Voting Rights Activists Threatened with Lawsuit by Voting Machine Maker Over Sharing Instruction Manual

ES&S scanners can create digital images of paper ballots, but they don’t want instructions to do so available online.

One the country’s most dogged vote-count transparency activists, John Brakey of Tucson, Arizona, and the small non-profit he leads, AUDIT-USA, have been told by one of America’s biggest voting machine makers to take down the instruction manuals for their firm’s paper-ballot scanners from their website by Monday—or face a lawsuit, according to a September 27, 2018, letter from Timothy J. Hallett, Associate General Counsel for Election Systems & Software, or ES&S.

Brakey, a barrel-chested grandfather who sees verifying vote counts as nothing less than a moral crusade to save American democracy from the dark forces that have colonized and privatized the ballot box, posted various ES&S manuals on AUDIT-USA’s website for a simple reason. The latest generation of high-speed scanners used to tally paper ballots has a built-in feature that he wants all precincts and counting centers to use: making an electronic image of every paper ballot cast.

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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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AL’s Sec. of State Blocked Me on Twitter for Being Right About AL’s Paper Ballot Computer Scanners

We’re back on today’s BradCast after a brief New Year holiday break! But it wasn’t entirely a break, as Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill decided to launch a bizarre Twitter exchange with me over the holiday weekend. [Audio link to show follows below.]

The conversation included the state’s chief election official repeatedly (and inaccurately) insisting that Alabama’s paper ballot computer scanners do not “capture” scanned ballot images that can be retained by the system for review by the public after an election. He is wrong, as I politely noted during the conversation.

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