Diebold's GEMS Tabulator Files, Containing Data from '06 Election, Ordered Released to Democratic Party Experts for Scrutiny, Possible Release to Full Public
Decision Seen as Important Victory for Election Integrity Advocates...
By Michael Bryan on 12/18/2007, 4:14pm PT  

Pimacountyaz_dieboldGuest Blogged by Michael Bryan, Esq.

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.]

[UPDATE: For a detailed analysis of the judge's ruling see my post on BlogForArizona.com.]

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...

It is still unclear whether the judge will grant on-going injunctive relief to turn over the final database files from every election going forward. The denial of access to the entire series of database files indicates that the court may still need to be satisfied as to any remaining concerns about security resulting from on-going and multiple disclosures of this type of data before granting such an injunction.

The ruling will allow the Democratic party to perform the forensic analysis required to search for any evidence of wrong-doing. It will also allow the experts for the Democratic party to begin to more closely address the unquantified and unspecified "potential security threats" from public disclosure of the data --- consisting of how voters voted --- contained in these files, as claimed by the County. The immediate limited access granted by the court will be crucial in satisfying the court that there is little or no practical threat to elections integrity posed by this information being in the public domain. Once that task is complete, broader public access to these files (the entire backup history of the election and that of future elections) can be secured.

There is no doubt that the factual findings of the court and this ruling amount to a resounding and unqualified victory for transparency in our elections process. However, there are further battles that must be fought: to access the entire time-series of backup database files, and to gain permanent injunctive access to the files of future elections without having to litigate each time.

It remains unknown whether Pima County will appeal the limited release of data that the court has ordered.

Judge Miller's complete ruling is now available here [PDF].