BULLETIN By: Garland Favorito
December 15, 2017 voterga.org
Alabama SOS Blocks Preserving Digital Ballots for Senate Race
MONTGOMERY, AL –National election integrity advocates are intrigued as to how Roy Moore could have been leading Doug Jones 53-45% with 65% of the votes cast and then lose the election by 50-48%. That is a 10% point total swing in the last 35% of the votes counted. Many TV viewers were unaware of the lead after C-SPAN cancelled its election coverage up until the time that Doug Jones was announced the winner. The turnabout may be attributed to late returns from Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery favoring Jones but citizens will not be able to examine digital ballot images to find out.
Secretary of State John Merrill moved in the Alabama Supreme Court to dismiss and stay a lower court order that required digital ballot images to be preserved for elections. The digital ballot images are created from scanned paper ballots and are used to electronically count about 80% of Alabama’s votes. The order required counties to flip a switch on their machines so that a digital image of each voter ballot would be preserved.
Alabama citizens led by Audit USA’s John Brakey and Attorney Chris Sautter filed the suit and the lower court decision was immediately praised by election transparency advocates throughout the country. But Merrill filed an ExParte motion to the Supreme Court without the Plaintiff’s knowledge and the court ruled to stay the decision so that the preservation ruling for the Senate race on Tuesday. The court did not rule to dismiss the case though.
Digital ballot preservation has been an issue in Alabama since the 2002 gubernatorial election between Done Siegelman and Bob Riley. Don Siegelman thought he had won until Baldwin County changed their vote totals after 11pm and reduced his 19,000+ vote count to about 12,000. When that gave Riley a 3,000 vote margin, Siegelman asked for a hand recount of the paper ballots in Baldwin County. But the county election board certified the results the morning after the election and former Attorney General William Pryor stated that the ballots had to be sealed and only opened under a court order.
Pryor was later appointed to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and is now under consideration by President Donald Trump as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Siegelman never filed suit to see the ballots but the Bush administration later opened investigations to criminally prosecute Siegelman for unrelated fraud. when they eventually obtained a conviction, over 100 government attorneys complained in writing to the U.S. Justice Dept. that his cases were maliciously prosecuted. Judge U.W. Clemon, who received his first case, wrote that: “The 2004 prosecution of Mr. Siegelman in the Northern District of Alabama was the most unfounded criminal case over which I presided in my entire judicial career.”