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Open Letter to Candidates: Demand Your Secretary of State Commit to Making Public the Paper Ballot Images!

Updated on August 25, 2018
Page from literature for Hart Intercivic vote-counting machine, highlight indicates audit feature.
Page from literature for Hart Intercivic vote-counting machine, highlight indicates audit feature. | Source

It's official: the discovery of the ballot images has taken the country by storm. Read the excellent piece by Alternet author Steven Rosenfeld, who really gets it, entitled "New Technology Allows Election Officials to Verify Votes Like Never Before—Will It Be Widely Used in 2018?" The following is penned as an open letter to candidates, especially congressional candidates, urging them to be sure their vote totals can be verified independently by citizen activists.

Dear Candidate, With your campaign swinging into high gear now for the 2018 midterm primaries and congressional elections, there is news which could affect your campaign critically when it comes time to count the votes. Most districts use optical scanner vote-counting machines, which count the votes on voter hand-marked paper ballots, which we should all be using. These are the chief method of counting votes in over 50% of US precincts, soon to be 100%. You may not be aware that it is possible, in any districts using these machines, to verify that your vote count is correct and that there has been no vote-counting machine hacking, an issue which has come to the fore lately.

The optical scan vote-counting machines which may be in use in your district have a little known feature. As each paper ballot is fed into the machine, the machine takes a digital image of the ballot, just like an office scanner but much faster. These images are then stored in the machine's memory for audit and verification purposes.

In essence, these images provide a way for the public to recount the votes themselves from these images, without ever having to touch the paper ballots or ask for an expensive hand recount.

So why are secretaries of state across the country fighting in courts for the authority to delete these ballot images, rather than posting them for the sake of transparent and honest elections? No voter rights are violated by posting the images or making them available on DVD. Like all paper ballots in the US, they are entirely anonymous, and preserve the principle of voter privacy.

Why indeed?

The only reason we can think of to fight this simple good-government step is to hide something. Specifically, to hide instances of vote-counting machine hacking, and vote stealing.

The simple remedy is to call upon secretaries of state in all states to commit to the principle of preserving and making public this important evidence of fair and honest elections. For counties which do not yet principally use voter hand-marked paper ballots, a conversion to this must take place immediately. It is the broad consensus of election experts that voter hand-marked paper ballots are the best way to ensure honest elections. Of course allowances for disabilities must still be in place.

I would be happy to conduct an analysis of your congressional district and tell you which of your counties use machines which automatically take images of the ballots. Even if is is only some of them, a partial audit of your vote using these images will be valuable to you. If your numbers are high in precincts which are auditable, but low in ones which are not, that might tell you something.

This information is available at the website Verified Voting.

Please watch this interview by Thom Hartmann of Audit Elections USA's
Mimi Kennedy. Audit Elections USA is at the forefront of the drive to preserve and make available the ballot images.

Here is Audit Elections USA's latest press release on Ohio election authorities opposing even the preservation of the ballot images. Secretaries of State in Alabama and Arizona have also taken this position.

Note that this letter is not addressed to members of any particular party or affiliation. Fair elections are in all our interest, and are a nonpartisan issue. Thank you for your attention to this matter!


(The non-profit website Verified Voting lists the type of voting system used in every US county. The types of optical scan vote-counting machines which generate digital images of the ballots include the ES&S DS200, the ES&S DS850, the Dominion ImageCast Precinct and ImageCast Central, the Hart Intercivic Verity Scan and Verity Central, and the Unisyn Voting OpenElect OVO.)

HBO Documentary: Hacking Democracy


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