Abrams was outraged at the lateral move for Tanner, and his attempted re-writing of the history of his shameful record, in his "farewell email" to colleagues. Guests David Becker, a former DoJ Civil Rights Division attorney, now of People for the American Way (PFAW) and Washington Post's Dana Milbank, both concurred that Tanner's comments, as video-taped, and originally reported by The BRAD BLOG were instrumentally in his "demise".
The extension to the investigative series shores up Abrams' promise which concluded last week's "final" episode...
“Now while this was the last episode of this series, our 'Bush League' investigations are far from over. A new Attorney General has taken over. We are going to be watching very closely. The days of Justice Department malfeasance remaining under the mainstream media radar are over. You are on notice.”
Abrams once again showed a clip from our video, and this time with proper credit (Thank you!). He initially reported on the Tanner controversy, using a clip from our video, in the opening episode of the series last Monday.
As well, we heard yesterday from a producer on the show who told us they felt there would likely be much more to come in what may now be a now-continuing series. In the bargain, we were able to discuss a number of otherBRAD BLOG stories which may be of interest to them in future shows. So, stay tuned...
(Hat-tip to Alan Breslauer for both the above video, and the original video-tape of Tanner which started it all, from last October's National Latino Congreso here in Los Angeles, where he made his now-infamous remarks!)
All Voting Systems by ES&S Completely Decertified; DRE Touch-Screens from Sequoia Banned; Optical-Scan Paper Systems by Hart InterCivic Banned; All Systems by Diebold/Premier Conditionally ALLOWED for Use!
SoS Admits Federal Certification Process, Now Overseen by Former CO SoS on Behalf of EAC, 'Has Been Very Weak to Date'...
Colorado's Republican Secretary of State, Mike Coffman, has announced that a number of Colorado's e-voting machines have failed state certification testings, and will not be allowed for use in the 2008 election cycle. The announcements came at a news conference in Denver which completely just minutes ago.
Describing the state's testing of four major voting machine companies previously certified in the state, Coffman explained to reporters at the presser that there were "over 3000 tests on each vendor['s systems], and over 40,000 pages documenting the tests."
"This has been an extensive process," he said, after detailing several remarkable findings from each of the systems testing. For example, test results showed that paper-based optical-scan systems made by Hart InterCivic "could not accurately count ballots." While Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) systems made by ES&S, the world's largest supplier of voting systems, could be disabled by "denial of service" attacks at the polling place with a device as simple as a magnet.
"If you were to put a magnet in close proximity or inside the port," Coffman said at the press conference today, "that would, in fact, disable that particular voting machines and it would have to be literally reprogrammed...to bring in back into circulation for that election."
While virtually all of the systems tested were found to have major vulnerabilities, a number of them were "conditionally certified" for use as long as new security mitigation requirements are met. Notably, both op-scan systems and DREs made by Diebold (now known as Premier) were given conditional certification for use, despite Diebold systems having been banned in several states previously, including California, Ohio and Florida, due to a long list of critical vulnerabilities.
A summary of the decertified and conditionally certified systems follow (links to more information on each, at the end of this article):
All voting systems made by Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S), both paper-based optical-scan and DREs, were completely decertified. Their op-scan systems tested, according to Coffman, "both failed because of an inability to determine if the devices work correctly and an inability to complete the testing threshold of 10,000 ballots due to vendor programming errors." Their ubiqutous, and fatally flawed iVotronic DRE system "failed because it is easily disabled by voters activating the device interface, and the system lacks an audit trail to detect security violations."
Paper-based optical-scan systems made by Sequoia Voting Systems were conditionally certified, while their DRE systems were completely decertified for use, as they "failed due to a variety of security risk factors, including that the system is not password protected, has exposed controls potentially giving voters unauthorized access, and lacks an audit trail to detect security violations."
Paper-based optical-scan systems made by Hart Intercivic were decertified "because test results showed that they could not accurately count ballots"(!), while their DRE voting system was conditionally certified.
And finally, both optical-scan and DRE voting systems made by Diebold/Premier were conditionally certified for use in Colorado.
Coffman's announcement comes today, months after the state had hoped to have the results available, due to sluggish participation by the voting machine companies, many of whom delayed supplying required information, such as voting system source code, as requested by the Secretary of State's office.
All of Colorado's electronic voting systems were decertified just prior to the November 2006 election when a state judge ruled, in a lawsuit brought by state voters, that testing and certification procedures for e-voting systems in the Centennial State were inadequate, largely non-existent, and in violation of state law. As the judge's decertification order came just prior to that years' elections, the systems were allowed for use, but decertified immediately thereafter. The state was forced to begin the certification process from scratch thereafter...
In an irony of ironies, the man famous for fabricating --and then suddenly disappearing-- an organization expressly for purposes of spreading misinformation about "voter fraud" in order to suppress Democratic vote counts, is now hitting classrooms to teach Missouri lawyers about campaign finance laws and lobbyist disclosure.
Perhaps Hearne will lovingly detail all the steps that one can take --hypothetically, of course-- to concoct front organizations that serve as proxies for partisan interests and then lobby legislatures for needless statutory changes that will strip away rights from legal voters and provide their party with structural electoral advantages.
This appearance by Hearne seems to be the latest in a series of contrived efforts to re-enter the public sphere after several months in hiding. Hearne largely disappeared from the scene after he became a touchstone of the actions of a corrupt and politically motivated Department of Justice --- who brought "voter fraud" prosecutions timed to coincide with elections, in violation of written DoJ procedures, etc. --- and suffered well-deserved beatings at the hands of Congressional investigators.
The one saving grace of the Missouri Bar's seminar may be that Hearne's anti-rights ranting will be balanced out by one of his co-presenters, attorney Rob Heggie, who possesses a long record of standing up in favor of protecting the rights of Missouri voters.
For more information on the "non-partisan" tax-exempt ACVR "Voter Fraud" scam and the snakeoil salesmen who invented it, Bush/Cheney '04 National General Counsel Mark F. "Thor" Hearne and RNC Communications Director Jim Dyke, please see BRAD BLOG's full Special Coverage of the "American Center for Voting Rights" at http://www.BradBlog.com/ACVR.
Anonymous Blogger Offers Evidence-Free Claim That 'Left-Wing Activist' Academics and SoS Brunner 'Cooked Up' Report Results Showing All Buckeye State E-Voting Systems Vulnerable to Failure, Fraud, Easy Tampering...
Shamelessly (an inaccurately) writing on the Ohio Republican Party's blogsite, an unnamed writer posted the following opening to a critique of the $1.9 million bi-partisan study [strikethrough included in the original]:
Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner found some left-wing activists academics to issue an expensive taxpayer-funded "study" criticizing Ohio's election system.
"Left-wing activists"? Incredible. And wrong. And slimy enough on its own --- never mind the rest of the blog item, which gets even worse, as posted by an unnamed election terrorist from the Ohio GOP --- to merit an immediate apology and retraction by the Ohio Republican party, along with the outing and firing of whoever the official was who wrote it...
Try not to laugh. But here's Diebold's response to the new study from the state of Ohio showing their crappy, untested, inaccurate, unsecure voting machines --- and those made by their equally duplicitous friends at ES&S and Hart Intercivic --- to be extremely vulnerable to tampering with the use of household items as simple as a magnet or a personal digital assistant.
As if to continue pushing their bad luck with yet another dare, the Diebold statement says, "It is important to note that there has not been a single documented case of a successful attack against an electronic voting system, in Ohio or anywhere in the United States."
Okay, guys. This is getting exhausted (and just plain sad), but be careful what you wish for.
"Even as we continue to strengthen the security features of our voting systems," Diebold/Premier writes, "that reality should not be lost in the discussion."
"Continue" to "strengthen"? (Supply own joke here)
Yet, the company who is so proud of their work that they changed their name from Diebold to Premier for no other reason beyond the fact that the horrible, corrupt and fraudulent work of their voting division has disgraced the parent company, says "Premier has performed a host of modifications and enhancements to its software to further strengthen system security. Our new suite of products is expected to soon complete the yearlong federal certification process, and will be available for installation in 2008."
Goody. We'll buy a new supply of magnets right away.
Finally, and without evidence, they add: "We should also not lose sight of the very real improvements in voting accuracy that have been achieved with the deployment of modern touch screen systems."
Really? Where's the evidence for that? Unfortunately, Diebold is not alone in making that specious claim...
The results of new, unprecedented testing of e-voting machines in the state of Ohio are in, and the findings mirror the landmark results of a similar test carried out earlier this year in California.
"Ohio's electronic voting systems have 'critical security failures' which could impact the integrity of elections in the Buckeye State," says Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner in a statement which accompanied the release of the report today on the SoS' website. Brunner, a Democrat, was joined in her press conference (video now here), called today to discuss the results of the testing, by Ohio's Republican House Speaker, Jon Husted.
Brunner is calling for a ban on all Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems in the state, along with a ban on precinct-based optical-scan paper based systems, charging that the central counting of ballots at the county would eliminate "points of entry creating unnecessary voting system risk."
The State's bi-partisan "Evaluation & Validation of Election-Related Equipment, Standards & Testing" (EVEREST) report finds, as did California's study, as did virtually every other independent test of such systems, that violating the security and manipulating the "federal approved" electronic voting systems, is a breeze.
"To put it in every-day terms," Brunner said, "the tools needed to compromise an accurate vote count could be as simple as tampering with the paper audit trail connector or using a magnet and a personal digital assistant."
"The results underscore the need for a fundamental change in the structure of Ohio’s election system to ensure ballot and voting system security while still making voting convenient and accessible to all Ohio voters," said Brunner, who has come under fire from Election Integrity advocates for failing to act quickly enough concerning the voting systems to be used in next year's crucial election, as well as for failing to seek accountability for the exceedingly well-documented and now-infamous charges of election fraud and voter suppression in the 2004 Presidential election under her predecessor J. Kenneth Blackwell.
While the effort is long overdue in Ohio, actions being taken by Brunner, in light of the test results, are less stringent than those taken by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen after tests in her state. Brunner's recommendations, some of them quite puzzling, are likely to come under some fire in the bargain, from Election Integrity advocates in Ohio and elsewhere...
The controversial head of the DoJ Civil Rights Division, Voting Section, John Tanner, finally resigned from his position as of 11am ET this morning...
Today, John Tanner resigned from his position effective immediately as chief of the Civil Rights Division's voting section. His resignation email, with the subject line "Moving On" was sent out at approximately 11 AM to voting section staff. He said that he will be moving on to the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices.
"The resignation of John Tanner is long overdue," writes one happy voting section staffer to The BRAD BLOG this morning, saying that he and his colleagues are "overjoyed at the news."
"Since becoming Section Chief in 2005 and even before, Tanner demonstrated that he cared only about serving his Republican overlords' desire to suppress minority voting to help the Republican Party win elections and not about the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. A great many long-time members of the Voting Section staff are overjoyed at the news of his departure," the staffer tells us, adding that a celebration is in the works.
"We are already planning a party for next week --- not a 'John Tanner goodbye party' but a 'goodbye John Tanner party.'"
At right is the most notable section of the now-infamous BRAD BLOG video, taped by our own Alan Breslauer at the National Latino Congreso in Los Angeles and which kicked off the most recent firestorm over Tanner's tenure. In it, as we reported exclusively at the time, Tanner explains his reasoning for over-ruling the majority opinion of career staffers in his own department in order to approve a controversial Photo ID polling place restriction in the state of Georgia. The measure was later found unconstitutional and declared to be a modern day Jim Crow-era poll tax by two federal courts.
Tanner says in the video, that though it's a "shame" that the elderly might be disenfranchised by such laws, "minorities don't become elderly the way white people do. They die first."
"Mr. Tanner had a clear record of undermining the core mission of the section – protecting the right to vote," Rep. Jerrod Nadler, chair of a House Judiciary subcommittee which oversees Tanner's department, said in a statement today in response to the resignation. "Tanner was actively seeking to curtail that cornerstone of American democracy. The right to vote is the foundation of all our liberties and it must be protected."
The chair of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers, was so incensed by Tanner's comments, as well as his previous efforts at white-washing a DoJ investigation of election fraud and voter suppression during the 2004 Presidential Election in Ohio, hearings were called in the House in late October, featuring an even more shameful performance by Tanner (video highlights/lowlights here), who would be described by the Washington Post afterwards as "one sorry man."
In response to Tanner's testimony at the hearings, The BRAD BLOG posted a letter from a voting section staffer, excoriating his sworn comments to the panel as "not credible", adding that Tanner had "lost no time in twisting the truth" in his testimony.
Tanner's long, often rambling resignation email sent out this morning (posted in full at the bottom of this article) skillfully attempts to re-write the history of his shameful tenure. In it, he conflates past performance of the department, beginning with his original arrival at DoJ 30 years ago, with the Civil Rights division's more recent and politicized history during which six years passed without a single lawsuit against African-American voter suppression have being filed.
Just one such case was filed under the DoJ's Voting Rights Act Section 5 oversight mandate, and it was a reverse-discrimination case in which white voters in Mississippi were said to have been discriminated against.
A special series on "Bush League Justice" by MSNBC's Dan Abrams premiered this week. In it's opening episode on Monday, Abrams focused on the DoJ's disastrous Civil Rights Division, and once again played a clip from Tanner's "minorities...die first" comments which we originally captured.
"Under Mr. Tanner's leadership, the Justice Department essentially took positions that disenfranchised minorities and the elderly," Nadler echoed once more in his comments today.
It was almost three years ago that The BRAD BLOG first spotted the conspiracy long-range business plan being fronted for the Republicans by GOP con-man/operative Mark F. "Thor" Hearne II. The scheme became immediately transparent, to those who wished to see it, when his brand-spanking new "voting rights" group scam, calling themselves the "American Center for Voting Rights" (ACVR), popped up at a phony Congressional hearing on the 2004 Election, in March of 2005, as chaired by the now-jailed felon from Ohio, Rep. Bob Ney (R-Abramoff).
Hearne had identified himself at the hearing only as "a longtime advocate of voter rights and an attorney experienced in election law," conveniently omitting that he had been the very partisan national general counsel for Bush/Cheney '04 Inc. and had founded the "non-partisan" ACVR with his "non-partisan" partner, Jim Dyke, who had previously been the communication director for the RNC. (Shortly thereafter, the "non-partisan" Dyke went on to work for the "non-partisan" Dick Cheney at the White House, and now fronts for the "non-partisan" Rudy Giuliani.)
We spent a good portion of the ensuing three years with our hair on fire, trying to wave red flags about the transparent scheme/propaganda that Hearne was selling: Phonied up data on a non-existent "epidemic" of "Democratic Voter Fraud" in order to force restrictive Photo ID laws at the polling place, meant only to keep millions of largely Democratic-leaning minority and elderly voters from being able to cast a legal vote at all.
But the mission had been accomplished, and the foothold the Republican scammers needed had already been established, with laws such as Indiana's Photo ID restriction that is now headed towards a hearing in the Supreme Court. The results of the decision could well help determine the outcome of the 2008 elections.
UPDATE: Alternet's Steve Rosenfeld picks up on this precise issue today, reporting on how the rightwing "ballot security" operatives are arguing to the Supreme Court in favor of pre-emptive voter challenges at the poll, without the necessity of having to show that any such voter fraud is actually occurring. As well, they are building their legal case on the idea that "fear of" voter fraud is enough to demand such onerous ID requirements, even though it is the same "right-wing activists who spent years creating and publicizing a myth of widespread voter fraud," who are now making the case that "perception of potentially corrupted elections is yet another reason why states should be allowed to police the voting process with new restrictions such as voter ID laws." These wingnut zealot bullshit artists are the best in the business. If you consider "best" to be most evil and "business" to be our frickin' American democracy.
Despite Hearne's claims, made earlier this year to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that The BRAD BLOG made it impossible for him to run his scam without public/media notice, the huckster is still at it. He's just filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case, on behalf of 41 GOP Congress members.
You didn't think he'd just slither back under his rock and stay there, did you?...
According to Abrams, the Bush administration "has turned the Division against the very people it was designed to protect. Instead of pursuing discrimination cases on behalf of African Americans, the Bush Civil Rights Division has focused on supposed reverse discrimination cases against whites and religious discrimination cases against Christians." Abrams points out that between 2001 and 2006, "not one voting discrimination case was brought on behalf of African Americans."
The segment continues with Abrams questioning former DoJ attorneys David Becker and Alia Malek about the Bush administration "stack[ing] the deck against Democrats." In one example given by Becker, congressional redistricting plans thought to favor Democrats would get "very, very, serious scrutiny" while redistrictings that favored Republicans would receive a "very hands off approach" even if, as was the case in Texas, the plan was unanimously found to discriminate against Hispanics by career Justice Department officials.
In addition to stacking the deck against Democrats, Abrams states that the Justice Department has been "hijacked" by the far right. After evidencing this claim with a couple of telling statistics, a somewhat exasperated Abrams continues, "They fundamentally changed what the Civil Rights Division does. It's no longer there to protect African Americans. It is to go after reverse discrimination cases and also to try and promote religion in schools and other public places."
Part 1 continues (at the 6:15 mark) with Abrams playing the "pretty amazing statement" by John Tanner, the current chief of the DoJ's Voting Rights Section, about minorities not being disenfranchised by Photo ID laws because they "don't become elderly the way white people do, they die first." Unfortunately Abrams, like many in the mainstream media, failed to credit The BRAD BLOG for our original video and reporting of the incident.
Despite the slight we look forward to more excellent reporting on this long overdue topic throughout the week.
The final day of testimony over the Pima County Democratic Party's public records request featured the remainder of the county's witnesses for the defense, a surprise call on an adverse witness, and pugnacious closing arguments. The matter now rests with Judge Michael Miller, who says he will decide the case within the next two weeks.
In brief, the Pima County (Tucson) Democratic Party is demanding Pima County release the Diebold GEMS tabulator databases containing voting data from the 2006 election, and those from all future elections, arguing that they are public records. The GEMS software is highly insecure, allowing anyone with access to the computer it runs on to manipulate the outcome of elections at will and likely cover their tracks. Elections are thus highly succeptable to manipulation by elections insiders, and there is no way to detect or deter them without access to the databases for forensic analysis. Pima County's position is that we should trust them to take care of that risk through internal checks and balances, and that releasing the databases simply creates more security risks by outsiders seeking to hack an election.
Both experts sought to convince the judge of the many security threats posed by release of the GEMS databases, and in my view, failed to sustain that position under the cross examination of the Democrats' attorney Bill Risner. Risner poked holes in all the threat scenarios the experts presented, showing them to be impracticable, absurd, or simply undefined.
The trial is heading into overtime. What was to be the third and final day of the trial ended with the Democratic Party having rested their case at the afternoon break and the County just getting into their witness list. Judge Miller called to reconvene at 8:30 a.m. Friday morning with a determination to finish the trial.
In brief, the Pima County (Tucson) Democratic Party is challenging Pima County to release the Diebold GEMS tabulator databases containing voting data from the 2006 election, and those from all future elections, on the presumption that they should be public records. There is a belief that the databases, if obtained by the party, may show fraud or other malfeasance by county election officials. The county maintains that releasing such information will make tampering in future elections easier, even though those same county officials and insiders have all the means and opportunity to manipulate elections.
Crane didn't do the county any favors. He undermined his own credibility, developed a great fondness for the expression "I can't recall," and, upon questioning by Judge Miller, revealed that the security threats the County claims are posed by the release of the GEMS database following an election are illusory or highly implausible.
Once the Democratic Party rested their case, the county moved for a judgment as a matter of law, which asks the judge to decide the case in their favor on just the plaintiff's testimony. It is largely a pro forma motion, but it provided an opportunity for counsels to frame the case thus far. Democrats' attorney Bill Risner took the opportunity to test a few of the themes that will likely figure in his closing arguments.
That footage of Risner making his case, is about 10 minutes long and is presented at the end of this post, hot off our press pool camera, in a BRAD BLOG exclusive. The judge took only a few minutes to decide that the plaintiffs had presented a sufficient case that the County must proceed with their side of the case.
The County put on their first witness, the elections director of Gila County, Arizona, another jurisdiction using an identical GEMS tabulation system. The choice backfired significantly. Her testimony revealed that she was completely ignorant of any security issues with the Diebold system her county uses, presumably because she relies on the Arizona Secretary of State and the Diebold corporation for security information. Her county contracts out their election preparation to a private company based in Glendale, Arizona, rather than do it in-house like in Pima County. The private company she contracts with just sends them back a prepared database, which the county then uses in their elections, never having checked the contents of the database.
Except for logic and accuracy testing (running a few sample ballots), the integrity of Gila County's elections rests entirely on the honesty of that private contractor.
The county then put on Merle King, the director of Georgia's Kennesaw College Center for Election Systems. The Democrats' legal team calls him 'The Man from Diebold.' He is a professional expert witness in voting systems who never saw a Diebold system he didn't love. The county made quite a production of eliciting the information that Mr. King had been paid the handsome sum of $10 to appear. I guess it was meant to illustrate how independent he is, but his expenses are being underwritten by someone: my money is on Diebold. His testimony and more will be available tomorrow.
In the meantime, enjoy the Democratic Party's champion Bill Risner presenting his motion for judgment, direct from the courtroom yesterday...
It was a day packed with testimony Wednesday in Tucson as the plaintiffs' attorney, Bill Risner, continued to crank through his witness list. The day ended with the last witness that will be called by the Democratic Party, Bryan Crane, whom Pima County Attorneys have repeatedly labeled "much maligned," just preparing for a rehabilitating friendly cross-examination by Pima County attorneys. Crane's testimony is pivotal to the case, and will be posted in its entirety tomorrow after cross and re-direct are complete.
To get up to speed with details on what this trial about, please see my introductory post, and if you missed yesterday's action, you may want to take a look at my summary of day one. In general, the Pima County (Tucson) Democratic Party, is challenging Pima County to release the Diebold GEMS tabulator databases containing voting data from the 2006 election on the presumption that it should be of public record. There is a belief that the databases, if obtained by the party, may show fraud and other malfeasance by county election officials. The county maintains that releasing such information will make tampering in future elections more feasible, even though those same county officials and insiders, currently have the easiest route to tampering with such elections, since they already have all the access they need to such information.
The witnesses on Wednesday included a slate of employees from the Pima County elections department. The summaries of the testimony of Isabel Araiza, Robert Evans, Chester Crowley, Romi Romero, and Mary Martinson are posted together on BlogForArizona.
These employees' testimony was sought by the plaintiffs to try to establish a pattern of negligent oversight and security procedures at the elections department, including the actions of head programmer, Bryan Crane (deposition video footage of Crane at bottom of this article), taking backups of election data home and illegally printing summaries that included current vote totals in the midst of elections and then sharing that data with persons not part of the election department.
The prime witnesses of the day, however, were Brad Nelson, the director of the elections department, Crane, the "much maligned" head programmer, and the man with responsibility for the entire bureaucracy, Chuck Huckleberry, the County Administrator...
Will The 2008 Vote Be Fair? That was the topic addressed by host David Brancaccio and former Justice Department official David Becker on NOW last Friday. Part I (at left, 10:01) begins with a discussion of Photo ID laws to prevent the "invented problem" of voter fraud. The discussion continues at the 6:15 mark on the topics of voter caging and voter purging --- when the DoJ requires jurisdictions to purge their voter rolls when they do not match census estimates.
Part II (at right, 9:50) begins with Becker explaining how the Bush 43 Justice Department has subverted its traditional mission: "During about a five year span, not one single case was brought on behalf of African Americans in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division". Becker goes on to state that policies were established that favored Republicans and disfavored Democrats in an effort to "gam[e] the system" to retain power.
Next, Brancaccio and Becker explore how the U.S. Attorney scandal fits in to the bigger picture. Becker: "The DoJ, especially under Alberto Gonzales, was being used as an arm of the right wing of the Republican Party to effectuate partisan gains in elections". Finally, the program concludes with a discussion on voting machines and Florida's 13th District.
It was an eventful day in the courtroom in Pima County yesterday, with opening statements and the first two plaintiff's witnesses' testimony. Already, the general shape of the controversy is becoming more clear and many of the media access issues have been favorably resolved. The Election Integrity press pool is providing video to local news and other interested parties on a non-exclusive basis and there is a ground-swell of support and interest in the trial and use of the resultant footage among journalists and documentarians.
See our initial backgrounder/intro to this trial, as posted yesterday, right here.
The position of the Democratic Party, argued in the courtroom yesterday, is that the statutory role of the political parties in Arizona, and in America historically, has been to oversee and participate deeply in our elections. The elections belong to the people, not the government. The database the party seeks access to on behalf of all political parties is the only computer record of the election that can provide the information needed to ensure that elections insiders cannot, and have not, manipulated the election. Absent a clear statement by the legislature, the parties should not be denied access to this crucial information to carry out their traditional role of ensuring the public's political rights. Certainly no tortured interpretation of outdated language regarding computer technology from a statute written in the 1980s should be allowed to deny the people access to their election data, only a clear and unambiguous expression from the legislature should be able to do that.
The position of Pima County, however, is that the database requested must remain confidential.
They argue that providing the database to the political parties would violate the standards promulgated by the Arizona Secretary of State because the files contain procedural information and code that is used to program elections machines, and could reveal information that might compromise future elections. The county agrees that the Diebold GEMS software used to tabulate votes has serious security flaws, but that is all the more reason to not allow the information in the database into the public domain...
I am Michael Bryan, an attorney and blogger whose home is Tucson, Arizona. Starting today and continuing through Thursday, at BlogForArizona.com (my blog) and The BRAD BLOG, I will be covering the trial of Pima County Democratic Party v. Pima County. The proceedings will be live-blogged at BlogForArizona every day, with a daily summary posted each evening of the trial here at The BRAD BLOG.
The trial concerns the Pima County Democratic Party's demand for access to public records. Specifically, they seek access to database files that contain the raw tabulator vote data from a past local bond election. They seek to establish the public's right to inspect and analyze those records to search for any irregularities or manipulation by elections department insiders. Ideally, the Democrats want the judge to declare that all such files must be given to all political parties in Pima County in all future elections, so that public scrutiny can help ensure that the vote is honestly counted.
Why the concern that public officials, whose job it is to count the vote, may be instead manipulating the vote? Because the software Pima County (and many, many other jurisdictions around the country) is using to tabulate the vote is "fundamentally flawed" as to security according to an independent audit [PDF] commissioned by the Arizona Attorney General.
The "fundamentally flawed" software is made by Diebold and is called Global Election Management Software, or GEMS. Election integrity activists and researchers have long known that vote totals can be easily manipulated by insiders with access to the computers on which GEMS runs. The software is so fundamentally insecure that vote data can be changed by simply using the common database software Microsoft Access --- and the fraud can potentially be completely untraceable. With security conditions like that, it becomes imperative that the public have oversight of that data, just as the public has (or should have) oversight over the rest of the elections process.
If you would like to just listen to a discussion of the issues in the trial, please take a few minutes to listen to my recent interview with Action Point host Cynthia Black on Phoenix' Air America station...
For additional context here, I'll point you to a video (at right) of one of the men at the center of this controversy, Pima County's Election Director Brad Nelson. BRAD BLOG readers may remember this remarkable video referred to as "Election Director Gone Wild" as Nelson breaks into a tirade after being questioned by Pima County Election Integrity activist, John Brakey, about the Diebold DRE voting systems that Nelson was preparing, back then, in February of 2006, to bring into the county.
Please check my blog, BlogForArizona.com, for regular updates on the trial as it unfolds, and here at The BRAD BLOG for updates at the end of the days proceedings today through Thursday. Please use the comments on either blog to ask questions or make suggestions, we'll have someone monitoring the comments during the trial and will do our best to respond.