After an amazingly encouraging week or two, we head into the July 4th weekend with a whole bunch of stuff we've been trying to clear off our desk. Plus: Lots of breaking news and an encouraging ending for the weekend...
We wrote late last week, in some detail, about Arizona AG Terry Goddard's long overdue hand-count of paper ballots from the dubious 2006 Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) bond special election in Pima County (Tucson). The count of all 120,821 paper ballots from the election begins today in Phoenix as part of a criminal investigation, following years of allegations and court cases, in which a trans-partisan group of Election Integrity advocates in Tucson have sought transparency and public oversight following indications that Diebold tabulator databases may have been manipulated by election insiders.
Goddard's restrictions on political party observers --- just one per party, selected by the AG, not by the parties themselves --- was the cause of criticism by all of the involved parties (Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, etc.). But a letter [PDF] late last week from the AG's office indicated, at least, that a live, eight-camera video feed would be available on the Internet.
"Eight cameras will stream live video of the examination proceedings to the internet courtesy of the Maricopa County Elections Department," the AG promised. And, as the count began this morning, that feed is now up and running here.
Unfortunately, unlike Minnesota's recent, very transparent hand-count of 2.9 million ballots from the state's still-contested U.S. Senate race, the video from the Maricopa County Ballot Tabulation Center (BTC) is all but worthless, as critics had previously worried, in determining if counts are being carried out accurately.
Here are screen shots from this morning, as counting began, from all eight camera-views --- only two of which show any actual counting at all, while six of them are focused on different areas in the Phoenix counting facility (click a photo to see the live streaming shot)...
A hand count of thousands of paper ballots that could trump all of the above, at least in regards to national importance, will quietly occur next week in a highly-secured Maricopa County, AZ, facility, as part of a years-long criminal investigation. Ironically, coming as late as it does, three years after the election, the results of the count, no matter what they may be, will not affect the actual outcome of that election --- even if it is found that the results were originally rigged by elections officials.
After almost three years; hundreds of legal documents; scores of hours in courtrooms; precedent-setting legal findings forcing the public release of Diebold computer databases supposedly recording how citizens voted in their own elections; allegations of potential hacking and fraud believed to have been possibly carried out by election official insiders; indications of tampering described as the result of "human error" by a report commissioned by the state AG, as part of a criminal investigation subsequently described by critics as a "whitewash"; arrests of local election integrity advocates; and lord knows how many articles documenting it at all here at The BRAD BLOG over those years, the paper ballots from the curious 2006 Regional Transit Authority (RTA) election in Pima County (Tucson), AZ, will finally be counted, beginning next Monday, as part of a criminal investigation being carried out by the state's Attorney General.
The hand-count of all 120,821 ballots from that special election will be carried out not in Pima, but under the supervision of "certified professionals who work for the Maricopa County (Phoenix) Elections Department," according to a 2-page letter [PDF] sent by the AG's office to the chairman of the Democratic Party of Pima County. The "strictly-monitored" count will either settle, once and for all, the matter of whether that election was conducted fraudulently by election insiders manipulating the vulnerable electronic Diebold tabulation system --- or it won't...
If a judge’s ruling in Pima County, Arizona, stands, ballots from the long-contested 2006 Regional Transit Authority (RTA) election will be destroyed, and there will never be a definitive answer as to whether or not the election may have been rigged, as critics have charged.
It’s too late for the actual results of the election to be changed, but knowing whether the election was tampered with is critical to guaranteeing the integrity of future elections, according to local Election Integrity advocates who won a landmark lawsuit, resulting in the unprecedented release of terrabytes of Diebold databases. The databases, containing information on how voters voted, were found by the judge in the suit, to be public records.
Yet, the same people who ran the '06 RTA election are still in charge of elections in Pima County, and the same election software is still in place. If one election was rigged, there is little stopping them from rigging others in the future.
The RTA bond measure was reportedly passed by voters in 2006, but Pima County Democrats and Libertarians believe there is substantial evidence the measure actually went down and the results were flipped in the vote counting computer. The optical-scan paper ballots themselves have never actually been counted. They’re sitting in sealed boxes in the County Treasurer’s office, and may soon be destroyed. The Democrats and Libertarians went to court last month, asking the judge to save the ballots, so they may actually be counted in the future.
In his ruling, however, Judge Charles Harrington's claims he has no jurisdiction in the matter...
Just in time for the elections, the Pima County, Arizona, Election Integrity Committee has developed computer tools to examine election databases created by the Diebold/Premier system. The EI group is offering to examine data from any jurisdiction in the country that uses Diebold's faulty GEMS (Global Election Management System). GEMS will tabulate about half the nation's votes on November 4th...
Folks, I'm writing to tell you personally about the most important election in America for election integrity: putting Brad Roach into the Pima County (Tucson) Arizona county attorney's office. Why do I believe it's the most important election in America in regard to the issue of Election Integrity? Click the cartoon above and/or read on...
Following up on the arrest last week of Pima County (Tuscon), Arizona, election integrity advocate John Brakey... You'll recall, he was arrested after noticing that some 7 out of 10 bags of ballots being counted during a post-election audit last week were missing their proper security seals.
As an election observer representing both the Libertarian and Democratic parties during the hand-count audit of a Sept. 2nd state Primary, Brakey began to ask questions about the bags --- which had supposedly been chosen at random the day before --- prompting Pima's Brad "Election Director Gone Wild" Nelson to call the sheriff on him.
Despite the missing seals (which even Nelson admitted to himself, as seen in the Channel 9-KGUN video report we posted with our original coverage of the incident), the Pima County Board of Supervisors went ahead and certified the election canvass anyway, "over the objections of activists who wanted the county to wait until an additional hand audit could be conducted over the weekend," according to the Arizona Daily Star.
"The supervisors said they were very concerned about persistent problems in the Division of Elections, but they could not legally postpone the canvass," the paper reported over the weekend. That, despite a news conference that Brakey and the other activists held late in the week to call for a new audit, using properly sealed ballots, "and focusing on contested supervisor races, of which there were three."
They have also called for the removal of the beleaguered, hot-headed and perhaps even criminal Nelson, after years of problems and obstructions from the Pima Election Director. According to the Daily Star, at least one of the Supervisors agrees it's time for Nelson to to be removed...
Pima County (Tucson), Arizona Election Integrity advocate and expert John Brakey was arrested last night while performing his job as an election supervisor, on behalf of both the Democratic and Libertarian parties, during a post-election hand-count audit of ballots.
Brakey becomes the latest in a growing string of EI advocates to be arrested and/or barred from observing (Brakey was lucky enough to merit both "honors" apparently) while attempting to assure accuracy, fairness, and transparency in voting and in the reporting of election results on behalf of citizens.
The problem erupted after Brakey had noticed a number of ballot bags being counted in the post-election audit were missing their proper security seals. He began to ask questions about those bags, which eventually led to his arrest at the demand of Pima County's Brad "Election Director Gone Wild" Nelson, a man with whom Brakey has had a number of unfortunate (for Nelson) run-ins over the years.
After news of his arrest, "the county elections building was swarming with television news crews," according to a report by Election Defense Alliance (EDA), of which Brakey is a member. Indeed, KGUN's video report on the incident is very good, as the Tucson media --- given Brakey's success in lawsuits and legislation over the years on behalf of voters --- has come to see him as a reliable source on such matters...
Arizona's election watchdog group, Audit AZ, went to the state Attorney General in its efforts to learn the truth about Pima County's 2006 RTA (Regional Transportation Authority) election. Attorney Bill Risner handed Arizona AG Terry Goddard a letter detailing the evidence suggesting that the RTA election was flipped. The clearly written letter is accompanied by dozens of documents as well as video links to depositions and testimony from the 2007 court case Risner won for the Pima County Democratic Party. As a result of that case, every political party in the county has access to Diebold's database files, recording how voters voted, from previous and future elections.
In May, 2007, on the heels of questions about the results of the '06 RTA election following polls and previous elections in which similar initiatives were rejected by voters, the Arizona Attorney General's office launched a criminal investigation into the RTA election. The software quality assurance firm, iBeta, was given computer databases to look over which indicated the vote counting might have been tampered with. Though iBeta saw instances of possible tampering, it decided they were simply the result of "human error." Using tortured logic, iBeta said the signs of possible tampering were evidence that there was actually no tampering, since anyone who knew how to manipulate the data would also know how to cover their computer tracks and leave no evidence behind.
Risner's letter explains how the direction of the AG's investigation was, incredibly, set by the suspects themselves, members of the Pima County Elections Division. Those officials, Risner details, purposely turned the investigation away from the very evidence which could have proven their guilt in manipulating the results.
Those very same officials are named in a startling new affidavit from a former county employee who recently came forward to allege he was told by a Pima County election official that they had "fixed" the RTA election...
The Pima County, Arizona, Diebold vote tabulation system was manipulated to "pass" a 2006 ballot initiative when, in fact, the measure was actually voted down, according to a startling new allegation revealed today by the election watchdog group Audit AZ.
The long-running election integrity battles in Pima flared up again this afternoon as an explosive affidavit from a former county official was released at a press conference held by the tenacious local organization. On the heels of several recent Audit AZ court victories, resulting in the unprecedented if long overdue release of mountains of previously "proprietary" Diebold election databases, today's presser was well attended by much of the local media.
The conference was held as news comes that the ballots for the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) election are set to be destroyed, according to a letter sent by the Pima County Treasurer to the Chair of the Pima County Democratic Party, Vince Rabago. The June 2008 letter, posted at the end of this article, says that Rabago has the right to request that the ballots not be destroyed, which would save them temporarily. Bill Risner, the lawyer for the successful suit to obtain copies of the county's election databases, said at the press conference that the State Attorney General needs to step in and not only demand that the ballots be saved but order that they be counted to see if the total agrees with the "official" numbers that came out of the election department's computer given the extraordinary new allegations.
The potentially explosive new piece of information introduced during the press conference was a sworn affidavit from Zbigniew Osmolski, a former Pima County employee, stating that Bryan Crane, the computer operator at the Pima County Elections Division, told him, during a conversation in a bar, that the RTA Election was "fixed...on the instructions of his bosses."
According to Osmolski's affidavit (posted in full at the end of this article):
During that conversation Bryan Crane told me he "fixed" the RTA, or Regional Transportation Authority election on the instructions of his bosses and he did what he was told to do. Mr. Crane expressed his concern about being indicted and said he would like to talk but couldn't trust anyone.
The affidavit is the latest in a series of red flags concerning the RTA election. Other red flags include: (1) This was a sales tax increase, the type of vote that usually fails, and it looked like it was going down in the days prior to the election; (2) The database on the vote counting computer was erased and replaced a day into the early ballot scanning; (3) Unauthorized vote total summary reports were printed during the counting; (4) A tape of the original ballot layout stored with the Secretary of State --- which could have indicated if the vote was flipped --- was sent back to the County, which lost it; (5) An investigation into the election completed by the Attorney General's office was cursory and inconclusive.
A video of the press conference is now available here...
The Osmolski affidavit and County Treasurer's letter concerning the impending destruction of the ballots from the RTA election follow below...
Last week we told you about the hard fought victory by the Pima County (Tucson), Arizona, Democrats to finally gain access to the Diebold databases which include the tallies of how folks voted in elections going all the way back to 1998.
The county had argued (on Diebold's behalf, natch) that the database files were both proprietary, and a security risk should they be released. The judge, finally, found that to be nonsense, and ordered the release of the files which the local Election Integrity advocates now hope to comb over for evidence of fraud and/or other malfeasance.
Now that they've got all the info, they're seeking a geek or two who may be able to help build a tool to make it a bit easier to go through the mountains of data they now finally have access to.
AZ's Libertarian Election Integrity champ Jim March, whose been working closely with the Dems, sends us the following "Help Wanted" ad, seeking a programmer to help 'em make sense of "the world's largest private collection of Diebold election data files anywhere." (Note: If someone could kindly Slashdot this item to maximize the number of coder geek eyeballs it gets in front of, it'd be much appreciated!)...
Good news for voters across American on Friday, as the judge in the Pima County, AZ, court case has finally agreed that citizens can try and see how citizens voted in elections, even if they are run by Diebold.
Via email from AZ Electon Integrity advocate Jim March...
Judge Miller's final decision came in this morning on the public records case filed by the Pima Democratic Party.In short:
All Diebold database files held in the trust's vault are to be released.These go back to 1998.
Database files in future elections are to be made available at the time of the final canvass.The judge appears to be suggesting that CD/DVDs or similar media with this material be prepared by the county for immediate release so that the material can affect challenges within the statutory five-day limit from the day of the canvass.
There is nothing in this order regarding the legal bills rung up by [plaintiff's] Attorney Bill Risner. However, given the now-absolute victory in this revised order (attacheded note:download here [PDF]) plus recent changes to AZ law supporting legal fees and costs where a government agency loses a public records suit, it seems very clear Mr. Risner is getting paid
Judge Michael Miller, in a carefully reasoned and balanced opinion, today ordered the release of the final Diebold GEMS tabulator database files from the contested 2006 Regional Transport Authority (RTA) election 2006 primary and general elections . The judge denied, without prejudice, full public access to every MDB and GBF database file for the 2006 elections in the possession of Pima County until and unless the plaintiffs can address remaining security concerns which might arise from that larger release.
[CORRECTION: Several correspondents point out correctly that the databases for the 2006 Primary and General elections have been released, but not those of the RTA election, which was a mid-year election. Sources near the case speculate that perhaps the judge believed that the RTA election may have been tampered with and did not want further controversy around the results of that election.]
The BRAD BLOG has been following this case closely because unsecured tabulation systems like GEMS are widely used in American elections and completely open to insider manipulation. For background and detailed commentary about the case see my 12/8/07 wrap-up post on the trial.
The immediate goal of the Democratic party --- to be able to look closer at the final election databases for the 2006 election --- is fully satisfied by the ruling. But the broader goal of being able to look at a time series of backups for discrepancies or discontinuities that could indicate manipulation, as Arizona Election Integrity advocates have feared, is stymied for the moment...
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...