Lawsuit filed in Ohio over software updates to vote tabulation machines

Last-minute patches were untested and uncertified in violation of Ohio law, plaintiff claims

The co-chairman of the Ohio Green Party and editor of FreePress.org, Bob Fitrakis, on Monday filed a federal lawsuit over software that was allegedly installed on central vote tabulation machines in 39 Ohio counties without being tested or certified for use as required by state law.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, sought the court's immediate intervention in getting Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to remove the allegedly infringing software from the tabulation machines before Tuesday's general elections.

The lawsuit comes days after FreePress.org published a report claiming that Husted had done an "end run" around Ohio law by installing the software on the vote tabulators in the weeks leading up to to the election. According to the report, the software was installed on machines that will be used by more than 4 million registered voters, including those in major metropolitan areas such as Cleveland and Columbus.

FreePress claimed it obtained a copy of the contract for the software from a source at Husted's office. The contract calls for the tabulation machine's vendor to "enter custom codes and interfaces to the standard election reporting software," the publication claimed.

In an update posted Monday, Fitrakis said that FreePress has since learned that the software was apparently installed to help simplify the process by which counties report election results to the Secretary of State's system.

Memos circulated among senior staff at the Ohio Secretary of State's office "indicate that this software was never tested because of claims that it is not involved with the tabulation or communication of votes," Fitrakis noted. The software was unilaterally deemed "experimental" in nature by Husted's office and therefore was made exempt from Ohio's testing and certification requirements, he said.

Untested software updates on voting machines are illegal under Ohio law, but "last minute software patches may be deemed 'experimental' because that designation does not require certification and testing," Fitrakis wrote. "By unilaterally deeming this new software "experimental," Secretary of State Husted was able to have the software installed without any review, inspection or certification by anyone," he claimed.

The Ohio Secretary of State's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

See more by Jaikumar Vijayan on Computerworld.com.

Read more about government/industries in Computerworld's Government/Industries Topic Center.

This story, "Lawsuit filed in Ohio over software updates to vote tabulation machines" was originally published by Computerworld.

Insider: How the basic tech behind the Internet works
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies