Islands' Sounder


Split decision from judge on ballot lawsuit

April 7, 2013 · Updated 3:56 PM

Submitted by San Juan County

Last week, San Juan Superior Court Judge Donald Eaton issued a letter ruling that the county’s ballot tracker software should be certified by the Secretary of State.

But the court declined to say that the use of barcodes on the ballot increases the risk that election workers or others can tell who voted a particular ballot or contest.

“This is a ruling on the steps needed before election software may be used, not a ruling that the software or barcode interfere with the secret ballot,” said San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney Randall K Gaylord.

The lawsuit started in late 2006 after the county engaged in a “pilot” program to test software used to track the location of ballots.  The software works much the same way as the United State Postal Service, UPS or FedEx track the location of packages.

“The ballots are tracked, without ever looking at how the ballot is voted,” said Gaylord.

Gaylord added that the court did not rule that any ballot had ever been linked to any voter.  “In the seven years this case has been underway, the secrecy of every ballot has been maintained.”

The ballot tracking system is not linked to the software used to count ballots.

“San Juan County uses ballot counting software that is certified by the Secretary of State’s Office,” said County Auditor Milene Henley.

Under state law “voting systems” must be certified by the Secretary of State’s Office.  San Juan County and the state argued that ballot tracker software is not a voting system because it only tracks and verifies the location of ballots, not the tally of the votes.  Judge Eaton said that tracking ballots is part of “the total combination of equipment used” to ensure ballots are counted once and only once.

Record-keeping is essential to fair and accurate elections and to avoid fraud or mistakes.   Henley added that the ballot tracker software helps to ensure that no ballots are lost and that all valid ballots are counted, and adds confidence to elections.

The court did not say that the county must discontinue use of the ballot tracker software during the pendency of case, though that may come up at a later date.

It is expected the court ruling will be finalized into an order in several weeks.  If a trial is held, the Plaintiffs will need to show that ballot barcodes are linked to individual voters.

For Information contact Randall Gaylord  370-7603 and Milene Henley 370-7558.


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