Distilling Election Transparency From AZ Secretary's Strange Brew

She's some kind of demon messing in the glue.
If you don't watch out it'll stick to you.
To you.
What kind of fool are you?

-- "Strange Brew," Eric Clapton

One day after the Pima County Board of Supervisors dropped their opposition to a court order resulting in the largest release of election database records in US history, Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer responded with a widely-distributed press release and 11-page letter excoriating Pima County's model reforms in election transparency and security.

John Brakey and Jim March, the investigators and organizers who led the three-year campaign to reform Pima County's election system, here respond with a press release and an extended point by point rebuttal distilling the clear distinctions between real election security and transparency, and the illusory kind that Brewer proffers.

Included Below:

* AZ Transparency Project Press Release June 12, 2008 in response to Sec. Brewer's statewide June 5 press release

* Full-length Report, "Brewing Trouble" rebutting Sec. Brewer's 11-page letter opposing Pima County election reforms

* Secretary Brewer's June 5 2008 Press Release

* Sec. Brewer's "Security Letter " to Pima County

For Immediate Release June 12th 2008
John R. Brakey, AUDIT-AZ (520) 250-2360
Jim March, BlackBoxVoting.org, 916-370-0347

Brewing Up Election Trouble:
Local And Nationally Known Activists Respond To Secretary Of State Jan Brewer’s 11-Page Letter

On 6/6/08 Arizona Secretary of State (SOS) Jan Brewer wrote an 11 page letter outlining objections to the election integrity process in Pima County. The letter followed a June 4th vote by the Pima County Board of Supervisors not to appeal a court decision establishing that computerized election databases are public records that must be released to political parties according to state law after each election.

Beginning in 2004, Pima County citizen election integrity advocates working with and within the Pima County Democratic Party were able to cooperate with the county government to achieve significantly improved election transparency and security measures that make Pima County a model for fair elections in the state and nation. With the lawsuit over, that cooperation is now picking back up.

Brewer is intent on blocking this progress. Her press release and letter reprimanding county officials (see links at the end of this document) make clear her objections to any current and future security measures. The letter is filled with misstatements and inaccuracies that echo talking points by voting machine vendors.

Brewer maintains that most of the increased election security procedures created by Pima County in cooperation are superfluous, since the state’s “statutory and procedural security, educational and accountability requirements” assure fair and honest elections.

Her assertions don’t stand up to scrutiny.

• Brewer maintains that voting equipment is vigorously tested and certified at the federal and state levels. The state’s testing and certification process amounts to little more than an ineffective “kicking the tires” of the voting equipment. The state does no “red team” type security analysis, in which qualified security professionals take a complete voting system and, acting as both voters and elections staff in separate scenarios, attempt to subvert a test election. When “red team” testing was performed in California, every voting system failed miserably.

• Brewer objects to the disabling of modems that could allow outside tampering to anyone who knows the phone number.

• Brewer maintains that touch screen voting machines help disabled voters. Diebold and other providers of touch screen machines have long used the ploy of helping disabled voters to get their machines into polling places, while providing seriously substandard access. Brewer’s view of “accessibility” involves twisting disabled grandmothers into pretzels as shown.

• Brewer adamantly opposes the county’s proposal to graphically scan ballots and upload them to the Internet. Brewer vastly exaggerates the cost of this “security patch” which would cost under $150,000 in Pima County. This security measure was recommended by election integrity advocates working with the Pima Democrats as a check on Diebold products, declared “fatally flawed” along with every other Brewer-approved system in open court by Pima County’s own experts. Brewer has no trouble with spending $3 million to $6 million to replace the Diebold equipment with another vendor’s garbage, making her objections based on cost ring hollow.

The Need for Election Transparency

The concerns above and many more raised by Secretary of State Jan Brewer’s letter are discussed in greater detail in the document linked below, but the point is clear. Brewer’s thinking does not include the concept of election transparency, where every phase of the election is open to the legally proscribed oversight by Arizona’s political parties. She apparently believes the voters should trust the state and counties to conduct fair elections. The Pima County Democratic and Libertarian Parties and Pima County’s officials are working together to create a transparent secure system – those are not opposites, they are hand-in-hand partners to a truly Democratic process.

The continuing efforts by Secretary of State Jan Brewer to impede our progress and to keep the process of counting votes a hidden and mysterious process makes us question her commitment to fair elections in Arizona.

Read Our Full-length, Point-by-point Rebuttal, Brewing Trouble

Secretary Brewer’s June 5 Press Release

Secretary Brewer’s June 5 11-page letter to Pima County:

Text of Secretary Brewer's June 5 Statewide Press Release


For Immediate Release June 5, 2008

For more information, contact Kevin Tyne at (602) 542-0681

Sec. Brewer Raises Serious Doubts About Pima County Election Proposals Expresses Concern over New Proposals as Being Non-Uniform or Unworkable for Whole
PHOENIX -- Secretary of State Jan Brewer today sent a terse response letter to Pima County addressing her serious concerns about the county's recent election procedure report which was released this past April. She noted that over the past six years, her administration has established a rigorous end-to-end election process with procedures that are among the tightest and most secure in the nation.

“Although some of your recommendations make sense, most are problematic, unnecessary, and/or unjustifiable, and nearly all establish a protocol for Pima County that is vastly different and unworkable for every other county,” admonished Secretary Brewer, “It is simply bad policy for one county to push its agenda (which appears to be largely driven by local politics and not on reasoned analysis) on every other county.”

In her 11 page response letter to Pima County, Secretary of State Brewer also listed several major security vulnerabilities, including Pima's unilateral decision to discontinue the modem transmission of election results from polling places on election night. Secretary Brewer noted this specific practice provides no independent method for memorializing the results from a given precinct.

“Not only will discontinuing the modem transmission of results substantially delay the reporting of unofficial results on election night, it actually introduces a major security vulnerability into the election process,” stated Secretary Brewer, “Your supposed ‘security procedure' apparently does not even consider that something could happen to the machines and ballots in route to the election headquarters, in which case the results at that precinct would be lost forever.” Added Brewer, “Certainly the odds of some event happening during the transportation of the ballots are low, but they are no doubt far greater than the remote possibility of some hacker intercepting the results, which again would be quickly caught during the post-election audit.”

Secretary Brewer also took issue with Pima County 's proposal to discontinue the use of its accessible voting devices for disabled voters noting that this proposal “violate[s] federal and state law and would unnecessarily disenfranchise Pima County voters with disabilities.” Brewer further admonished Pima County for failing to use the federal funds available to the county to assist voters with disabilities and specifically noted a recent complaint from a disability group regarding Pima County 's failure to accommodate voters with disabilities. “I am disappointed that Pima County has not requested the maximum amount available to it and that $63,688.89 of the money that it has received has not been spent,” Brewer said.

Finally, Secretary Brewer was critical of Pima County officials for releasing all past election databases to the Pima County Democratic Party after they spent money and time fighting in court for over a year against the release. Secretary Brewer noted, “I am at a loss as to why Pima County would argue in court against the release of election databases and then turn around and immediately release more databases than ordered by the court… It is no surprise that the court reversed itself in the post-judgment proceedings and ordered the release of this information given the actions by the Board.”
The Secretary of State emphasized in her response to Pima County over two dozen specific security, educational and accountability requirements already implemented during her administration.

Said Brewer, “[T]he bulk of your recommendations seem to minimize the significance of our existing security protocol and imply that serious problems exist when nothing could be further from the truth.”

“I must reemphasize the point I made in my earlier letter to you about the importance of following the existing physical security protocol for election equipment in your county to prevent any unauthorized person from having access to electronic voting equipment and ballots. The procedures in Arizona go above and beyond what is necessary to secure an election and it is for this reason that we have never had an election security breach in our State.”
View the response letter here.

Read the Full Text of Secretary Brewer's 11-page Letter
Opposing Election Reforms Adopted in Pima County


BREWER_Security_Letter_PIMA_6-5-2008.pdf888.05 KB
AZ_Transparency_Press_Release_061208.pdf166.19 KB