BREAKING NEWS: TRANSPARENCY ADVOCATES SCORE VICTORY IN FLORIDA

Concerned Florida voters scored a victory in Florida by pressuring Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s (R) office to notify all counties about federal and state legal requirements to preserve ballot images. Those are the digital copies needed to verify the outcomes of elections.

This is especially important in the Sunshine State, where voters get to decide two cliffhanger races with major implications for the future of the country. Both the Senate race and the gubernatorial contest are too close to call and, if Florida’s election history is any guide, they could be headed for recounts.

Therefore, it is especially important that any such recount, as well as potential election
audits, are conducted in full compliance with the law. Concerned that Florida election officials would violate federal law and destroy the ballot images before the legally mandated 22-month preservation period, Attorney Benedict P. Kuehne — on behalf of concerned Florida voters — sent a letter to Detzner earlier this month asking him to instruct state election officials not to destroy the ballot images.

On Wednesday morning, Director of the Division of Elections Maria Matthews sent a letter to all county supervisors of elections with “a few reminders to ensure our elections go smoothly and that every eligible vote is counted.” Included in the letter was a section regarding federal and state public records law as it relates to digital ballot images (by law, digital ballot images must be saved for 22 months after an election):

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Here’s How the Country Could Actually Secure Our Elections If Politicians Actually Cared to Try

A big part of the problem with U.S. elections is the culture of fear itself.

As voting in 2018’s midterms ends on Tuesday, November 6, there will be contests with surprising results, races separated by the slimmest of margins, or even ties. How will voters know what to believe without falling prey to partisan angst and conspiracies?

What if, as Dean Logan, Los Angeles County’s voting chief, retweeted this week, “the weakest link in election security is confidence” in the reported results?

The factual answers lie in the voting system technology used and the transparency—or its lack—in the vote counting, count auditing and recount process. These steps all fall before outcomes are certified and the election is legally over.

Seen nationally, the U.S. in 2018 is mostly voting on paper ballots that are counted by electronic scanners. That creates a spectrum of possible evidence that can be closely examined in 36 states—from individual ballots themselves, to digital images of the ballots, to spreadsheets of every vote, and more.

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Herman’s taking a picture of your ballot

Volusia County residents casting votes in the Tuesday, Nov. 6, election might be surprised to learn that their paper ballots won’t be counted. Not directly, anyway.

Saratoga Springs charter change advocates get boost from court ruling

In the wake of an appellate court decision, Spa City’s charter change advocates are once again trying to get their hands on electronic images of ballots cast in November’s charter referendum that was defeated by a narrow 10-vote margin.

Robert Turner, the chair of the now defunct Saratoga Springs Charter Review Commission, which recommended changing the city’s 100-year-old commission form of government, sent a Freedom of Information Request on Monday afternoon to the Saratoga County Board of Elections.

Turner and Gordon Boyd, a fellow charter change proponent, were emboldened to try again after an April 12 3-2 ruling in Kosmider vs. Whitney in the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court. The panel of five judges decided that electronic images of election ballots can be accessed through the Freedom of Information Act. Justice Stan Pritzker, writing for the majority, said that “once electronic ballot images have been preserved … there is no statutory impediment to disclosure and they may be obtained through a FOIL request.”

“The decision was clearly a ruling in favor of transparency and accountability. FOIL request of electronic copies of ballots do not require a court order,” Boyd said. “We are resubmitting our FOIL request.”

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Court: Votes are viewable

Essex County officials consider whether to appeal further

A New York appeals court ruled Thursday that the state Freedom of Information Law covers the electronically scanned images of ballots taken from voting machines.

This is how it works: A person fills out a paper ballot, which doesn’t have his or her name or identifying information on it. The voter slips that ballot into a voting machine, where an electronic image is recorded. That image is saved onto two flash drives in a random fashion, which preserves anonymity. The paper ballot is then fed into a secure box underneath the machine. One flash drive is removed and given to the local board of elections. All the data is transferred over to a larger hard drive, and the now-blank flash drive can be used for another election.

Only after the process is complete can the vote be requested via FOIL.

The state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, Third Department made the decision in the case of Kosmider v. Whitney.

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