AL secretary of state addresses electronic ballot preservation lawsuit

Updated: Dec. 12, 2017 at 7:24 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill says he wants to clear up confusion surrounding the preservation of digital images of electronic ballots after a lawsuit was filed that sought to force his office to save the records ahead of any possible recount or challenge to the Dec. 12 election.

"Media and social media stories that the State of Alabama is seeking to prevent the preservation of records in the event of a recount or challenge of the December 12 election are false," Marshall said. "Recent confusion over Alabama election record keeping procedures has led to a misunderstanding of the facts. Alabama election procedures already provide a path to a recount."

Merrill said the lawsuit, which has since been stayed by the Alabama Supreme Court, "would have only created chaos and delay in the election process."

His office provided several points to consider surrounding the ordeal.

  1. Digital images of ballots are not required in the event of a recount or an election contest.  Original paper ballots are preserved while electronic images generally are not preserved. The same records have always been used in election contests and recounts. 
  2. The vast majority of Alabama ballot scanning machines are not programmed to preserve the images.  To change them, as the plaintiffs seek, would not mean simply flipping a switch, but would require the third-party vendor, Elections Systems and Software, to travel to 2000 voting machines around Alabama to change them. This process could not be completed in a day. To attempt it the day before and day of the election would cause chaos, confusion, and delay. 
  3. The lawsuit was filed against the Secretary of State and a member of his staff, but no other parties. The Secretary does not have the authority to require changes to voting machines. That authority resides with Alabama’s probate judges who were not included in the plaintiff’s lawsuit. Therefore, the proper parties were not before the court in order to provide the relief plaintiffs seek.

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