Controversy swirled over the mechanics of the Alabama Senate election after the state supreme court intervened at the eleventh hour to give election officials a green light not to preserve electronic ballot records that could form the basis of a recount. A court in Montgomery, the state capital, issued an injunction on Monday afternoon ordering election officials around the state to preserve digital images of the ballots cast by Alabama voters in the hard-fought contest between controversial Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. … Priscilla Duncan, the lead plaintiff in the case, noted with some amazement that the secretary of state’s protest was lodged with the supreme court at 4.38pm and the justices came back with their ruling at 5.18pm. “It’s just unbelievable that they examined the pleadings and got eight judges to concur in half an hour on a Monday afternoon,” she said.
“We have reason to believe those machines can be compromised. Whether intentionally or through error, there can be some false results, and there have been some tests around the country where there have been some rather sizeable discrepancies.” Theoretically, election officials could go back to the paper ballots as cast by the voters and recount them by hand – a method that many voting rights advocates believe to be the most reliable.
But Alabama law does not provide for such manual recounts, only a machine recount of the digital images that are taken at the time each ballot is cast. If those images are then destroyed, there is no easy way to verify that they were read and counted correctly.
“I don’t understand why the state does not want to preserve them. That doesn’t make sense,” said Marian Schneider of the national advocacy group Verified Voting. “Jurisdictions should have processes in place for ordinary citizens… to review election documents and verify that results came out the way they should have.”