UPDATE: 11:25 a.m. ― Alabama’s state Supreme Court late Monday stayed a judge’s earlier order that the state preserve digital voting records in Tuesday’s election.
An Alabama judge directed state election officials on Monday to save all digital images of the paper ballots filled out by voters in Tuesday’s special Senate election.
Montgomery County Circuit Judge Roman Ashley Shaul granted a preliminary injunction directing counties to set voting machines “to preserve all digital ballot images.” The order was requested in a lawsuit filed last week on behalf of Alabama citizens demanding that voting records be protected.
“After hearing arguments and reviewing the filings, it appears that plaintiffs and similarly situated voters would suffer irreparable and immediate harm if digital ballot images are not preserved,” Shaul wrote. The judge cited “a reasonable belief that the results may be close.”
Digital ballot images are digitized versions of the paper ballots Alabamians fill out in the voting booth. It’s these scans that are counted, not the actual paper ballots, plaintiffs’ attorney Priscilla Duncan told AL.com, and they were going to be destroyed after the election, she said.
“We need to make sure we can check on the results of the election if there’s any question,” plaintiff Anna Victoria Tuggey told Alternet. “The confusing ballot design for the special election makes it extra important that human eyes can verify that the machines are counting the votes correctly. The public should be able to look at those images and make sure the machines count every ballot where voter intent is clear.”
The plaintiffs sought the injunction last week after election officials indicated they “do not and will not instruct election officials in each of the Alabama counties to preserve digital ballot images created by digital voting machines used throughout the state,” according to the lawsuit. Officials intended only to save the scans of write-in votes.
“As a result of defendants’ failure to comply with Alabama’s public records law, digital ballot images used for tabulating votes and possible post-election adjudication will be destroyed following the December 12, 2017, special election for United States Senate in Alabama,” the suit said.
Under Shaul’s order, the state must maintain the ballot images for six months.
The vote Tuesday between GOP candidate Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones in the special election for the Senate seat left vacant by Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to be tight.