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The Great Missouri Hand-Count Swindle: How MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell Conned Patrick Jones and Kevin Crye, Costing Shasta County Millions

Lindell TV hosts Brannon Howse and Mike Lindell. Note MySlippers are always on sale.

A manual tally voting system touted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and Shasta County supervisors Patrick Jones and Kevin Crye and recently deployed in Osage County, Missouri, costs more money, takes more time, and is less accurate than ballot tabulation machines currently in use, according to Osage County Clerk/Election Authority Nicci Bouse.

“After considering all factors of this election and comparing it to other elections that are similar, I fear that if we were to continue hand counting it would cost us more in time, money, losing volunteers, and accuracy of votes,” Bouse concluded in a 2151-word letter to the editor published in the print edition of The Unterrified Democrat, a local newspaper founded in 1866. Its editor provided a copy of the Osage County Election Authority’s letter which can be read here.

Osage County, population 13,274, has 9817 registered voters. Shasta County, which controversially ditched its voting machines earlier this year and is developing a manual tally system, has approximately 180,000 residents and 110,000 registered voters.

Last year, Bouse was approached by conservative election integrity activist Linda Rantz, who suggested the clerk hand count Osage’s next municipal election, as provided for in Missouri state election law.

Osage County, Missouri is figuratively and literally red.

Municipal elections in Missouri feature local levies, school board seats, and county commissioner positions, and typically have smaller turnouts than statewide and presidential elections. With an eye toward developing a hand-count system as a backup in case the machines somehow went down, Bouse agreed to manually tally Osage County’s municipal election on April 4 of this year.

If the name Linda Rantz doesn’t sound familiar, it should. She’s the alleged elections expert District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye brought to a county elections workshop on March 13; District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones has named her as one of the guest experts at his proposed hand-count town hall later this summer.

Lindell TV host Brannon Howse, Mike Lindell and Linda Rantz.

Rantz is a layperson with no professional background in elections or election technology. Two years ago, she and her husband moved from liberal blue Washington state to conservative red state Missouri. She considers herself a political refugee. She did not return A News Café’s requests for an interview.

Rantz, who now lives in Osage County, joined conservative election integrity organizations Missouri Canvassers and Cause of America shortly after moving to the Show Me state. After discovering Missouri state law permits the manual tallying of votes, she began cutting and pasting together statutes and forms into a document that eventually became “Missouri Elections: Return to Handcounting.”

That document caught the attention of the nation’s leading Big Lie election fraud conspiracy theorist, MyPillow peddler Mike Lindell, who’s been pushing “Linda’s hand count system” on his Frank Speech internet portal ever since.

In early March, weeks after Jones, Crye, and District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom voted to terminate the county’s contract with Dominion Voting Systems, potentially disenfranchising 110,000 registered voters, we learned that Crye has been getting election advice straight from Lindell, sometimes during board meetings. Crye infamously flew to Lindell’s home state of Minnesota seeking counsel on hand counting and billed taxpayers for the trip.

What might be in it for Kevin Crye, according to Phil Fountain.

Crye has refused to say what gifts he received or lessons he learned from Lindell, although last April he did tell A News Café that the whole trip was “a big nothing burger.” Crye has since refused to respond to ANC’s inquiries, including several requests to specify what he meant by calling his visit to Lindell “a big nothing burger.”

This article presumes that the “big nothing burger” Crye referred to is Rantz’s so-called hand count system, as presented in “Missouri Elections: Return to Handcounting.” It’s the only information on the hand-counting process itself offered on Lindell’s website. The document has ballooned to nearly 300 highly disorganized pages heavily slanted with negative stories about voting machines, computers, and technology. It’s one-third hand count manual and two-thirds Luddite manifesto. You can download it for free on Frank Speech. That’s what Crye should have done—no reason for him to fly all the way to Minnesota on taxpayers’ dime.

Illustration from “Missouri Elections: Return to Handcounting.”

Knowledgeable readers who download Rantz’s “Emanual” will quickly discover that it’s not the type of document most elected leaders generally depend upon to make important decisions. It’s a cut-and-paste special that jumps all over the place, rarely presents a cogent argument, and is irrelevant for Shasta County because it’s based on Missouri state law, not California state law.

Why depend on such a shoddy document when the work of professionals is right at hand? Namely, the manual tally reports that Shasta County Clerk/Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen and her staff have been issuing at the behest of the insatiable Jones, Crye, and Kelstrom, who have yet to prove any of their election fraud claims, in Shasta County, California, or the country.

Shouldn’t Jones, Crye, and Kelstrom have the burden of proof?

In her letter to the board sent before the final Dominion Voting Systems decision in late March, Darling Allen clearly spelled out her criticisms of Rantz’s so-called system:

“On March 13, 2023, Supervisor Crye invited Linda Rantz to speak with our working group. Rantz supports manual tallying of paper ballots and claims that her method of manual tally could be easily adopted by Shasta County. This is not true. Rantz’s plan assumes a materially different legal and factual background than the one we face in Shasta County. In fact, a full manual tally ‘system’ is not currently in use in any other California jurisdiction.”

Shasta County Clerk/Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen.

Apparently, Darling Allen made quite an impression on Rantz.

“The worst thing you can do is walk into a clerk with a 300-page book to a clerk and say, ‘Here make this happen,” Rantz informed Lindell.

A statewide and nationally respected elections expert with two decades on the job, Darling Allen defeated Big Lie proponent Bob Holsinger 68 percent to 32 percent in the 2022 primary election. Whatever Shasta County’s electorate believes about the 2020 presidential election, it clearly didn’t hold Darling Allen responsible for Trump’s defeat.

As Darling Allen has repeatedly warned the supervisors, switching to manual tally is expensive and labor intensive. Shasta County has so far committed to $1.5 million in additional spending and may have to spend up to $4 million during the next two years. That includes the hiring of more than 1300 temporary election workers for the 2024 presidential primary and general elections and unknown charges for the cities such as Redding, Anderson, and Shasta Lake. Those election dates are swiftly approaching without an agreed-upon manual tally system in place.

Jones and Crye continue to hector the county clerk at board meetings, insisting that Darling Allen is inflating both the number of workers and the cost required to hand count the upcoming elections. Crye and Jones haven’t offered any evidence that proves this, but presumably, they’re relying on Rantz’s research and her hand-count system.

Steven Bannon interviewing Linda Rantz on his War Room podcast.

Rantz recently appeared on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast and claimed without evidence that Shasta County can achieve “election integrity” for the low cost of $100,000. Rantz alleges her system can “easily be scaled up.”

These are absurd claims. As Osage County Clerk/Election Authority Nicci Bouse discovered after tallying the results of the April 4 election, Rantz’s proposed hand count system costs more money, takes more time, and is less accurate than ballot tabulation machines. That pretty much aligns with the research that’s been done comparing hand counting to optical scanning tabulators.

Patrick Jones, Kevin Crye, and Chris Kelstrom don’t want you to know that.

Shasta County Supervisors Patrick Jones, Kevin Crye, and Chris Kelstrom.

One of the primary advantages of owning your streaming news operation is you get to set the agenda. Are today’s headlines getting you down? Crank up the fake news machine and change that narrative!

Consider the awkwardly named Frank Speech, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s “free speech” internet portal. In addition to hocking slippers, pillows, and sheets, the website features a variety of streaming podcasts and file downloads dedicated to Lindell’s favorite conspiracy theory, the Big Lie that former President Donald Trump was denied victory in the 2020 election by rigged electronic voting machines.

Lindell desperately needs the Big Lie to be true. That’s because he’s being sued for defamation by Dominion Voting Systems for $1.3 billion after he stated the Big Lie over and over again on his various media channels. Unlike media behemoth FOX News, which settled a similar lawsuit with Dominion for three-quarters of a billion dollars earlier this year, Lindell can’t afford to settle. Neither can he afford to lose. So the recovered crack-cocaine addict has quadrupled down on his false election fraud allegations.

Lindell has drafted Rantz and her hand count system into his cause. On April 4, the biggest news in the country was former President Trump’s arraignment in Manhattan on charges he covered up hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 election. After pleading not guilty to 34 felonies, Trump flew back to Mar-a-Lago, where Lindell was waiting live on Lindell TV to greet him.

Mike Lindell tweeting victory shortly after polls closed in Osage County Missouri.

“I just got stung by a bee!” yelped Lindell as his chiseled visage framed by palm trees appeared in the Lindell TV split-screen next to co-host Brannon Howse back home in the Minnesota studio.

“Are you allergic?” a concerned Howse asked.

“No,” stammered Lindell, who then proceeded to pick up a head of steam as he introduced not the former president, fresh from his arraignment. but Rantz, who appeared in a third split screen, patiently waiting for the polls to close at a voting facility in Osage County.

“The Show Me state is showing,” Rantz proclaimed. “I am in a small room at a voting location just off of where the voters are filing in. Osage County has put its Dominion machines in the closet and they are hand counting the results of today’s elections.”

Osage County Courthouse in Linn.

(In reality, one Dominion optical scanner was used to check the hand count, according to the Osage County Election Authority. Also, Osage County owns its Dominion machines and has no intention of parting with them.)

“Whoa, that is so awesome!” Lindell woofed, slapping his hands together like a trained sea lion. “Putting together your own county system, all your hard work putting together the best county system I’ve seen anywhere. To have it come to fruition it must be like a momma proud of her babies, eh?”

“It is,” said Rantz, who in her more modest moments admits all she really did was cut and paste existing Missouri state law, forms, and illustrations into a document and give it a title: “Missouri Elections: Return to Handcounting.”

“I’m so excited!” Lindell brayed. “I’ve been telling all the media down here and you could see the fear! Some of them were going, ‘Oh no, we’re going to have free and fair elections now.’ You think they’re worried about Donald Trump going up 10 points today [after his arraignment]? They better be worried because these machines are going to be long gone! He could win by 90 percent!”

Like Lindell, Rantz appears to relish putting fear into people, bragging that county clerks are intimidated by Missouri Canvassers and Cause of America.

“I’m so happy for you and for our country,” Lindell blathered on. “Going forward, now they’re not going to be able to say it’s too hard, or it costs too much, or we don’t get enough people, it won’t do this, it won’t do that.”

But that’s exactly what “they” are saying about the April 4 election, including Osage County Clerk/Election Authority Nicci Bouse and Osage Democratic Party Central Committee Chair Larry Hunt. The Osage Republican Party Central Committee did not return A News Café’s messages.

“Hand counting ballots at the April 4 election was an unnecessary reversal of lawful procedure that has served the county well for 25 years,” Hunt wrote in local newspaper the Gasconade County Republican. “Despite there being no allegations of irregularities using tabulation machines, the April election used expensive and time-consuming hand counting. Although an impression was given that most Osage County citizens wanted to revert to hand counting, it was only a small, vocal group that applied pressure for change.”

Sound familiar, Shasta County?

According to Rantz, those who don’t agree with her hand-counting scheme are either “gaming the system or ignorant.” She claims county clerks have been corrupted by the electoral industrial project, the Skynet in her version of The Terminator.

“Linda’s hand count system is the leading tip of the spear to getting rid of these machines,” Lindell maintained. “You get rid of these machines and we get our country back. … This isn’t just about Missouri. There are some 3000 odd counties in the United States. Exactly what we want is exactly what this country needs.”

What it’s all about to Mike Lindell.

Rantz’s hand-count system performed quite spectacularly in Osage County, at least in the eyes of Lindell and Rantz. For starters, Rantz claimed the hand count results in Osage County were “100 percent accurate” before the polls had even closed.

“Linda, I was praying for you down there not to have one glitch and you just said not one mistake! Not one mistake?” Lindell asked with fake incredulity.

“Nope,” Rantz said.

“So we can even say, with 100 percent accuracy, when they go, ‘What’s the error rate?’ Well, let me see. Zero!” Lindell ranted to himself. “One hundred percent accuracy, at least on our test. ‘Well did you test them in a real election?’ Yes we did, right down there in Missouri. This is the first time this has happened. Going forward this is the first network to cover it. This is very historic for Lindell TV, historic for your state, your county, historic for the nation.”

Rantz showed a video of one of the four-member counting teams tallying votes by hand at a card table. They seemed happy enough.

“I like the visual of two Democrats and two Republicans,” remarked Lindell, temporarily setting aside his grudge against the evil “Uniparty” comprised of Democrats and Republicans that disagree with him. “Osage County, the county we’re talking about, used no machines, it was all paper ballots, hand-counted by Democrats and Republicans together.”

But Democrat Hunt told A News Café that the election counters and judges were not bipartisan.

“We determined the 44 election counters were truly not bipartisan,” Hunt said. “Some of the counters who were identified as Osage County residents had worked at other elections with my fellow Democrats as Republicans. They were listed on the 44 election counters list as Democrats.”

Hunt also complained that the 44 election counters were trained by Cause of America, which claims to be nonpartisan but isn’t according to most observers. Just 11 of the 44 election counters were from Osage County. Bouse found this concerning since too many outsiders can destroy local trust in elections. But Rantz flipped the script, claiming the 33 outside election counters will now take hand counting back to their own counties.

Conservative election integrity activist Linda Rantz.

Rantz claimed the hand counting had gone so well that most of the election workers anticipated finishing early.

“The polls close at 7,” she said. “The clerk said she hopes we will be done by 10. Well, most the people who are counting think they’re going to go out for a beer around 8:30. So they figure they’re done by 7:30, quarter to 8, and they’re all going out to celebrate.”

But early brewskies weren’t on tap in Osage County that evening, according to Bouse, who penned her 2151-word letter to the editor to set the record straight on the hand-counted municipal election. (With the exception of Lindell and Bannon’s platforms and the hyper-conservative Gateway Pundit, the Osage County hand count election received scant media coverage.)

“When the time for polls to close hit, we were told that every hand counter is planning on being done by 8:30 p.m. to bring in their results to us,” Bouse wrote. “That sounded great. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Out of 11 polling places, 4 were in by 8:30 p.m. The other 7 arrived by 9:00 p.m., 9:15 p.m., 9:25 p.m., 9:33 p.m., 10:00 p.m., 10:09 pm, and 10:37 pm.”

The elections office finished posting results at 11:15 p.m., meaning most staff members put in an 18-hour day. Similar April elections held in 2021 and 2022 finished at 8:15 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. using machine counts.

“Working 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. is a very long day and by 9:00 p.m. the brain may not be functioning as good as it did at the start of the morning,” Bouse elaborated. “To work even later than that can cause human errors in staff and election judges and we really do not want to have any errors.”

Hunt also complained that the election process had been delayed because of the hand count, both on election day and afterward.

“The whole process took 3-4 hours longer than usual to complete the night of the election,” the Osage County Democrat told A News Café. “The two days extra to certify and verify the election was added to the total cost of the election. The certification and verification were done on two separate days. Prior elections were certified and verified on the same day. The Republican committee demanded that it be done on two separate days adding to the total expense of the election.”

 

A Dominion ImageCast precinct-count optical-scan voting machine, mounted on a collapsible ballot box made by ElectionSource. Source: Wikipedia.

Contrary to Rantz and Lindell’s claims that no voting machines were used in the election, an optical scanner was employed to conduct an internal audit of the hand count. The Missouri secretary of state recommended using the scanner. The internal audit revealed mistakes had been made in the hand count, again contradicting Rantz and Lindell’s claim that the hand count was 100 percent accurate.

“During the internal audit we did notice a few discrepancies,” Bouse said, adding that the mistakes were minimal. “I was actually very happy with the amount of accuracy these hand team counts had, but there is always room for human error and unfortunately there were a few cases of human error.”

In one contest, voters who chose one candidate had their votes transposed to another candidate, a discrepancy chalked up to human error on behalf of the hand-counters.

One advantage of using optical scanners to score ballots is they can be programmed to detect overvoting—when a voter fills in too many bubbles on their ballot, negating their vote. Optical scanners grant voters a second chance to correct the mistake. Because the ballots were tallied manually, such overvotes went undetected in the April 4 election.

While Lindell occasionally claims Osage County is the first county in the United States to use hand counting, that’s not the case. Missouri’s smallest county, Worth County, population 1973, never switched to machine counting and is typical of the small municipalities, counties, and precincts that continue to use hand counting.

Osage County, population 13,274, has 9817 registered voters. Just 1765 citizens voted in the April 4 municipal election, a paltry turnout of 17.6 percent. In Shasta County, the turnout of Shasta County’s 110,000 registered voters ranges from 50,000 voters in a primary election to more than 90,000 voters in a presidential general election.

Art from Missouri Elections: Return to Handcounting.

From the beginning, Rantz and her cohorts had insisted that hand counting would save Osage County time and money. Bouse and her staff discovered the money saved by not using ballot tabulators was quickly consumed by the vast amount of binders, paper, and ink required to supply the hand count teams.

“With a staff of only 2 other full-time employees in a third-class county it was very overwhelming for our office,” Bouse said. “We really don’t have any extra time to do more than what we have done in the past as we do have regular duties to attend to throughout the day.”

Osage County employs 28 election workers for municipal elections using electronic tabulators; that number is bumped up to 50 workers for general and presidential elections. For hand-counted elections, the county requires 72 election workers for municipal elections and 94 workers for general and presidential elections.

In Missouri, election workers, including ballot counters and election judges, are allowed to wave being paid for their services, which 36 out of the 44 workers hired for the April 4 election chose to do, saving the county $4000. Nevertheless, the hand-counted election cost $476 more than last year’s machine-counted election, $21,272 compared to $20,796.

“After the elections were completed, our office had many more calls from citizens concerned about the hand count process,” Bouse said. “A majority of our election judges raised concerns about the hand count and asked to please not do the hand count again or they will have to quit being an election judge as it is very overwhelming and time-consuming.”

The Democrat Hunt concurred.

“A majority of poll workers will refuse to work with hand counters and strangers will be brought in to do the count,” Hunt told A News Café. “This will spread mistrust in a closely knit county. This will bring back memories of political bosses and illegal acts. Some current poll workers have already said they will not work if hand counting is used again.”

Bouse’s conclusion about hand counting the April 4 municipal election bears repeating:

“After considering all factors of this election and comparing it to other elections that are similar, I fear that if we were to continue hand counting it would cost us more in time, money, losing volunteers, and accuracy of votes.”

Naturally, Lindell, who didn’t return A News Café’s messages, begs to differ. It doesn’t matter that he just lost $5 million after a cybersecurity expert proved Lindell’s election fraud data presented in the Prove Mike Wrong contest was itself fraudulent. It doesn’t matter that more than 60 election fraud cases have lost in court since 2020. What does matter is he has a $1.3 billion lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems pending. He’s got a lot on the line here, so the more counties he can sign on to his lost cause the better, if only to boost MySlipper sales. He’s got nothing else.

“This is historical for a lot of reasons,” Lindell told Rantz on his own sparsely viewed streaming TV channel. “This a perfect prototype to take to the country. You can go right here to Frank Speech, you can go to Cause of America, and download the book. It’s almost like a sales pitch.”

If it is a sales pitch, it’s not a very good one. So far, just two counties, Osage County, Missouri, and Shasta County, California, appear to have signed on.

Osage County Clerk/Election Authority Nicci Bouse appears to have signed on to Rantz’s hand count request out of genuine professional curiosity. What if the machines did go down? Could Osage County still hand count the votes? The answer was yes, but Bouse also learned that the benefits of using electronic tabulators far outweigh the disadvantages of switching to a manual tally system for her 9817 registered voters, even if less than 20 percent of them turn out.

District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman’s attire caused quite a stir last week.

Meanwhile, Jones, Crye, and Kelstrom — Los Tres Pendejos — have taken the Lindell bait hook, line, and sinker. There’s nothing for them or Shasta County in this grotesque association with the pillow guy. Lindell can’t even pay his own bills, let alone defend any lawsuits that might be filed against Shasta County if it doesn’t have a viable manual tally election system available by this November.

Our three stooges are going to trot out Linda Rantz and her cohorts in a town hall later this summer no matter how many genuine election experts tell them they’ve done gone past the bend. It was only a matter of time before someone’s head exploded, and last week that someone turned out to be District 2 Supervisor Tim Garman.

A layman who gained a seat on the board in last year’s recall election that deposed previous District 2 Supervisor Leonard Moty, Garman has been openly impressed with Darling Allen’s under-fire professionalism since he came on board last year. Like Moty and District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert, Garman has turned out to be a moderate Republican.

In these times, that phrase means Republicans who believe in facts—Republicans who openly deny the Big Lie for starters—which may or may not refer to an increasingly shrinking group in Shasta County. In recent days, it has also come to refer to Republicans who reject the open racism and misogyny on display in the boardroom chaired by Jones.

It was the misogyny on top of the racism on top of the incompetence that triggered Garman. The misogyny was directed at Darling Allen by Jones and Crye, their sharp questioning of the county clerk during open budget talks last week. Jones and Crye’s public needling of Darling Allen , based on their erroneous belief that the Rantz hand-count system can be employed in Shasta County, rubbed many observers the wrong way.

Even a layman like Garman can glance through Rantz’s hand count manual and realize it’s a farce. That’s why Garman wore a blue “Recall Kevin Crye” t-shirt to the board meeting the next day. He couldn’t believe the insult to Cathy Darling Allen, who has become somewhat of a beloved public official despite the adversity she’s faced as Shasta County Registrar of Voters for the past three years.

Make that Darling Allen has persevered despite the adversity she’s faced. That’s why she’s popular. She and her growing staff are actively working on a manual tally voting system that meets the state’s new requirements. Time is of the essence. This November, the Gateway Unified School District needs to elect a replacement for former Area 2 trustee Cherrill Clifford, who resigned in February after a series of gaffs upon taking office last December.

Supervisor Kevin Crye was served notice that Shasta County Citizens for Stable Government intends to recall him.

It remains unclear if this election has been scheduled. Some 5661 citizens voted for the best two-out-of-three candidates in Gateway’s Area 2 election last November. Clifford won with 2042 votes; Dale Wallace was reelected with 2019 votes. Don Spurgeon finished third with 1590 votes.

A single candidate hand counted contest with 5000 voters like the one developing in Gateway Area 2 is eminently doable and could serve as the perfect test for Shasta County’s manual tally system.

But Darling Allen has already expressed concerns that any success will be perceived as license by Jones, Crye, and Kelstrom to plunge forward on a manual tally of next year’s primary and general elections that no recognized expert in the elections field believes is possible under existing law for a district the size of Shasta County.

In the meantime, the effort to collect enough signatures to recall District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye appeared to gain momentum last week, what with all the racism and misogyny going on in the board chambers.

Perhaps Gateway won’t be the only district holding a special election this November.

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If you appreciate R.V. Scheide’s investigative journalism, please consider supporting A News Cafe. Thank you. 

R.V. Scheide

R.V. Scheide is an award-winning journalist who has covered news, politics, music, arts and culture in Northern California for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in the Tenderloin Times, Sacramento News & Review, Reno News & Review, Chico News & Review, North Bay Bohemian, San Jose Metro, SF Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, Alternet, Boston Phoenix, Creative Loafing and Counterpunch, among many other publications. His honors include winning the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s Freedom of Information Act and best columnist awards as well as best commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists, California chapter. Mr. Scheide welcomes your comments and story tips. Contact him at RVScheide@anewscafe.com..

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