The state’s highest court has ruled in favor of Essex County in a lawsuit that called into question whether electronically scanned images of ballots can be obtained without a court order following an election. In an opinion released June 13, state Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore wrote that electronic images of ballots should be subject to the same restrictions as paper ballots, which can only be examined within two years of an election with a court order or direction from a state legislative committee. “The Election Law’s closely regulated framework for handling of ballots and reviewing their contents balances ballot secrecy, anti-tampering measures, accuracy and finality,” DiFiore wrote. The Court of Appeals’ 4 to 3 decision marks the end to a four-year-long lawsuit that started with a Freedom of Information Law request in 2015. Bethany Kosmider, a former Crown Point town supervisor and chairwoman of the county Democratic committee, sought access to electronic images of ballots cast in the 2015 general election through a FOIL request filed that year.Full Article: Top court: Ballot images aren’t public | News, Sports, Jobs - Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
Election integrity activists are worried that various counties in the crucial state of Florida could defy federal law by destroying crucial documents required for election audits and recounts after the midterms. Specifically, Americans United for Democracy, Integrity, and Transparency in Elections (AUDIT-USA) believes that county supervisors of elections in Florida are either not retaining ballot images or are destroying ballot images that are required by law to be kept for 22 months after a state or federal election. “Most of the counties down there are destroying the ballot images,” said John Brakey, director of the nonpartisan group.Full Article: Activists Concerned About Counties Destroying Ballot Images - WhoWhatWhy.
Saratoga County Board of Elections has once again rejected a request for copies of the electronic ballots cast in November’s charter referendum that was defeated by 10 votes. In a May 25, 2018 letter from the county Board of Supervisors, the former chair of the now disbanded Charter Review Commission Bob Turner was informed that the request “is duplicative of your previous request, which (has) been fully settled.” Turner said the move by Board of Election Commissioners Roger Schiera (Republican) and William Fruci (Democrat) “undermines the public’s confidence in the integrity of the electoral process. If the election was run properly, there is nothing to hide,” Turner said. The city’s charter-change advocates submitted a second Freedom of Information Law request after an April 12 ruling of 3-2 in Kosmider vs. Whitney in the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court. A panel of five judges ruled that electronic ballot images in this Essex County case can be accessed through a FOIL request. The Board of Supervisors in Essex County, the Sun Community News reported, has filed a paperwork reserving the right to appeal.Full Article: Board of Elections say 'no' to request for ballots - Times Union.
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).Full Article: Ohio Goes to Court Over Ballot Image Preservation - WhoWhatWhy.
New York: Win for Election Transparency as Court Rules Ballot Images Are Public Records | WhoWhatWhy
Election-integrity advocates hailed the recent decision of a state court that could have a sweeping effect on election transparency throughout the country. At issue was whether electronic ballot images — the kind captured by optical and digital ballot scanners — are public records and therefore subject to freedom of information laws. That is particularly important because most Americans cast their ballots through some kind of electronic voting machine — despite their proven vulnerability — and ballot images provide the public with at least some measure that their votes are counted accurately. Therefore, easy access to these images is crucial. Knowing that the public has some measure of verification is an important deterrent against tampering with elections. That is precisely why this case from upstate New York is a major victory for transparency advocates.Full Article: Win for Election Transparency as Court Rules Ballot Images Are Public Records - WhoWhatWhy.
The election supervisor in Florida’s second-most populous county broke the law by destroying ballots cast in last year’s congressional primary involving Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, according to election-law experts across the political spectrum. The congresswoman’s opponent has sued to get access to the ballots. The case — one of three ongoing independent lawsuits plaguing Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes’ troubled office — stems from a June lawsuit filed in circuit court by Democrat Tim Canova. He had wanted to inspect the optical-scan ballots cast in his Aug. 30 primary race against Wasserman Schultz because he had concerns about the integrity of the elections office. Under longstanding federal law, ballots cast in a congressional race aren’t supposed to be destroyed until 22 months after the election. And under state law, a public record sought in a court case is not supposed to be destroyed without a judge’s order.Full Article: Experts: Broward's elections chief broke law in destroying ballots.
The 2016 Democratic primary election in Broward County may have passed without any technical glitches, but one candidate maintains a federal law was broken after the fact. Democratic candidate Tim Canova ran against Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her congressional seat, which covers portions of Broward and Miami-Dade counties on Aug. 30, 2016. When the results rolled in, Canova lost by more than 6,100 votes. But he didn’t formally contest the election. Instead, he made a public records request to inspect ballots at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office. In June 2017, he filed a lawsuit when he and the office argued over the ballot inspection.Full Article: Democratic Challenger Says Primary Election Ballots Destroyed Too Early | WLRN.
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.Full Article: Alabama court gives last-minute order that could impede recount procedure | US news | The Guardian.
A recent court decision permitting Alabama officials to destroy digital copies of paper ballots eliminates an important tool for ensuring electoral integrity, said two experts interviewed on the day of Alabama’s special U.S. Senate election. Both experts also said paper ballots – which are maintained for 22 months after the election – provide the most security in the event of a recount. Yesterday, a circuit court judge in Alabama ordered election officials to preserve digital copies created when machines scan paper ballots. That decision was stayed by the Alabama Supreme Court later that day, which will allow state officials to destroy the copies. John Sebes, chief technology officer for the OSET Institute, a California-based non-profit dedicated to improving election integrity, said officials can use digital copies and paper ballots to check for glitches and fraud. A comparison of copies and originals can show whether machines are scanning and counting correctly.Full Article: Election security experts question Alabama's decision to destroy ballot copies | AL.com.
Alabama: In final-hour order, court rules that Alabama can destroy digital voting records after all | AL.com
Alabama is allowed to destroy digital voting records created at the polls during today’s U.S. Senate election after all. At 1:36 p.m. Monday, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge issued an order directing Alabama election officials to preserve all digital ballot images created at polling places across the state today. But at 4:32 p.m. Monday, attorneys for Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and Ed Packard, the state administrator of elections, filed an “emergency motion to stay” that order, which the state Supreme Court granted minutes after Merrill and Packard’s motion was filed. By granting the stay, the court effectively told the state that it does not in fact have to preserve the digital ballot images – essentially digitized versions of the paper ballots voters fill out at the voting booth – created today.Full Article: In final-hour order, court rules that Alabama can destroy digital voting records after all | AL.com.
Alabama’s special election for Jeff Sessions’ vacated Senate seat is underway today, but state courts are still battling over whether or not digital records from the vote should be preserved in case of a recount or a hack. On Monday, a judge ordered local election officials to save digital images of ballots, AL.com reports. However, his decision was quickly reversed by the Alabama Supreme Court, which stayed his order Monday evening. Alabama uses paper ballots in its elections, which is considered more secure than many digital voting machines. Once voters mark their choices on paper, the ballots are scanned by computers to tally the votes. This system isn’t set up properly for audits, according to Verified Voting, an election integrity organization.Full Article: Alabama Supreme Court Okays Destruction of Digital Voting Records.
A judge directed Alabama election officials Monday afternoon to preserve all digital ballot images in Tuesday’s hotly contested U.S. Senate special election. An order granting a preliminary injunction was filed at 1:36 p.m. Monday – less than 24 hours before voting is to begin. The order came in response to a lawsuit filed Thursday on behalf of four Alabama voters who argued that the state is required to maintain the images under state and federal law. “All counties employing digital ballot scanners in the Dec. 12, 2017 election are hereby ordered to set their voting machines to save all processed images in order to preserve all digital ballot images,” Montgomery County Circuit Judge Roman Ashley Shaul wrote in the order.Full Article: Judge orders Alabama not to destroy voting records in Tuesday's Senate election | AL.com.
Lawyers representing Alabama citizens may file a lawsuit within days to preserve electronic images of every paper ballot cast in next week’s high-profile special U.S. Senate election between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore. As of late Tuesday, the lawyers were still in talks with Alabama election officials, urging them not only to preserve all election records—a requirement under federal law—but to ensure the electronic scanners that will read and count the ink-marked paper ballots are properly programmed to capture the digital ballot images. “There are Alabama voters who have come forth seeking to enforce the federal requirement that all election materials be preserved for 22 months after the election,” said Chris Sautter, attorney for the Alabama voters. “It’s our understanding, having talked to state officials, that they preserve only the digital ballot images of the write-in ballots.”Full Article: Preserving Real Ballot Integrity In Alabama.
A Pima County Superior Court judge has ruled that ballot images produced by local voting equipment are “exempt from disclosure by Arizona election law.” In August 2016, county resident Richard Hernandez filed a complaint asking that digital ballot images from the upcoming primary election be preserved. It was then the county election department’s policy to delete those images, which are used to tally votes by the new system. A judge soon granted a temporary injunction mandating that the county cease deleting the images. In his May 24 ruling, Judge Richard Gordon made that injunction permanent, but also — citing the Arizona Constitution’s requirement of “secrecy in voting” and recent legislation — ruled that both ballots and images of them are exempt “from public disclosure.”Full Article: Pima County judge: Ballot images not subject to public release | Local news | tucson.com.