Tuesday 12 December 2017

Judge orders Alabama not to destroy voting records in Tuesday's Senate election

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.
Priscilla Duncan, attorney for the plaintiffs, applauded the order.
"[The images] need to be preserved at least six months under the statute," Duncan told AL.com Monday afternoon. "They are being told at this point to preserve all digital ballot records." 
Reached by phone shortly after the injunction was issued Monday, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill declined to comment. Merrill and Ed Packard, the state administrator of elections, are the two defendants named in the suit filed Thursday.
"We don't comment on lawsuits," Merrill said.
Digital ballot images are essentially digitized versions of the paper ballots Alabamians fill out in the voting booth. In Alabama, these digital images are destroyed once an election has passed, according to Duncan.
"People think that when they mark the ballots and they go into the machine that that's what counted," she said. "But it's not, the paper ballot is not what's counted. That ballot is scanned and they destroy [the ballots] after the election ... If there's ever an election challenge you need to have what was actually counted."
The destruction of the images allegedly opens the door to potential hacking because there are no hard copies of the ballots, according to Duncan.
"The Department of Homeland Security notified our Secretary of State here that Alabama is one of the 21 states that had been targeting for hacking of election systems," she said, referring to this year's special election for Georgia's 6th congressional district. 
Shaul wrote in the order that destroying the images could have a negative impact on voters in Alabama.
"After hearing arguments and reviewing the filings, it appears that Plaintiffs and similarly situated voters would suffer irreparable and immediate harm if digital ballot images are not preserved," the order states.

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