Electronic voting hasn’t guaranteed fairness in elections so far. But digital-scanning technology has the potential to increase transparency in elections — if election officials flip the right switches. Digital scanners capture images of each paper ballot cast and use the images to count results. The machines can preserve the images, providing a quick and easy way to verify election results. But the settings can be adjusted to discard the images after the results are tabulated. Some election officials are quick to defend their right to trash the ballot images, despite the fact that the machines count the images, not the paper ballots. The latest contest over ballot image preservation is currently underway in Ohio, where the Green Party candidate for governor, Constance Gadell-Newton, filed an expedited lawsuit against Cuyahoga County, Franklin County, and Secretary of State Jon Husted (R).
The expedited lawsuit argues that Cuyahoga and Franklin counties, the two most populous in Ohio, will violate federal law when they destroy ballot images from tomorrow’s primary.
“You may have the original ballot, but that’s not what the machine counted: it counted the picture,” John Brakey, director of AUDIT-USA, a nonpartisan advocacy group involved in the Ohio case, told WhoWhatWhy. “How can you destroy the evidence that you used to count the votes?”
Ballot images, effectively digital photocopies of the original ballot, don’t take the place of a paper ballot, but rather offer an additional layer of verification. A recent case in New York determined that the images are public records under Freedom of Information laws, meaning that anyone can access and review the records.