Key Election Materials Destroyed in WI Recount
Madison, WI, December 16, 2016 —
Forensic investigators from RecountNow.org, an election watchdog group, discovered that some Wisconsin counties intentionally destroyed the records of the vote count produced by optical scan voting machines.
Optical scan machines are used to count paper ballots. The machines produce an image of each ballot.
According to Bev Harris of BlackBoxVoting.org, another election watchdog group, in some states destruction of ballot images is a felony. Wisconsin’s Brown and Rock Counties were two of the counties that have admitted to destroying at least some of their ballot images, according to investigators. Both counties had already been identified for other reasons as forensic red flags by analysts, raising concerns that this destruction of evidence may have been for nefarious reasons.
“What this means,” explains John Brakey of RecountNow, “is that if the scanners had not been programmed properly—either by mistake or intentionally to manipulate outcomes — there would be no protected secondary record that could be checked as verification of the counting process. Furthermore, if there had been any foul play with stored ballots during the long period between the original vote and the recount, there would be no mechanism for detecting that tampering either.” For these reasons, say experts, the ability to record and keep copies of the ballot images is a critically important tool in verifying our votes, particularly in counties that have declined to recount votes by hand. In some states it is the ballot images that are considered the “ballot of record.”
In the models of ballot scanner examined by Brakey, the Elections Systems and Software (ES&S) DS850 and DS200, there is a switch that must be set to indicate one of three choices of what to retain: none, all, or only the write-in votes.
“Unfortunately, the incentive to destroy or prevent the creation of ballot images would obviously be highest in the very places where they might provide the sole hard evidence of committed fraud,” commented attorney and researcher Jonathan Simon, also of RecountNow.
DS850 scanners are used in 16 states in addition to Wisconsin. In the 2016 election, over 26,500 DS200 scanners were used in 25 states.
A lawsuit in Pima County, Arizona earlier this year spearheaded by John Brakey resulted in an October court ruling that ballot images are public record and must be preserved. Federal law requires retention of election materials for 22 months after a federal election.
Public records requests for ballot image files have been filed by investigators, law firms, and others during the Wisconsin recount. RecountNow calls on all jurisdictions to preserve the ballot images and promptly make them available in response to all public records requests, and for an investigation into possible violation of law by county election employees and officials who have destroyed ballot images from the November election.
RecountNow is a citizens’ group of experienced forensic investigators, IT specialists, statisticians, and data analysts, dedicated to fair, secure, and transparent elections.
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