Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

County won’t fight court order to release election data

Pima County will not appeal a ruling last month by a Superior Court judge to turn over all past and future electronic vote databases to the Pima County Democratic Party.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to comply with the court order issued by Judge Michael Miller last month to release the databases from computerized elections, dismissing contentions by county attorneys that such a release could jeopardize the integrity of future elections.

The Pima County Democrats last year sued the county seeking the databases, contending the electronic vote records are public records that should be available to political party elections observers to scrutinize for signs of tampering or security breaches.

Tuesday’s board decision not to appeal the ruling came after a lengthy private meeting with county attorneys and the vote was taken with no discussion by any supervisors.

This is in marked contrast to a tumultuous public hearing in January where critics of electronic vote system security blasted the board’s three Democrats for initially refusing to agree to release all past elections databases.

Board members reconvened at that January meeting after that vote and agreed to release the databases from the 2006 elections – including those from the May 16, 2006 Regional Transportation Authority election – which some critics want examined for vote record anomalies that might indicate tampering with either the vote system or ballot tabulating programs.

Party officials say they will use the released vote databases to construct an analytical tool that can automatically detect anomalies in voting, which may point to tampering.

The matter involves a larger issue regarding security of electronic vote systems nationwide.

Private firms own the software to electronic vote systems such as Diebold-GEMS, which the county uses, and refuse to disclose details about its design or functions.

Democrats argued that such secrecy makes electronic voting results virtually impossible to check for security breaches or vote tampering.

Problems with electronic vote systems like Diebold and Sequoia have been reported in elections throughout the United States for the past several years. Judge Miller’s ruling to the county to release electronic vote databases to an outside party is a first in the nation, which Democrats could cite as case law in any future lawsuits seeking release of electronic vote databases from other jurisdictions.

The judge last month also ordered the county to pay the Democrats’ legal bills of up to $228,000 incurred during the lawsuit.

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