Court rules state mail-in ballot tracker is illegal

For Immediate Release by Green Party of San Juan County

Contact: Tim White (360) 378-5196; Allan Rosato (360) 376-2158



(FRIDAY HARBOR, WA, 5 April 2013) – Last week, San Juan County Superior Court Judge Donald E. Eaton ruled that a controversial voting system using voter-identifying barcodes on ballots is illegal. The system has been used for years in several Washington counties. Similar lawsuits are underway in Colorado.

Local voters and the San Juan County Green Party prevailed over former Secretary of State Sam Reed and San Juan County Auditor Milene Henley in a citizen suit originally brought by Orcas Island residents Tim White and Allan Rosato in 2006. The two seek to remove the unique ballot bar codes.

The system, dubbed VoteHere Mail-in Ballot Tracker (MiBT), is a paperless election tracking, processing and auditing software package. A series of processing station time stamps purports to track each ballot from the time it was sent to the voter to the time it was counted. On March 27 Judge Eaton ruled that MiBT is an integral part of the voting system, and required to undergo rigorous certification. State law prohibits voting systems not certified under the legislature’s program of public examination and expert testing.

White and Rosato decided to pursue the suit after intensive sampling of MiBT tracking data posted online by San Juan County in 2005. They documented anomalies suggesting inconsistent, impossible and changed ballot tracks for some ten percent of voters: ballots counted before they were received, two ballots accepted from the same voter, ballots received and counted though never sent out, and dozens received and signature-accepted but not counted. The two became even more concerned when, after they presented their findings and the election was certified, much of the inconsistent tracks were suddenly “fixed” with new entries—and then returned to its original confused state two months later.

For Rosato, the issue struck to the core of his confidence as a voter: “Not only was the code for this proprietary software not available for public inspection, it hadn’t even gone through the voting system certification process. So how were we, as voters, to know—first of all, that the software was working properly—and second, that it wasn’t being used for other purposes, such as manipulating votes or linking voters to their votes?”

The case is spiced with charges that Secretary Reed awarded millions in no-bid contracts to the tiny company, VoteHere, whose chairman and chief lobbyist, Ralph Munro, was Reed’s mentor and campaign chair. VoteHere’s principals also included several U.S. intelligence power brokers, such as Robert Gates, former U.S. Secretary of Defense and head of the CIA.

White is ready for change. “We sustained this effort to expose and block the push-button election rigging and secret ballot snooping capabilities we documented. The gavel is down for San Juan and other counties to stop using this rogue voting system. It’s past time to remove unique bar codes from our ballots and to open up this ‘black box’ voting system to public certification testing. Judge Eaton affirmed citizen rights to know how our votes are counted.”

Seattle public interest attorney Knoll Lowney represents White, Rosato and the Green Party of San Juan County, where the offending voting system was first deployed. Lowney said “It is unfortunate that a lawsuit was required to force the Secretary of State and San Juan County to protect these voters’ confidence in the voting system. Every voter should have an equal right to vote on a certified system and these voters were denied that protection.”

Across the street from Judge Eaton’s chambers, San Juan County officials are busy issuing ballots for the April 23 Special Election. Auditor Henley ignored the decision in her interview in Wednesday’s local media, and has not responded to inquiry whether they are still using the tracking and auditing voting system now officially ruled illegal.

Read Judge Eaton’s ruling here.

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