Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Arizona Voters Sue Secretary of State Ken Bennett Over Barber/McSally Congressional Bid

J.T. Waldron

A definitive outcome of Arizona's District Two congressional race between Democrat Ron Barber and Republican Martha McSally will now depend on the Arizona Supreme Court's decision to allow a tabulation system that is accurate enough to handle the task. Citizens from a variety of political affiliations have filed a lawsuit on the first of December against Secretary of State Ken Bennett because he intends to perform a recount with the same elections systems that have a margin of error exceeding McSally's 161 vote lead over Barber. The Defendant intends to proceed with another problematic count despite Arizona state law requiring that a different program be used for the recount.

AZSOS Ken Bennett
Bennett's erroneous path was revealed on November 25th in Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry's memo shooting down the unanimous decision by his own Elections Integrity Commission (PCEIC) to recommend the use of a more accurate system for counting the ballots. The PCEIC proposed a full hand-count of the paper ballots or no-error graphic scans of the ballots as the only viable means to remove any doubt about who wins the nationally publicized Barber/McSally race. In response to the Arizona statute referring to the use of a different program for any recounts, Huckelberry states:
"We have shared the EIC memorandum with the Arizona State Election Director Christina Estes-Werther and Deputy Election Director Kris Kingsmore. They have assured us the use of a different 'program' for a the recount means only that the tabulation program will be reset to count just the CD2 race and the program as changed will be subject to a new round of logic and accuracy testing by both the Secretary of State and the County. They said it is important to use the same equipment that was used in the General Election to ensure the ballots are treated exactly the same. A statewide recount of a ballot proposition in 2010 and a recount in a Congressional District primary in 2012 were both successfully conducted in this manner by Secretary of State."
In other words, Huckelberry attempts to confuse the public by mimicking the same flawed rationale coming from the Secretary of State's office. They might as well be explaining how a law requiring that a truck be weighed again on a different scale does not really mean 'taking the truck to another scale'. Bennett's crew instead suggests that 'different scale' means that the same scale be 'zeroed' before the weight is measured a second time by that same faulty scale. Since Pima County Elections have previously undermined attempts by the PCEIC to check results with a meaningful hand-count audit, there is no effective means to identify what Huckelberry claims as a "successfully conducted" recount.

The typically divided PCEIC's unanimous request is an anomaly. So is the ideologically diverse list of plaintiffs calling for a truly adequate recount as prescribed by the law. The list includes "Desert Speaks" Host David Yetman, who served ten years on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, former Democratic State Senator Ted Downing who is now a U of A professor, former Tucson Republican Mayoral Candidate Shaun McClusky, former Green Party Candidate for Pima County Sheriff David Croteau, Bisbee writer David Morgan and former Chair of the Democratic Party's Election Integrity Commission Sandra Spangler who co-founded AUDIT-AZ with fellow plaintiff Arlene Leaf, the uncompromising elections activist who co-produced the movie "Fatally Flawed". The plaintiffs hired Attorney Bill Risner, who filed the suit yesterday in Tucson.

Bill Risner's work in election integrity includes the paramount legal victory by the Democratic party against Pima County for electronic elections data in 2007 yielding the largest release of electronic elections data in U.S. history. His appellate court victory for the Libertarian party allowing prospective relief in the Courts ultimately revealed a judicial conflict of interest as it was overturned.  Risner's continued unfulfilled quest for justice in Pima County's 2006 RTA election fraud required the State Attorney General to manage the obvious cover-up for all to see in the movie, "Fatally Flawed". Ironically, his work is the foundation for an electorate now ready to move to a more accurate, easily verifiable means introduced by the PCEIC.

In this case, the plaintiffs only had time for a "Special Action Petition for a Writ of Mandamus" asking that "the court order the Secretary of State to require that a recount be conducted with a separate program as requested by plaintiffs and required by our Legislature."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Close Congressional Race Between Barber and McSally Presents an Opportunity to Verify with a More Transparent Optical Ballot Scanning System

J.T. Waldron

The Arizona U.S. Congressional race between Democrat Ron Barber and Republican Martha McSally was alleged by the Pima County Elections Department to be such a close contest that they require a recount to determine the winner. Martha McSally's slim margin of 161 votes over incumbent Ron Barber falls within Arizona's "one tenth of one percent" rule that requires a recount after the state canvass. Despite one provision of the law calling for a different program, recounts are typically performed with the same machines that may have an estimated margin of error of over 0.13% or 250 votes. The most convenient, compliant means for confirming an election this close is through optical scanning of ballots as demonstrated in Humbolt County and with the more refined "Clear Ballot" system.  Clear Ballot takes photographic scans of each of the ballots, reads the ballots and separates them into precincts with a level of speed, accuracy and flexibility that has never been matched by any of the current voting systems.

Mickey Duniho, a former NSA analyst and member of Pima County's Election Integrity Commission, describes the problem with Diebold scanners used by Pima County:
Using Pima County’s 2012 Presidential Primary percentage as a guide, today’s scanners may have missed as many as 250 intended votes, almost double the number separating Barber and McSally in the original count. If you rescan the same ballots with the same scanners, you are liable to get different totals with every scan simply because of the technological imprecision of the scanners.
What was the cause of this 250 vote margin of error in 2012? In Pima County's elections system, voters use a black felt tip pen to fill in the ovals on a paper ballot to indicate their preferences. Diebold scanners recognize an actual mark inside an oval only if it contains what that particular scanner determines as a sufficient mark. Crosses, checks, center dots and any other effort by the voter to mark an oval may be interpreted as blank if the voter misses a portion of the white inside the oval.

Diebold's count is further hampered by stray marks or smudges errantly interpreted as another mark when the stray ink hits another oval. Pima County's Diebold machines are calibrated on a regular basis to provide some control over how these marks are interpreted. Unfortunately, the percentage of blank votes appears to be increasing over each election since 2004. Close elections like the Barber/McSally race turns this margin of error into a 'margin of disenfranchisement'.

Bev Harris, author of Black Box Voting, recalls the birth of our current electoral quagmire:
Vendors and lobbyists leveraged the Florida fiasco to persuade well-meaning legislators to enact a sweeping election reform bill, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), creating a gold rush to purchase new voting systems, under tight deadlines, using federal money. Vendors did not disclose to lawmakers that their optical-scan systems and touch screens had a history of glitches, bugs and miscounts, and because their computer code was kept secret and proprietary, even U.S. senators and representatives could not know about security flaws or learn just how broken the “certification and testing” system really is.
Once this federal mandate was implemented, nationwide oversight has been abandoned as all the seats in the U.S. Election Assistance Commission remain vacant. Victoria Collier, the editor of votescam.org, describes the current electoral landscape as "a vast patchwork of electoral fiefdoms where laws, procedures and private-vendor technology change from state to state; even from county to county."

In the fiefdom of Pima County, effective verification is consistently undermined. In 2006, Arizona's hand count audit law saw its proposed sample size reduced to a mere one percent of early ballots thanks in part to the lobbying efforts of Pima County Elections Director Brad Nelson. In 2010, Nelson circumvented Pima County's Election Integrity Commission (PCEIC) by requesting that the Secretary of State waive his requirement for Pima County to presort early ballots by precinct before they are audited. Millions of taxpayer dollars were spent by the county in an effort to prevent election transparency. The video below explains some of the concerns that PCEIC members Mickey Duniho and Jim March had about lack of substantive auditing procedures for Pima County's elections.



Ironically, a hand count audit contradicting the official tally has no bearing on the election.

According to the tallies provided by opensecrets.org and the New York Times, over sixteen million dollars have been spent on the Barber/McSally race exceeding the cost of $70.00 per vote.
Incumbent Ron Barber's campaign asked the Pima County Board of Supervisors (PCBOS) to delay canvassing over concerns of rejected ballots, poll workers sending voters to errant polling places and at least 132 ballots thrown out due to mistakes by election officials. Pima's board supervisors have rejected far worse conditions in the past so Barber's team shouldn't be too surprised at their refusal to postpone this election's approval.

Both candidates should recognize why the winner of their nationally publicized, highly contested bid for Congress cannot be determined with certainty by the Pima County Elections Department.

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett has the unique opportunity to preside over the inevitable advancement in elections technology by confirming the result of this congressional race. We would like to name Bennett among forward thinkers like Secretary of State Jim Condos in Vermont who is now using the new scanning technology developed by Clear Ballot. Condos, who recognizes that random audits are "an integral part of performing checks and balances of our voting system" provides substance to his claim "as Vermont's Chief Election Officer, I take this duty very seriously".

Arizona Revised Statute Section 16-664(A) seems to provide for Bennett to follow suite:
In the event of a court-ordered recount of votes that were cast and tabulated on electronic voting equipment for a state primary, state general or state special election, the secretary of state shall order the ballots recounted on an automatic tabulating system to be furnished and programmed under the supervision of the secretary of state.
Subsection (C) allows Bennett to use a different program:
The programs to be used in the recount of votes pursuant to this section shall differ from the programs prescribed by section 16-445 and used in the initial tabulation of the votes.
In 2009, Clear Ballot founder Larry Moore visited Tucson to talk about the level of transparency graphic ballot scanning could bring to the elections process. Here he met Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who attended his presentation at a meeting with the PCEIC. The video below shows Moore providing a brief presentation of what he learned from Humbolt County before his departing flight.


While Pima County was skirting a proper hand count audit in 2012, Larry Moore introduced his brand of election verification technology to a welcoming district in Florida. Here is a presentation by a local Fox affiliate.


Ushering in the new year with mid-term elections, Moore's development of Clear Ballot and its presentation finds larger audiences through talks like "TEDx".


For the first time in Arizona, a congressional race seems numerically impossible to resolve through our deficient tabulation systems. Ron Barber, Martha McSally and the Secretary of State have an opportunity to ensure the legitimacy of this recount by introducing a technology capable of the transparency so thoroughly eroded since the 2000 presidential election.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Santa Cruz County Elections Director Violates State Law by Refusing Libertarian Party Observers at the Polls


Twelve days earlier, Santa Cruz Elections Director and Board Clerk Melinda Meek (left) and
Supervisor John Maynard (right)  beat a hasty retreat as John Brakey (center) attempts to reassure
them that elections transparency is preferred over continued litigation.  Video available here.
J.T. Waldron

With only days away from the November 4th general election, Santa Cruz County Elections Director
Melinda Meek has refused elections observers appointed by the Libertarian party. To justify this exclusion, she provided the Libertarian party chair with a selective interpretation of state law placing the weight of party recognition onto the county itself instead of the Secretary of State. In her letter to Warren Severin, the Chairman of the Arizona Libertarian party, Meek wrote,
The Libertarian Party is not a recognized party in Santa Cruz County.  Only recognized parties through the  local party Chair have the authority to appoint official party observers. Therefore, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes and the State of Arizona Elections Procedures Manual, you do not have the authority to appoint an official party observer for the 2014 General Election.
Meek ignores Arizona Revised Statute Section 16-804 (C) which clarifies;
The secretary of state shall determine the political parties qualified for continued representation on the state ballot pursuant to this section by February 1 of the appropriate year. Each county recorder shall furnish to the secretary of state such information as the secretary of state may require no later than October 31 of the preceding year.
Santa Cruz has 130 active Libertarian voters in Santa Cruz, local Libertarian candidates running for the Board of Supervisors, and a Gubernatorial Libertarian Candidate Barry Hess on the statewide ballot. According to the Secretary of State's document "Continued Representation of Political Parties for 2014 Election Cycle", the Libertarian party has received enough votes to qualify for continued representation. That is why Barry Hess is on the ballot.

John Brakey, the founder of Americans United for Democracy, Integrity, and Transparency in Elections, Arizona (AUDITAZ), was requested as an elections observer by the gubernatorial Libertarian candidate. He was one of the Planiffs that recently won the election records lawsuit against Santa Cruz County. This suit revealed that, contrary to Melinda Meek's testimony under oath, programming of the database files appears to have been done by someone who's retrofitted the same database for five other counties in Arizona. The suit also revealed that someone inside of Meek's elections department generated summary reports. Premature peeking into election results is a class 6 felony under A.R.S. Sec. 16-551 (C).

Local Santa Cruz candidate Jack Scholnick has also nominated John Brakey as an election observer, but his request only allows his name to be entered into a lottery for the prospect of observing this election. When serving as an observer, Brakey is a bit more inquisitive than those we have caught snoozing on video in Maricopa county. Soon we'll have to find observers to oversee the lottery that picks the observers.

Meek seems to have adopted a tactic similar to Pima County. Provide the initial appearance of cooperation before last minute maneuvers skirt transparency on the cusp of election day. Citizens' objectives appear to be managed by the careful timing that precludes any legal remedy prior to the elections process.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Curious Business of William E. Doyle

J.T. Waldron

In the past eight years of litigation over election transparency in Arizona, William E. Doye's name has appeared only twice in court transcripts but Doyle and his company "Election Operations Services" play an unsettling role in most elections throughout the state.  Doyle's career in public service appears to have begun with the earliest public record connecting him to elections in Arizona as Deputy Recorder for Maricopa County in 1976.  His formation of a limited liability corporation to assist with elections a decade later mirrors the eventual privatization of key functions in the electoral process throughout the nation.
Picture with text courtesy of the Kingman Daily Miner-Wednesday, Feb. 27, 1991
Proficient in accommodating new technology, Doyle was firmly established as an authority for evolving use of punchcards in the late nineties and "Elections Operations Services" was a name for a handy source of consultation and problem solving for election workers. In Kingman, Arizona, Doyle was tapped to conduct a recount of a city council election that had a margin of two votes. The local Kingman Daily Miner reports:
"The recount will be done with a different computer, which Doyle will program before the punch-card ballots are processed."
In 2002, the year the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was passed into law ushering in our new found era of black box voting, Doyle decided to change his limited liability corporation to a sole proprietorship. Sole proprietors, incidentally, only have to divulge their earnings to the IRS but not to the public. Still, some remnants in the public archives enable us to grasp the size of these contracts along with the exorbitant profits they must yield. Various sites, articles and municipal public records indicate close to $900,000 worth of business in Mohave County alone with the highest individual contract at over $112,000. Records won in litigation for the latest primary election in Santa Cruz drew our attention to William Doyle through the discovery of one invoice billing over $30,000 for the printing of ballots, which is another function provided by Elections Operations Services. The common perception among those following elections is that Runbeck Graphics prints the official ballots for elections in Arizona. Runbeck devotes a webpage (Runbeck Election Services) to describe their advanced facilities and services, but "it also works with a pool of subcontractors that add local production capabilities."

Two years ago, Pinal County awarded Doyle with a $425,000 contract to print election ballots. The county described their process for determining the award:
"Two responses to PC-120517 were received. Runbeck Election Services, Inc. submitted a "No-bid" letter as a response. As a "No-bid" is still a bid response, the bid submitted by Elections Operations Services is determined to be the lowest responsive bid. Elections Operations Services is responsible and the pricing submitted is fair and reasonable based upon previous/current contract pricing.
Try to imagine why a company so well equipped would turn away almost half a million dollars of business in such a finite market. Why would they bother going through the motion so the county can pretend to have a competitive bidding process? Perhaps Doyle is a member of that "pool of subcontractors".

Three years ago in Gila County, a Board Supervisor insisted that her lesser qualified secretary (Linda Eastlick) replace Dixie Mundy as the new Elections Director. The Rim County Gazette reported the consequences:
"The county has also contracted William Doyle with Elections Operations Services to do much of the election director's job through 2012. The county will pay $225,000 for his services, performing the same duties listed in the job description for the election director, a position that pays $51,000 a year. This means one consultant was hired to teach Eastlick the job, and now another is being paid a quarter million dollars to do the job."
Taxpayer dollars paid into this one vendor may rival the sum squandered by Pima County to avoid meaningful scrutiny of the 2006 RTA ballots. What's more distressing than monetary cost is the unique position and opportunity vendors like Elections Operations Services have in an election. Ironically, Dixie Mundy revealed this circumstance as she testified on behalf of Pima County in its effort to legally skirt the public records request brought by suspicion surrounding that 2006 RTA election. In the video below, she describes how Doyle programs and transmits the databases to Gila County's elections computer through a telephone modem.


Stephen Spoonamore, a key expert I.T. witness for the 'man-in-the-middle' attack of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio, provides an excellent account of how a once trusted elections vendor Smart Tech was provided an opportunity to compromise the election.

 

Author Marta Steele writes about similar 'man-in-the-middle structures' in other swing states like Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico in her book, "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Rise and Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, 2000-2008".

Unlike L.L.C.'s, sole proprietors can plead the 5th amendment and decline to give self incriminating information.  How sinister is this seemingly helpful vendor now entwined in the electronic voting process for most of the Arizona voting districts? It probably doesn't matter. Transparent,verifiable elections are an inconceivable notion when a vendor has this kind of access and secrecy.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

FATALLY FLAWED Reviewed by Marta Steele on OPED News



"I've been an activist all my life . . . but I've never done anything more important than what I've done now" (John Brakey)

"Every data point assured that the election was rigged" (Bill Risner)

"This is a third-world standard of justice" (Jim March)

J. T. Waldron's 2009 documentary Fatally Flawed: The Problems Are Inside, The Solutions Are Outside is (I can't say it better) "not only a character driven cinema verite but a moving journey of triumph and heartache in the face of monolithic government opposition." 
Ultimately, the Democrats succeeded in gaining the release of all of the election 2006 databases--the largest release of such files in U.S. history up until that time. But unfortunately this is hardly the end of the story.


Set in Pima County, Arizona, it begins innocuously enough with a situation posited for a primary election referendum: In Tucson, Grant Road, a six-lane highway, narrows down to a four-lane highway, causing a bottleneck. The six-lane width needs to continue beyond this point to improve traffic flow, from Swann Road to Oracle Road. This process will involve gutting homes and businesses. At least one nearby neighborhood association is understandably worried. There is no thought about their plight as the project moves forward; it's "Get them out of the way and then we'll make it better," says one local resident.  [Click here to read more]