Nearly a year after the conclusion of Election Day 2020, about 75 people showed up at the Tuesday, Oct. 26, Crow Wing County Board meeting with a petition requesting a forensic audit of the county’s election results.

“My heart is telling me that there’s something drastically wrong with this election, and I urge all of you to follow your heart,” said Rick Felt, who identified himself as a Crow Wing County resident. “And I pray for God to touch your heart to say that we have an obligation to our grandkids, to say that if we did not do anything and we find out later that there was massive fraud, our kids are going to say, ‘Grandpa, why didn’t you do something when you had the chance?’”

Amid the crowd who approached the microphone was retired Brig. Gen. Ben Murdock, a former commander of Camp Ripley and a Vietnam War veteran. Murdock said he gets emotional when he thinks about the body bags he saw filled while in Vietnam, knowing they fought and died for the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“As veterans, we consider one of the key core values of this great nation of the people, for the people and by the people, is the right to cast our ballots in a fair and transparent election,” Murdock said. “In our country, we the people at the ballot box determine who our leaders are. They’re not sent down from Washington, D.C., or the state of Minnesota. We select them. And it’s a sacred obligation of all — I say all — of our elected officials to ensure that every voter is confident that his or her vote is counted in a fair and transparent manner. … Question for you: Are you confident that every ballot that was cast was counted in a fair and transparent manner? I’m sorry to tell you that this old soldier is not confident.”

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Others who spoke included Pastor Ben Davis of Remnant Ministry Center in Brainerd, former Crow Wing County Republican Party Chair and current Crow Wing Township Supervisor Doug Kern, and a Baxter woman who said she’s served as an election judge in the county for the last two general elections.

Crow Wing County boasted a record turnout of eligible voters during the 2020 election with nearly 79% casting ballots. Republican candidates — including former President Donald Trump, who garnered 63.9% of votes — earned the majority in every partisan race the county’s voters contemplated. The closest margin in any of these races occurred between Democratic Sen. Tina Smith and Republican challenger Jason Lewis, who still earned 60.1% of the vote and nearly twice as many votes as Smith.


"Question for you: Are you confident that every ballot that was cast was counted in a fair and transparent manner? I’m sorry to tell you that this old soldier is not confident.”

— Brig. Gen. (Retired) Ben Murdock


Those in attendance at the Crow Wing County Board meeting Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, applaud comments in support of a forensic audit of the 2020 election results. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch
Those in attendance at the Crow Wing County Board meeting Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, applaud comments in support of a forensic audit of the 2020 election results. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

Despite resounding GOP victories among Crow Wing’s voters, the county’s lopsided support for Republicans was not representative of the state as a whole. President Joe Biden won the state by 233,012 votes, as did Smith, who registered a 168,377-vote victory.

Echoing voter fraud claims amplified by Trump and his allies before, during and after the 2020 presidential election, those who attended Tuesday’s meeting said they weren’t satisfied with the official counts reported by the state or county.


"My heart is telling me that there’s something drastically wrong with this election, and I urge all of you to follow your heart."

— Rick Felt


Among alleged evidence cited Tuesday: the partisan audit conducted in Maricopa County, Arizona, which ultimately revealed a quadruple check of 2.1 million ballots found results matched the official machine count; graphs created by Douglas Frank, a close ally of MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who’s the subject of a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems and whose election fraud claims have been repeatedly debunked; and information from a report produced by Seth Keshel, a former Army captain whose analysis of voting trends in recent elections in Minnesota and other states purports to show indications of “strong, rampant fraud” based on how much the final results deviated from his own mathematical projections. Keshel’s analysis places Crow Wing in the “suspect, likely fraud” category.

Despite claims persisting nearly a year after the election, no single recount, audit effort or lawsuit has thus far revealed any widespread election fraud. This includes a nonpartisan audit conducted in Wisconsin, the results of which were released Friday. That report found no evidence of widespread voter fraud or wrongdoing and was just the latest in a number of attempts in the state, including two presidential recounts and routine audits, along with multiple failed lawsuits.

John Sylvester shares his belief Crow Wing County should conduct a forensic audit of the 2020 election results Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, during a county board meeting. 
Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch
John Sylvester shares his belief Crow Wing County should conduct a forensic audit of the 2020 election results Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, during a county board meeting. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

Election procedures discussed

A letter to Crow Wing County commissioners shared Tuesday requested a full forensic audit of the 2020 election in the county, along with a request to forensically examine Dominion voting machines “to determine if any voter laws were violated by the destruction or deletion of any digital files or documents.”

“We request that these machines be immediately canceled for any future elections and a return to paper balloting be invoked immediately,” the letter, signed “Citizens of Crow Wing County,” stated. “ … We the people are presenting this information to you to ensure Crow Wing County voters can be assured that their votes were accurately counted by conducting a full forensic audit. Many voters have been disenfranchised by the last election. This country will not survive if we do nothing to correct what happened in 2020. Time is of the essence as 2022 is just around the corner. We will help you with anything you need assistance with.”

As is typical during open forum, commissioners offered no response to the commentary. During last week’s committee of the whole meeting, however, commissioners Paul Koering and Steve Barrows both vocalized their support of county election staff and the processes in place. Barrows confirmed Tuesday commissioners have known in recent weeks about the organizing efforts around this matter.

Crow Wing County commissioners along with Sheriff Scott Goddard, front, and County Attorney Don Ryan, right, listen to attendees, who shared voter fraud concerns related to the 2020 election during the Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, county board meeting. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch
Crow Wing County commissioners along with Sheriff Scott Goddard, front, and County Attorney Don Ryan, right, listen to attendees, who shared voter fraud concerns related to the 2020 election during the Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, county board meeting. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

“I know there’s some … people that don’t trust the election. I will say publicly that I trust that everything in Crow Wing County is being done the proper way and there’s no fraudulent activity happening here at all,” Koering said, noting he’s repeatedly questioned county election officials in depth. “I think I’m the most conservative person here … but I’m saying that I have a lot of confidence in our system.”

Barrows joined in the praise.

“I want to thank all of our election judges in Crow Wing County, our staff, and anyone else that works on the election process. In Crow Wing County, this board supports exactly what has taken place, we follow the statutes, we do exactly what we’re supposed to do, and we find nothing nefarious about the activities that take place about the election process in Crow Wing County,” he said.


"I know there’s some … people that don’t trust the election. I will say publicly that I trust that everything in Crow Wing County is being done the proper way and there’s no fraudulent activity happening here at all."

— Commissioner Paul Koering


After Tuesday’s meeting, Administrative Services Director Deborah Erickson, who heads elections in the county, said the county board does not have the legal authority to request a recount or audit of any kind when it comes to elections.

Crow Wing County Administrative Services Director Deborah Erickson
Crow Wing County Administrative Services Director Deborah Erickson

“The election materials are retained by statute for 22 months, but once the contest period following the certification of the results has been completed — which is typically seven to 14 days after the canvass board meets — that is the end of the opportunity to contest the results of that election,” she said. “And there is no authority for us to go and open ballot boxes and recount ballots.”

She noted Minnesota continues to rely on a paper ballot system and the law already requires an audit to be completed after every election. This audit consists of a random drawing for two precincts in the county, the ballots from which are then hand-counted for all the races on those ballots to prove those figures match the machine-counted figures. In 2020, those hand counts in Crow Wing resulted in a perfect match, Erickson said. If they hadn’t, the law requires drawing additional precincts and if there’s a second failure, the entire county must be recounted. That’s never happened in the county, she said.

“We have election judges of different political parties who are conducting that hand-count audit after each election, and it’s open to the public for their viewing and for them to observe and be a part of that process,” Erickson said. “We also have pre-election testing and public processes that go through to prove that the equipment does count the ballots the way that they are marked. So that paper ballot process is the core of our election system.”

Electronic vote tabulation machines have been in use in Minnesota since the 1980s, according to Erickson. Crow Wing County has used Dominion Voting Systems equipment since 2018, she said, but that equipment is certified both federally and by the state, and equipment that may be certified for use in other parts of the country may not be in use in Minnesota for that reason. No equipment used as part of the election process in Crow Wing County is ever connected to the internet.


"We have election judges of different political parties who are conducting that hand-count audit after each election, and it’s open to the public for their viewing and for them to observe and be a part of that process."

— Deborah Erickson, administrative services director


“We went through an RFP (request for proposals) … and received proposals from all three of the certified vendors in Minnesota. We did review all of the pros and cons of each piece of equipment (and) the usability,” Erickson said. “We had election judges involved in our review of the processes to help us determine which machines would be the best fit for Crow Wing County. We looked at safety features, the security functionality, we looked at the use of ease for our election judges and for the experience for the voters, and the determining factor was that the Dominion equipment was the right direction for us to go at that time.”

Koering was not in attendance at Tuesday's meeting.



CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey.