County should drop bond election plans to focus on ballot security
Pima County must refrain from seeking voter support for a huge bond issue until after its election system has been replaced.
A trial has just shown that the county’s Diebold-GEMS election system could be accessed and the vote count manipulated.
That finding came courtesy of the Pima County Democratic Party, which filed a lawsuit after the county rebuffed its requests for data from past elections to ensure election security.
Now the county plans to spend $5 million on a new election system and another $5 million or so to clean up its haphazard elections office.
The systems likely won’t be ready in time for the 2008 general election however, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry reports.
That’s cause for worry, given that 2008 will be a presidential election year.
Also, suspicion among Pima County residents now is extremely high, with many questioning whether the Regional Transportation Plan really won voter approval in May 2006.
General skepticism already drives voter perception, leaving turnout lower than desired. Specific skepticism from this case surely will linger long after the November election.
Thus the very idea of piling on a bond issue request for $700 million or so belies all good sense and reason.
Rather than waste time agonizing over whether to float a bond issue before voters, the county should be making every effort to ensure utmost security for the November 2008 general election.
That is, after all, the year in which Americans choose the next leader of the free world.
The accuracy and security of that vote is paramount; the bond issue should wait.
Trial testimony showed that common software can be used to hack into the county’s Diebold-GEMS elections system and doctor election results.
Although an Arizona attorney general’s investigation turned up no evidence of past vote tampering, system testing by Colorado-based computer consultant iBeta uncovered “fundamental security flaws” that render vote validation “impossible due to the ease of data and log manipulation.”
That finding spurred Huckelberry to order many changes, including cameras to monitor equipment storage areas, online streaming video from election night ballot counts and only partial passwords for staff to access elections equipment.
The new measures all are well and good, but the county now must complete as many security improvements as possible before the election – and provide local voters with continual updates on the progress of that work.
A high-priced bond issue now would only increase voter mistrust of our election system. What we need is strict county attention to the task at hand: securing our next vote.