Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, September 8, 2014

Election Integrity -- Santa Cruz County, AZ

Two days after the statewide primary election, I blogged about participating in the Maricopa County hand-count audit of ballots. I learned that evening that election integrity activist John Brakey along with several other plaintiffs would soon file a public records disclosure lawsuit in the Superior Court for Santa Cruz County seeking access to documents to assess its election integrity systems.

That lawsuit was filed on September 5 and can be viewed at this link.

Brakey's co-plaintiffs include AUDIT-AZ (Americans United for Democracy Integrity and Transparency in Elections), an unincorporated association, and several individuals including members and candidates standing for election for the Nogales, AZ city council.

Brakey and other AUDIT-AZ activists pushed for legislation passed in 2006 to add Section 16-602 to Arizona Revised Statutes to require the hand-count audit.

Hand counts are only one important tool for ensuring integrity of election processes. According to Michigan Professor J. Alex Halderman, quoted in a post at Freedom to Tinker on digital technologies to foster civic engagement, specifically about online voter registration,
CITP Fellow J. Alex Halderman, in an interview with the National Conference of State Legislatures earlier in 2013 recommended, “ensuring that security experts are consulted during design [of an on-line registration system], adequate security testing is undertaken before the system goes live, and ongoing monitoring for threat detection efforts [takes place] while the system is being operated.”    
One of Halderman's "claims to fame" is in having hacked an internet voting system in 2010 the District of Columbia was testing that "would give overseas and military voters a way to download and submit absentee ballots online."

Besides teaching a MOOC on Securing Digital Democracy, Halderman is scheduled to present, with colleagues, a paper -- Security Analysis of the Estonian Internet Voting System -- to a conference on computer and communications security in Scottsdale the first week of November. The abstract for that paper:
Estonia was the first country in the world to use Internet voting nationally, and today more than 30% of its ballots are cast online. In this paper, we analyze the security of the Estonian I-voting system based on a combination of in-person election observation, code review, and adversarial testing. Adopting a threat model that considers the advanced threats faced by a national election system—including dishonest insiders and state-sponsored attacks—we find that the I-voting system has serious architectural limitations and procedural gaps that potentially jeopardize the integrity of elections. In experimental attacks on a reproduction of the system, we demonstrate how such attackers could target the election servers or voters’ clients to alter election results or undermine the legitimacy of the system. Our findings illustrate the practical obstacles to Internet voting in the modern world, and they carry lessons for Estonia, for other countries considering adopting such systems, and for the security research community.
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.

In Maricopa County, the fourth largest in population in the country, they make mistakes. With the minute data that must be kept free from error and confusion, mistakes happen even with the best of intentions and proper diligence. In the most high profile problem this year, a potential resolution to the Peoria City Council election situation has been worked out to hold the cancelled primary election on November 4 along with the general election. If no candidate emerges with 50 percent plus one vote, a runoff election will be held in March 2015.

In 2012, Maricopa County published the wrong date for the general election in Spanish language printed material it distributed. Last month, I had to contact MC elections to get them to correct the location for my precinct's polling place on their internet listing. 

So, along with the candidate campaign related and issue (ballot measure) posts that I may publish in the next two months or so, I intend to keep my ear to the ground for developments in this litigation.

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