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The judge ruled to allow a video camera in the room during opening statements, but has reserved judgment as to whether camera and blogging will be allowed in the room during witness testimony. He expressed some concern about the possibility that live-blogging could be used to skirt the rule excluding later witnesses from the courtroom to prevent collusion between their testimony. We'll see how that shakes out. In any case, you may not see a minute by minute, blow by blow trial coverage for this reason.
So far, Robert Greenwald, NOW with David Brancaccio, LinkTV, and Dan Rather's show on HDNet have expressed interest in the video press pool footage, and we have already supplied video of the opening to Channel 4's Sandy Rathbun for the local news. Obviously, there is a lot of interest in this trial and issues that inform the dispute. I got a personal call from Phil Donahue earlier expressing his sentiment that in his journalistic judgment, this trial is of great interest to public policy. I'll defer to Phil's judgment of what's newsworthy any day.
Video footage of Plaintiff's opening:
The Plaintiff's Opening (interpreted, not a verbatim transcript):
Bill Risner presented a preview of the Democratic Party's case.
The Democratic Party wants access to the GEMS database because right now no one is watching the election officials who are best positioned to commit election fraud. Fundamental is that in the American system we have always relied on the political parties to ensure the integrity of the system. The elections belong to the people, not to the government. The role that parties play is statutory, deep, and far more significant than that of the state. The parties place thousands of volunteer poll workers, poll monitors, election judges, and since 2006 in Arizona, teams of auditors in the field to actually run and monitor elections. This request must be seen in that context of the uniquely American system of elections.
In contrast, the Attorney General has no role in monitoring election and no significant part in the election system. Yet the county would urge that we rely solely on the judgment of the Attorney General that there was no fraud in this election.
The Secretary of State plays a role in setting standards for elections, but little role in their actual operation. The counties play a much larger role, but they should not be relied upon to oversee themselves. We don't allow such self-oversight in the more traditional areas of the election process, ballot handling and poll operations for instance, and we should not do so for the newer computerized portions of the process.
The county is arguing that the legislature intended to strip parties of their traditional role and deprive them of the knowledge vital to oversight to ensure election integrity. The court should not depart from the traditional American role of parties based on some tortured and narrowly construed statutory wording, only a direct and unambiguous express of legislative will should suffice.
The use of computers in our elections has created a host of new issues. One of the most serious is the privatization of our elections, removing what has traditionally been an open public process to behind the veils of intellectual property and non-disclosure agreements. No one in the public can know the instructions (code) being used to count our votes and that information is too frequently withheld from public scrutiny. One way in which we tried to balance the public's rights with private commercial interests was law requiring prior certification of all elections software and hardware.
The examination attendant to certification looks at the code and documentation of election systems, creates a hash code by which the identity of software can be verified, but it doesn't look at the output: the data bases in which the actual voting data resides. There is no licensing of the data bases. No one examines or oversees the database during the election, even though instructions can be built into the data base with the purpose of altering the outcome. Such an oversight fails to assure the public of a valid and fair result in their elections.
A group of citizens have come together in a non-partisan spirit, but under the aegis of the Democratic Party to ensure our election are valid and accurate. [Ed.: Notable in the courtroom today was former Republican candidate for Governor Barry Hess and former candidate for Congress in CD 8 Randy Graf, as well as a number of independents, libertarians, and others] Tom Ryan, a programmer and engineer, Michael "Mickey" Duniho, retired programmer with the NSA, and Jim March, of BlackBoxVoting.org, will be testifying as to their experience and the results of the their several years of investigation into elections systems used here in Pima County. The bottom line is that due to their suggestions and complaints, the security of the county's systems to outside intrusion and physical compromise has been significantly enhanced. Now the threat to security is the fundamental lack of security and auditability of the GEMS software for insiders who are motivated to change the outcome of elections.
This specific election, the 2006 RTA bond election, is of great interest because it was a non-partisan race. This was used as a reason to refuse the political parties a role in observing the election. Yet the Board of Supervisors and the Pima County government generally, had a very strong financial and institutional motivation to have a positive outcome for the RTA election. They spent significant resources promoting and preparing for the issue. If there is a role for public oversight of the databases, it is surely here where those charged with administration of the election have an interest in its outcome and the means to manipulate that outcome.
The behavior of the elections department displays a pattern of neglect of good security practices, possible illegal behavior, and secrecy which hardly inspires public confidence. Robbie Evans, who worked in the election department under Bryan Crane, will testify that election records were taken home during elections, summary reports that reveal actual vote totals were printed during elections and shared with others who had an interest in the outcome of elections.
The public interest is served by increasing public oversight of these computer processes. Releasing these records will help ensure there is no malicious code, that insiders are not able to secretly manipulate our elections protected from public scrutiny, and that there is a strong incentive for the county to adopt the strongest possible security measures. Currently our elections rely on software that is manifestly not suitable for the purpose of ensuring a secure and accurate count of our votes; the iBeta report commisioned by the Attorney General is unambiguous as to that point, and Microsoft itself suggests not using Access with multiple inputs (as GEMS does) because of data security problems.
The county wants to rebuff all these concerns and continue to rely on security through obscurity. They hope that an ignorant public will make an unsecure system safer. They claim that giving the parties access to the data bases would further compromise security; but that is only a threat if someone has access to the tabulation computer, and enhancing such physical security was exactly what the Democratic party has already helped Pima County enhance. At this point, the most realistic threat to the integrity of our elections are county employees who have physical access to the computers. The county will also claim that the parties may undermine the official results by forging data bases and claiming they are true vote totals. With all parties having access to identical data, any such scheme would be impossible.
The simple fact is you really have to be an insider to hack the election now, and the insiders are the only parties that haven't any oversight. Are we simply to trust the insiders? When they failed to have any substantial security in the past? When they have violated that trust in the past? There must be public oversight, not trust. We must not have an election system where no one but one unelected guy has all the power, and no accountability. That is not what our legislature expected, and it is not the result this court should arrive at.