AUDIT USA Urges Other States to Join California, Arizona, Maryland, Maine, Virginia, and Ohio in Following Federal Law
In a win for election security, the California Secretary of State’s office notified county election officials that the law requires preservation of the digital ballot images created by the voting systems used in about half of California’s 58 counties. More counties will be switching to these systems by the 2020 election.
This is precisely the action AUDIT USA asked SOS Alex Padilla to take in our certified letter last October. While we’re disappointed that he didn’t act in time for the 2018 midterms — perhaps in part because of his mother’s death shortly before the election – we’re delighted that our call has apparently been heard.
Deputy Secretary of State Susan Lapsley issued a memorandum to all County Clerks and Registrars of Voters reminding them that federal law requires preservation of digital ballot images for 22 months.
Lapsley’s statement was part of her monthly communication to chief election officers of California’s 58 counties. At last count, 27 California counties were using voting systems that produce these crucial records.
The relevant paragraph of the Memorandum 19064, released on August 13, reads:
“As a reminder, pursuant to California Elections Code sections 17301-17306, the retention and preservation of election records, which includes digital ballot image is 22 months. Several voting system tabulation components are capable of producing digital ballot images. Additional information regarding how to backup, retain, and preserve the digital ballot images, and whether or not your jurisdiction’s voting system has this capability, can be found in the respective Use Procedures, here. “
Note: The page at the given link does not seem to provide the indicated information.
Not all voting systems create digital ballot images. Digital ballot scanners that scan paper ballots, such as the ES&S DS850 and DS200, Dominion Voting Systems’ ImageCast Central and Precinct, and Hart InterCivic’s eScan, VerityScan, and Ballot Now, create a digital image of each ballot. These systems count the votes on the images, not on the paper ballots themselves.
Digital ballot images can help election officials quickly find the source of some tabulation problems. They can also be used by candidates, communities, and the media to oversee election results and establish whether further investigation or challenge to an election is needed.
As you may know, AUDIT USA has been working for two years to secure the preservation of these crucial election records, which are routinely destroyed in much of the nation.
AUDIT USA sent a certified letter to CA Secretary of State Alex Padilla last October requesting that such instructions be issued to counties. From our letter:
“We’re pleased that state-of-the-art digital scan voting systems are in use in California. Alarmingly, however, our multi-state field research has revealed that many local election officials are unaware of how to utilize one of the security features designed into these paper ballot tabulation systems.
“Not only does this mean that the systems may not be employing all of their built-in protections, but also that election officials may actually be inadvertently breaking federal and state election laws.
“We’re asking you to direct local election officials in California jurisdictions using digital scan voting systems to ensure that their systems are set to preserve all ballot images in the November 6 election and future elections. Other Secretaries of State have already sent such communications to local election officials in their states.”[emphasis in original]
View the entire letter here.
Mimi Kennedy, long-time election security advocate from Los Angeles County, repeatedly contacted both Padilla’s and Lapsley’s offices to advocate for preservation of ballot images. Her work was undoubtedly key to the State’s action.
We applaud California’s action to preserve ballot images and call on Secretary of State Padilla to provide guidance to counties to make these ballot image files publicly available within 24 hours of the close of polls in every election.
So far, only Arizona, Maryland, Maine, Virginia, Ohio, and California have issued instructions to their counties to preserve all digital ballot images. We urge other states to follow suit.
Dane County, Wisconsin, has taken the lead in providing ballot image files online, where they can be downloaded and used by candidates, communities, and the media as an initial stage in verifying the results of the election.
Last fall, we wrote to over 1,500 local election officials around the country, calling their attention to the importance of ballot images and the law requiring their preservation for 22 months after a federal election. Few responded. The responses we did receive ranged from assurance that the ballot images are saved to absurd claims that to preserve these legally protected records would be illegal!
It’s important for both the Secretary of State’s office and concerned Californians to keep a close eye on the counties to make sure they truly are saving ballot images, and making them available to the public immediately after each election.
Visit AUDITelectionsUSA.org to learn more about the importance of ballot images and how you can get involved in the work to provide public oversight to our elections.
Additional noteworthy information from Lapsley’s August memorandum to county election officials:
“Recent and Upcoming Events: A public hearing has been scheduled for September 4, 2019, at the California Secretary of State building, 1500 11th Street, Sacramento, in the Auditorium at 9 a.m., for the following voting technology systems: • Dominion Voting Systems’ Democracy Suite 5.10 Voting System • ES&S’s EVS 184.108.40.206 Voting System • Dominion Voting Systems’ ImageCast Remote 5.10 RAVBM System The public hearing agenda can be found here.”
“Governor Brown signed AB 2125 into law, authorizing the use of risk-limiting audits in lieu of the 1% manual tally beginning with the March 3, 2020, primary election. The bill requires the Secretary of State, in consultation with recognized statistical experts, election verification and integrity stakeholders, voting system manufacturers, and local elections officials to, adopt regulations to implement and administer risk-limiting audits. The fifth work group meeting was held on August 7, 2019. The RLA draft regulations are in their final stages. The rulemaking process is scheduled to begin within the coming month.”
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