Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Election Integrity -- Santa Cruz Co. lawsuit update

Three weeks ago, the Arizona Eagletarian reported that AUDIT-AZ and John Brakey had filed suit in Santa Cruz County to compel disclosure of elections department records.
Even though we don't have internet voting in Arizona, digital technology and computers are very much a part of the systems, processes and procedures we use. Brakey and others in AUDIT-AZ have been examining election systems for several years.
According to the Santa Cruz County lawsuit, elections officials didn't think they had to bother with AUDIT-AZ, considering them a distraction. But PITA or not, this kind of accountability is crucial to maintaining citizen confidence that all votes will be counted properly and transparently.
Last Wednesday, Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Pro-Tem Kimberly Corsaro began hearing the claims and evidence from both sides.
The dispute revolves around a July 9 request to see copies of vendor contracts, central tabulator directories, event logs, audit logs, folder list, and file allocation table used in the election computer system. In addition, they asked to check the network settings of the election system, which would be done by appointment with county staff.
As Corsaro clarified at the beginning of the hearing, the parties were there to argue whether the records should be released, not whether the county is guilty of any wrongdoing with regard to elections.
The hearing lasted five hours and included several unsuccessful motions by [Counsel for defendant Santa Cruz County John] Holman to dismiss the case, as well as the testimony of five witnesses for the plaintiffs and one for the county. It is slated to continue on Oct. 9 and Oct. 15.
[Plaintiffs' attorney Alexander] Kolodin argued that complying with the records request would not harm the election system’s integrity, nor would it give the group access to any personally identifiable information. In addition to the release of the records, the organization requested attorney fees, double damages and expenses.
His clients “tried to resolve the issue through explanation, rather than litigation,” Kolodin said in reference to efforts by the group in recent weeks to clarify their request.
Holman argued the county is “right to be cautious” about releasing records on the electronic voting systems.
“Society is at the mercy of computer programs,” he said, noting a recent announcement by hardware chain Home Depot that customers’ credit card information had been hacked.
Irony alert: of course society is at the mercy of computer programs. That's why it's critical to ensure the integrity of the computer systems and procedures involved in our elections.

Holman's excuse for refusing to release the public records is the very essence of the need to examine those records.

Not long after my initial post on this lawsuit, news emerged of a troubling discrepancy in the primary elections in Apache and Navajo Counties.
Some precincts in northern Arizona tallied more ballots cast than there are registered voters, the Arizona Capitol Times reported. According to officials, errors made by poll workers and elections officials in Apache and Navajo counties led to the miscalculations. Initial reports from some precincts showed a turnout of anywhere from 200 to 400 percent.
Before my post, election reporting system problems emerged in Cochise County.
SIERRA VISTA — The interim county elections director and two independent monitors of the elections office believe they may have narrowed down where things went wrong during Tuesday’s Primary Election, which resulted in erroneous data being added to the Secretary of State’s election results.
After the polls close, data is transferred electronically via modem from the ballot counting machines to the elections office. That data is then received and tabulated by an Election Systems & Software program, placed on a thumb drive, transferred from the thumb drive to a server, which then sends the data on to the state.
“Somehow, when the information on the server went to the state elections system, that number got corrupted,” said Jim Vlahovich, interim director of the Cochise County Elections Office.
Various checks are in place to ensure the data collected from the polls is accurate.
Or are those checks in place? Of course, elections officials will TELL you the checks are in place. But are outside experts ever allowed to examine those checks to provide independent verification of the government claims? Well, in Santa Cruz County they are doing their level best to prevent that independent verification.

Then you have the Associated Press report -- on the Apache and Navajo County problems -- where Secretary of State Ken Bennett's right hand man,
Assistant Secretary of State Jim Drake said it appears the errors didn't cause any significant problems.
"They're all the same races — nobody voted in a race that they weren't entitled to, but we're probably going to look at consolidating them in the general election," Drake said.
Both counties are in the state's 1st Congressional District, which was hotly contested in the GOP primary. Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin narrowly edged out Gary Kiehne, who conceded the race last week. Chris Baker, a political consultant who worked with Kiehne, said he didn't think the extremely high figures indicated any suspicious activity.
Andy Toxin, er... Tobin, bested Gary Kiehne by a mere 407 votes (Tobin 18,814 to Kiehne 18,407) and the Arizona Secretary of State's office says it's no big deal.

By the way, that's the same Jim Drake who posted on the legislature's Request to Speak system in January 2014, regarding the repeal of the Voter Suppression Act,
''There are some great ideas in last session's HB2305. Through testimony last year, we clearly demonstrated that campaigns picking up ballots had engaged in fraud by telling voters they were from the Maricopa County Elections department. Unfortunately, on the cusp of sine die, perhaps too many measures were rolled into one. We are supportive of the repeal."
What does this all mean? First, it means that Ken Bennett is now ON RECORD as supporting VOTER SUPPRESSION.
Another concern with county elections systems popped up when Democratic candidate for the LD13 Arizona Senate seat was initially denied Clean Elections funding because Maricopa County Elections officials incorrectly declared EIGHT of her $5 qualifying contributions to be invalid based on comparison with voter registration records.

In challenging that finding, Terri Woodmansee's campaign demonstrated that those eight voters were indeed properly registered in Maricopa County. Had Woodmansee not challenged, she would have been denied $22,800 in funding for her challenge to Don "Shoot 'em up" Shooter. Currently head of the Senate Appropriations committee, in 2013 Shooter made news when he threatened his grandson's teacher, and currently ranks number one among the 90 members of the Arizona Legislature in accepting gifts from those seeking to influence how he votes.

Taken as a whole, all of this means Arizona's got a LONG way to go before we can be assured that the integrity of our election systems and procedures are safe from intentional and unintentional irregularities. And it underscores the necessity for AUDIT-AZ to be aggressive in pushing to eliminate weaknesses in election systems in every Arizona county.

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