Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted now stands accused of ordering for "experimental software patches" to be installed on the vote-counting machines in a number of Ohio counties. According to the Columbus Free press, voting rights activists are concerned that the software patches, which are usually utilized to update or change existing software, could possibly affect over 4 million registered voters, including those in the state's most populated counties near Cleveland and Columbus.
Under Ohio law, experimental use of voting equipment is permitted as long as it is restricted to a limited number of precincts. Under the experimental label, equipment can legally be used without certification.
According to the Columbus Free Press, the contract between Husted's office and the vendor, Election Systems and Solutions, states that the software has not been and does not need to be reviewed by any testing authority at the state or federal level.
A memo was sent out to personnel in the Secretary of State's office on Friday by election counsel Brandi Laser Seske detailing the software. In the memo, Seske explains that the software didn't require a review because it is not "involved in the tabulation or casting of ballots... or a modification to a certified system."
A spokesman for the Secretary of State's office, Matt McClellan, said that no patches were installed. Instead, he described a reporting tool software that's meant to "assist counties and to help them simplify the process by which they report the results to our system." He said that this tool serves to cut down the amount of information that precinct workers would have to key in by hand by allowing the results to be output onto a thumbdrive and uploaded at once into the SoS's system. He said:
“It basically just creates a one-way flow of information — and that is simply from their system, out. So at no point in time are we going into their system and messing with anything.”
When questioned why the reporting tool was labeled as "experimental", McClellan said:
“It is a pilot project that we’re doing with about 25 counties or so. So it’s not statewide, but it is a pilot project we’re trying.”
With just days until Election Day, the fear of voter suppression is only increasing. But McClellan insists that there shouldn't be any concerns that the reporting tool will jeopardize the voting results or voter information. Nevertheless, voting rights activists remain far from reassured.