Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Two election integrity events occured in Pima County on Friday.
First, the Pima County Election Integrity Commission held an emergency meeting on Friday at the request of one of its members, Mickey Duniho, a retired National Security Agency computer programmer, over concerns he had about a paper published by Francois Choquette (Aerospace Engineer, Statistics, California) and James Johnson (Senior Quantitative Financial Analyst, California), which outlined anomalies found throughout the United States in the Republican Presidential Primary that always favored Mitt Romney. The favoritism correlated strongly with precinct size, and did not correlate with any other logical choices (such as population density, income levels, race, etc).
The paper asked readers to confirm their analysis and report on their findings. Mickey Duniho analyzed the 2012 Presidential Preference Primary in Pima County and confirmed the analysis. Pima commission to discuss chance of election fraud in larger precincts:
[Duniho] was replicating earlier studies done by California researchers Francois Choquette and James Johnson, an aerospace engineer and a financial analyst. The researchers argue that their analysis of the recent Republican primary shows Mitt Romney making strange vote gains in most states' large precincts.
Duniho - formerly a Republican election observer in Maryland, a supporter of Democrat-backed lawsuits against Pima County's Elections Department and now a registered independent - said that his results seem to parallel those of Choquette and Johnson, who tried to account for their findings using demographics.
He is now collecting demographic data by precinct to try to explain his results with other factors, such as whether a precinct is rural or the affluence of the precinct's residents.
Duniho suspects that the patterns he found show a 10 percent flip of votes in favor of the Republican candidate in the 2010 race between Raúl Grijalva and Ruth McClung and the race between Gabrielle Giffords and Jesse Kelly the same year, as well as votes switched to benefit Romney in the Republican primary.
"The problem is figuring out what the statistical evidence does mean," Duniho said. "The computer is a black box. It is very easy for the guy who wrote the program to do just about anything."
At the emergency meeting on Friday, the Pima County Election Integrity Commission voted unanimously in favor of Mickey Duniho's recommendations to the Pima County Board of Supervisors, which must still act on the Commission recommendations.
The Arizona Daily Star reports today, Pima sees gains in election security:
Mickey Duniho, who called for a special meeting of the commission Friday to try to force more robust audit procedures, said at the meeting: "My feeling is that today elections in Pima County are processed in a very good manner. I don't see any major things that I want to change."
He does see some smaller things. Duniho has argued for six years that the county should sort early ballots by precinct so a hand-count of at least a couple of full precincts can be done after votes are tallied. By law, the county must hand-count at least 1 percent of the early ballots.
Duniho and fellow commission member and University of Arizona computer science professor Tom Ryan are concerned that an audit that doesn't sort ballots by precinct would not reveal fraud within the tabulation software through the introduction of a virus.
After some debate, the commission voted unanimously to recommend that the Board of Supervisors try to implement the sorting Duniho advocates for a hand-count after the Nov. 6 election. The board's next [regularly scheduled] meeting is Nov. 13 [which is after the date scheduled for the hand count audit of ballots on Nov. 10.]
Benny White, the Republican Party observer on the board, walked out before the vote, excusing himself because he will likely be involved in a lawsuit filed just before the meeting.
Which brings me to the second election integrity event on Friday. Attorney Brad Roach, representing electors from all the major political parties in Pima County, filed a special action for mandamus and injunctive relief in Pima County Superior Court. You can read the pleadings here. Special Action for Mandamus and Injunctive Relief (.pdf) (Case No. C20126655, assigned to Judge James E. Marner).
Duniho is a plaintiff in that lawsuit, which asks a judge to force Pima County to separate the early ballots by precinct. The lawsuit also demands that the county include in the official returns envelope a copy of the tally report issued by ballot scanners at the precincts and signed by poll workers and that it conduct "sufficient" hand-count audits of early ballots.
It demands that county races be included in the hand-count audit, which is not required by Arizona law. County staff workers and advocates dispute whether it is allowed.
* * *
Friday's meeting of the Election Integrity Commission - videotaped, with legal briefs stacked on chairs - highlights the dynamics that have led to a system County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry called "night and day compared to before."
A combination of employee initiative, court-mandated action, political-party advocacy and commission analysis has produced elections with less error by poll workers, increased scrutiny of ballots' chain of custody and increasing confidence among technical experts that the tally is more secure.
"What we have in many cases is technology outstripping the administrative and legal functions," Huckelberry said. "That accounts for about 90 percent of the acrimony."
He said the county's relationship to the state is the source of many problems. "We can only do what the state law explicitly allows us to do."
He said that does not include doing a hand-count audit of county races or creating digital scans of ballots that could be put online for a public audit - a technology the Election Integrity Commission increasingly supports.
Pima County has been in talks with the Secretary of State's Office about the scanning technology for several years. Though the office approved a pilot project, the launch has been stalled.
Many of the questions activists have raised have been technical, centering on the ease of potentially manipulating votes in the tabulation software.
They question the expertise - and sometimes the integrity - of Brad Nelson, the county's elections director.
* * *
The county's part-time technical elections adviser, John Moffatt, has agreed with activists that the software is vulnerable. "That's why I went for physical security," he said.
New measures included putting metal covers over USB drives on voting machines and adding locks, passwords, surveillance and sign-in procedures.
The county can only buy election machines and software approved by the federal certification process, which has broken down, so new technology is unlikely to offer security solutions anytime soon, officials say.
County memos show an interest in replacing scanners in 2007, but there have been so few available that the same machines are still in use, patched with new parts.
The result is a system that uses a patchwork of checks and balances to provide security to a complicated and often-shifting process.
"You want to minimize the error so that it doesn't change the results," said Arnie Urken, a professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Arizona and a member of the Election Integrity Commission. "I think that's about the best you can hope to do."
For Huckelberry, that means looking closely at mailed-in ballots. "There's no chain of custody on a mailed ballot," he said. "If there's holes in election integrity, it's going to appear in early voting."
It also means improving poll-worker training, which had been the single largest source of election discrepancies, he said.
* * *
The commission has agreed to pursue tougher audit standards and a pilot test of digital ballot scans.
As it is, though, much of the system relies on volunteer political party observers. Each one, paired with a member of the opposite party, monitors the process for signs of error or foul play.
A win for advocates of the Open Primary proposition of the current ballot, Prop. 121, would disrupt the checks now in place, election observers say.
"If that passes, there is major turmoil in elections," said Moffatt, the county's elections adviser. "We would have to essentially start over."
* * *
Some of the changes to Pima County election procedures in the past five years:
• Outside wiring no longer connected to counting systems.
• New electronic access control system at consolidated counting facility.
• Video surveillance system tapes and streams counting.
• Reports produced before and after a day's counting ensure that numbers match.
• Servers disconnected and computers locked up after a day's counting.
• Sweeps for wireless signals conducted at random precincts and at the counting facility.
• Tamper-evident seals added to touchscreen machines.
• Took away administrative privileges on tabulation computer from elections staff. New two-part passwords require IT staff to be present for log-in.
• Precinct results driven to the counting site rather than transmitted electronically.
• Better chain of custody controls.
• Background checks for elections staff.
• Outside firm prints and mails early ballots.
• U.S. Postal Services' most advanced bar-code system lets ballots be tracked online.
• Poll workers' training increased from 90 minutes to six hours.
• Doubled the percentage of precincts hand-counted. (However, because increased early voting has a lower audit requirement, the number of ballots hand-counted has remained fairly stable.)
Note: Judge Marner issued an in chambers ruling on Friday which I presume is a schedule for the Defendants to respond to the complaint, and setting a hearing date for the request for injunctive relief. I do not presently find a hearing date posted to Judge Marler's calendar this week.
I know the plaintiffs read this blog. Post any additional information in the comments.