seal number 1470112, using the SIM card MBB63, did not have a corresponding affidavit. Each voting machine is required to have an affidavit signed by the election judges stating that the seals and SIM cards match, and that the machines’ seals are intact.

C05BE7’s affidavit was only signed by a representative of HART InterCivic. No election judge or poll watcher signed the affidavit. This machine held 1,220 votes. CCISD is now feigning ignorance about the existence of all affidavits in response to a TPIAR.

As you can see in the below image, the documents sent are not affidavits signed by election judges.

Jena Brown, Patricia Ikegwuonu, and Leticia Salazar were not election judges. Below are all the names of the election judges at the early voting and election day locations.

The Attorney General Investigation    

Two primary complaints have been submitted to the Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG), Open Records Division in regard to records related to the May 2021 CCISD election. These are the complaints and their timelines:

Custom Configurations of the Voting Machines

  • May 25, 2021: Complaint submitted
  • June 14, 2021: CCISD employee Laura Donnelly signs an affidavit stating that “I certify the governmental body has made available to the requestor all existing responsive information that this governmental body owns, controls, or has a right of access to.”
  • July 8, 2021: Requestor sends additional information to OAG.
  • August 20, 2021: OAG requests more information from CCISD.
  • December 22, 2021: OAG sends letter stating that “the enforcement authority of the Office of the Attorney General does not include on-site inspections of records held by another governmental office. Further, this office is unable to resolve disputes of fact in the informal complaint process.” The OAG closes the informal complaint based solely on the assertions of the district and its lack of authority to force an inspection.

JBC Internal Memory and eSlate Internal Memory Tallies

  • June 7, 2021: Complaint submitted.
  • July 13, 2021: CCISD employee Laura Donnelly signs an affidavit stating that “I certify the government body has conducted a good faith search of information that this government body owns, controls, or has a right of access to, and has found no such information that is responsive to the requestor’s public information request.”
  • July 30, 2021: OAG sends a letter forwarding the affidavit.
  • August 4, 2021: Requestor sends additional evidence, including research reports, to OAG.
  • The complaint is still open. OAG to date has not sent correspondence to Requestor. OAG’s office has verbally confirmed that this complaint is under review.

Clear Creek ISD, realizing that the questions generated within the community by its TPIAR violations has led to increased scrutiny, issued a statement, both at its January 24, 2022 board meeting and subsequently on its website. This statement contains numerous falsehoods and is exploiting the complexity of the issue to gaslight the complainant and members of the public.

First, the Texas Attorney General only informally investigates TPIAR violations and has no statutory enforcement authority. These OAG “investigations” consist of sending a letter and affidavit to the government entity. There is no further action; this means that the government entity can get away with signing an affidavit stating that they have responded in good faith, even when they have not. It is believed that this is what CCISD has done. A good faith actor does not attempt to claim election data does not exist when its own records, revealed through TPIAR requests, shows that data  clearly does exist, nor does a good faith actor attempt to punt off responsibility to a third-party contractor who is under no legal obligation to respond. Yet this is what CCISD did, as illustrated via the document below.

CCISD also claims that cast ballot images, rather than JBC internal memory data and eSlate internal memory data, are the subject of the OAG complaints. This is false. At no time were cast ballot images mentioned in the complaints. In fact it is the JBC internal memory data and eSlate internal memory data are what CCISD refuses to release, and it is believed the district is deliberately conflating cast ballot images with JBC internal memory data and eSlate internal memory data in order to confuse and mislead the public.

Finally, CCISD claims that all tally tapes were provided in response to TPIARs. Seven voting machines were used in the recount; only six tally tapes were provided. CCISD refuses to acknowledge this discrepancy.

The Audit Log Conundrum

Finally, the audit logs for the eSlate machines were requested on May 11, 2021 via TPIAR. Clear Creek ISD knew that very same day that the audit logs could be provided no later than May 19, 2021, as proven by the email correspondence below.

Audit logs were not provided until July 2021, nearly two full months later. This provided plenty of time, in theory, for someone to tamper with them.

CCISD’s months of smokescreens and denials clearly show that the district has no intention of releasing the requested information on its own.

Finally, former Trustee Page Rander, who goes by the name “Donna Page” on Facebook, made this cryptic post shortly after the election results came in:

Page Rander says she took one for the team
Page Rander takes one for the team

It is very suspicious that she would use the phrase “taken one for the … team.” Did CCISD sacrifice Ms. Rander to ensure it received the outcome it desired?

Summary

In summary, the community should demand that CCISD immediately do the following:

  • CCISD must admit that the JBC internal memory data and eSlate internal memory data from the May 2021 Board of Trustees election does exist, as the above-provided documents clearly prove.
  • CCISD must agree to facilitate and pay for an independent expert audit to compare the JBC internal memory and eSlate internal memory data with the vote data on the Mobile Ballot Box (MBB) external memory cards, conducted transparently in full view of the public.
  • If the JBC internal memory and eSlate internal memory data show a different result, the rightful winner must be affirmed and sworn in to her rightful position immediately.
  • CCISD must apologize to the public for its obfuscating and misleading statements and actions regarding the May 2021 Board of Trustees election, and immediately initiate an independent investigation to determine who is responsible for its unlawful actions.

Unfortunately, to obtain the necessary data and documents and ultimately affect the desired outcomes, it will likely be necessary to hire investigative and legal experts.

If you believe in election integrity and accountability, you can donate to WOKESTOP here:

WOKESTOP (Watchful Organization Keeping the Education of Students Transparent, Orthodox, and Principled) is a political action committee created to uphold conservative values in our schools.