COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A lawsuit filed on the eve of Election Day alleges that software in some state voting equipment could make results vulnerable to being altered after ballots have been cast.
The federal lawsuit against Ohio's elections chief and Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems and Software alleges that software installed by the state could allow vote manipulation by non-election board officials.
A "back door" in ES&S software and hardware creates "an imminent risk" that people not supervised by election boards could "alter the recording and tabulation of votes cast by Ohio voters in the General Election," according to the lawsuit, filed Monday on behalf of Bob Fitrakis, a longtime Ohio elections activist.
The lawsuit asks a judge to order Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, not to use ES&S hardware or software on Tuesday and to break state contracts with ES&S for equipment to be used this year. A hearing was scheduled for Tuesday morning.
A Husted spokesman called the lawsuit "ridiculous," saying the software allows faster transmission of results from county election boards to the reporting system after polls close. Spokesman Matt McClellan said it has nothing to do with voting machines, only the results that are tabulated afterward.
"Without this tool, we're basically going to set election night reporting back a number of years to where officials would be hand-entering results into our system," he said.
The equipment is in Ohio's 25 most populous counties, said Columbus attorney Cliff Arnebeck, who filed the lawsuit.
"The claim is frivolous, without merit, and appears to have been filed on election eve with the sole intent of undermining voter confidence," ES&S said in an emailed statement.
Also Monday, Husted defended an order he issued late last week that places the responsibility of explaining what kind of identification voters use on provisional ballots on the voters themselves.
The order requires voters to check a box explaining what ID they can offer if they weren't able to provide the last four digits of their Social Security numbers or their Ohio driver's license numbers. Alternative ID could include a military ID or a utility bill.
Voter advocates say putting the requirement on voters increases the likelihood that ballots could be wrongly rejected.
A federal judge is weighing the issue but won't rule until after the election because provisional ballots aren't counted in Ohio until Nov. 17.
Husted said he worked unsuccessfully Monday to reach a compromise. But he also said voters are in the best position to indicate what ID they provided.
"The voter is more likely to get that information correct and would want that responsibility, rather than handing it to a poll worker who they may not know or have never met before," Husted said Monday.
Provisional ballots include those cast when voters don't take proper ID to the polls or cast them in the wrong precinct.