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A Courtroom Report as Pima County Democrats Seek Public Records Access to Diebold Election Databases
By Michael Bryan on 12/5/2007 8:19am PT  

Special to The BRAD BLOG by Michael Bryan from the courtroom in Tucson, AZ...

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.

Full summaries of the opening statements of the plaintiff's attorney Bill Risner and Pima County Deputy County Attorney Christopher Straub are available on BlogForArizona.com and they lay out the positions of the litigants.

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 Certainly no tortured interpretation of outdated language regarding computer technology from a statute written in the 1980s should be allowed to deny the people access to their election data, only a clear and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...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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The Pima County Democratic Party sues Pima county for public records access to election databases
PLUS FLASHBACK VIDEO: Pima's Election Director, Brad Nelson, Gone Wild on Video Tape...
By Michael Bryan on 12/4/2007 8:07am PT  

Guest Blogged by Michael Bryan

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.

For more background information about the software and the issues behind the trial, please see my post, Pima County Election Integrity Blues, or my introduction to the trial, both on BlogForArizona.com.

You may also wish to see Steve Rosenfeld's excellent report yesterday at Alternet, offering more specific details on what is at stake here.

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.

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Brad Speaking tonight to Pima County, AZ Dems...
By Brad Friedman on 2/7/2007 11:14am PT  

I'll be speaking tonight to the Pima County Democratic Club at 6:30pm. If you're in the Tucson 'hood, please stop on by!

It's at the Pima County Dem Headquarters:
4639 E. 1st St. (1 blk S. of Speedway & Swan), Tucson AZ
More details here...

NOTE TO PIMA COUNTY REPUBLICANS: I'll be in the area for a few more days, and if you'd like me to come and speak to your folks about Election Integrity, I'd be delighted to! Certainly you're also concerned about same, right?

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By John Gideon on 7/30/2006 8:07pm PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon

Today the Arizona Daily Star printed their awaited opinion piece that has three members of the county government responding to questions that were compiled by the paper's staff from their readers' responses to the paper's ill-researched editorial of earlier in the week.

Responding to the Letter To The Editor comments and questions were County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, who allowed the county to spend over a million dollars to buy new Diebold TSx machines. Also responding are Elections Director Brad Nelson and John H. Moffatt, of the county's Office of Strategic Technology Planning. Both are proponents of the Diebold TSx. And, by the way the questions/concerns were answered, both seem willing to do nearly anything to ensure Diebold gets the Pima Co. taxpayers' money...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Pima County Election Director Brad Nelson Is Sorry...
Local TV News Covers Tirade, New Diebold Touch-Screen Voting Machine Controversy in State
By Brad Friedman on 3/17/2006 3:54pm PT  

Tuscon Arizona's local NBC TV news affiliate ran a story Wednesday night on the raging controversy across the state concerning Sec. of State Jan Brewer's recent agreement to allow hackable Diebold touch-screen voting machines into the state.

Their report (linked below) included a snippet of the video that The BRAD BLOG ran as an Exclusive at the end of February featuring Pima County, AZ Election Director, Brad Nelson freaking out and verbally assaulting Election Integrity Advocate, John Brakey --- on video --- during a public local precinct council meeting.

Nelson, the station reports, has apparently apologized for his tirade. Brakey is also interviewed in the new report on Pima County being "pushed into a national controversy."

Their coverage of "both sides" of the story led last Wednesday's 6 O'Clock newscast in Tuscon.

MORAL: Always bring a video camera (or audio recording device) when meeting public Elections Officials. They often don't fare well under the harsh light of actual public scrutiny, and footage of such encounters may help your local TV affiliate suddenly become interested in reporting on the story.

Report on AZ's Diebold Touch-Screen Voting Machine Controversy:

-- Video in Streaming Flash format...
-- Windows Media Player Version...

-- Our original Video Exclusive story, featuring Nelson's full tirade is here.

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Pima County Election Director Brad Nelson Launches Outburst Towards Election Reform Advocate in Response to Question About New Touch-Screen Voting Machines
Letter Calls for Censure of Official as Onlookers Stunned by Encounter, Feared Violence Would Break Out...
By Brad Friedman on 2/27/2006 10:57am PT  

The battle between Election Officials and Election Integrity Advocates has been simmering and intensifying for some time. Last week, in Arizona, one such confrontation boiled over briefly into an outburst at a public meeting which was documented on video tape. In what could be a preview for the Electoral Integrity fight still to come, Pima County, Arizona's Election Director Brad Nelson went into a short tirade last Tuesday as the video camera rolled during a local Democratic precinct council meeting in the state's 26th Legislative District.

The BRAD BLOG has obtained the exclusive video of the event which reveals the Republican Nelson flying off the handle and shouting as he confronts Election Integrity Advocate, John Brakey, "nose to nose" during a question about Diebold's DRE (touch-screen) voting machines. Before Brakey was able to get to his main question concerning Nelson's plans for Logic and Accuracy testing on the machines, he was interupted by Nelson's outburst over whether or not he had, in fact, signed a contract for use of the new voting machines in the county.

Diebold's hackable touch-screen machines have been recently approved for first-time use in the state by Arizona's Secretary of State Jan Brewer.

Ironically enough --- especially in light of this new video --- Brewer herself recently referred to election integrity advocates as "anarchists" in an interview with the Arizona Star after demonstrators concerned about Diebold interrupted her re-election campaign announcement just after the first of this year.

While Nelson's confrontational rant was just short of anarchic, it certainly sent a shockwave of concern throughout the room of stunned onlookers.

One of the witnesses present, Rev. Gerry Straatemeier, described the "intimidating behavior" displayed in the incident as "completely out of line for a public official". Straatemeier was so troubled by the display that she sent an open letter to the Pima County Board of Supervisors calling for Nelson to be censured for the behavior. In the letter (posted in full at the end of this item, along with a text transcript of the event) Straatemeier says, "I really thought he was going to land a blow on Mr. Brakey and I was scared to death."

In the video, Nelson charges towards the camera at one point --- which Brakey was standing near --- coming so close that it's impossible to see anything but his chest in full camera's full frame.

Straatemeier, in her letter, suggests the tirade was an attempt to intimidate Brakey --- and other election integrity advocates --- from further inquiry into the controversial Diebold touch-screen voting equipment now coming into Arizona despite a Dept. of Homeland Security warning that their tabulator software is hackable, a non-partisan GAO report confirming the failures and loss of ballots via electronic voting, and a recent independent analysis [PDF] commissioned by the Sec. of State of California which warns about the hackable "interpreted code" used in Diebold voting machines despite a ban on such code by the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) guidelines.

As we reported in May of last year, Brakey has for some time been closely investigating a number of troubling anomalies in recent Arizona elections. His intensive work auditing his own precinct in Pima County, where he says evidence suggest fraud occurred in the 2004 election, was covered in detail last year by The Tuscon Weekly. That work has brought him in contact many times in the past with Nelson --- without incident apparently, until last week.

Last Tuesday, as the following video shows, the simmering frustration and growing anger roiling up between many Election Officials and Election Reformers, has finally begun to make its way to the surface and into the public eye...


Additional versions of the video...
-- Video in Streaming Flash format...
-- Video in Windows Media format...

===
UPDATE 3/17/06: Tuscon's local NBC affiliate runs a report including this video, Nelson says he is sorry for the outburts. Full report here...
===

A complete text transcript of the incident, and a copy of Straatemeier's open letter to the Pima County Board of Supervisors calling for censure of Nelson follows...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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