Use Newer Machines with Numerically Pegged Ballot Imaging to Help Verify Elections

Many of the newer machines currently used in elections have a means to verify elections, provided your local elections department hasn’t disabled them.

Everyone needs YOUR HELP to preserve the use of these uniquely effective auditing features found in the newer voting machines, which are currently being used in over 40% of the country.  Most of these machines were purchased by election departments late last year or earlier this year.


A growing number of renowned election integrity advocates are now eyeing these improved machines as an efficient, practical alternative to what many refer to as the “gold standard”: hand-counted paper ballots.  These newer models were federally certified to:


Our current challenge with Pima County represents some anticipated nationwide resistance that must be overcome for these new election machines to be used for their intended purpose.  The first challenge is getting past the many election officials who rigorously fight against anything that improves transparency and verifiability.  Not all are so adverse to scrutiny, but in order for some counties to adhere to basic constitutional provisions, citizens will have to file lawsuits.

Fortunately, the litigation involved with securing and obtaining these ballot images is relatively easy and cost recoverable. It begins with a records request.  Citizens file a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) records request that asks for ballot images from at least two of the past most recent elections as well as the upcoming election.  That same records request also includes the Cast Vote Record (CVR) which should be delivered as a spreadsheet file.   CVR’s are generated with ballot images through the central tabulator.

Should they receive written notice that these ballot images have been destroyed, the people file a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) with the courts to get them to refrain from destroying the ballot images before the next election.  That’s an easy win and it’s inexpensive to file.  In these machines, the ballot images, not the physical ballots, are used to tabulate the vote total. Ballot images are therefore part of the chain of custody in the election.


Sample FOIA records request
(Click highlighted link above). 

Sample request for a Temporary
Restraining Order
(Click highlighted link above).
recordsrequest sample-tro2

If the elections division refuses to hand over the ballot images and/or the CVR, then a public records lawsuit is filed against the elections division. For the sake of simplicity, this records lawsuit is filed separately and, unless the judge requests, it’s a good idea to avoid mixing the records request in with the request for the TRO.  The suit is typically a writ of mandamus to compel the respondents to comply in a timely manner.  A writ of mandamus is an order from the court to properly fulfill their official duties, correct an abuse of discretion, or, as in this case, to comply with the law.  An important aspect in requesting a writ of mandamus is that it prompts the court to hear and decide this time sensitive issue before the election.

We will soon be providing a sample of our own litigation in Pima County.  In this case, the Judge Richard Gordon ruled from the bench (which means he immediately recognized these ballot images as public records) and asked our legal team to amend the complaint to include an argument about why Pima County should fulfill the records request.

The CVR that is generated from the central tabulator enables Excel users to sort ballots by precinct and each ballot depicted in the CVR is hyperlinked to its corresponding ballot image.  Using the ballot images received, citizens can count the precincts independently and compare their totals to the official results.

Ballot images and CVR’s are only a cursory check to verify an election.  The real game changer found in many of these newer machines is the ability match a physical ballot with its ballot image by their mutually identifying number.

Find out here if you’re in a county or voting district that has ballot imaging machines.

In lengthy deliberations lasting eight months, the Pima County’s own Election Integrity Commission hosted discussions with ES&S representative Ken Carbullido and U.C. Berkley statistics professor Phillip Stark to develop a plan for randomly selecting a statistically significant sample of physical ballots and compare them to the ballot images from that same election.

If you would like to check out the basic  statistics involved with choosing a sample of physical ballots, here is a great introduction by Mark Lindeman and Philip B. Stark ,which shows how communities can easily, quickly and publicly verify the election.



Wisconsin Election Integrity Action Team
has developed a system that easily, quickly, and in full view of the public verify whether voting-machine output identified the correct winners in every election.

Let us know how this works in your county.  

If you would like more information or have any questions, feel free to contact:  

John Brakey

To get a sense of how this process works over time, visit our page with basic chronological documentation that shows the sequence of legal actions and communications from the parties for and opposed to the preservation and acquisition of ballot images.

Keep in mind that the most important feature your actions have at this point in the election season is the fact that election directors will become aware of your pursuit of ballot images and will realize you intend to do an authentic verification of the election.

This will help discourage attempts to rig elections electronically.


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