Judges, Get Yourselves Up To Speed On Tech Before Democracy Crumbles

Oh, Arizona, how you do disappoint. Or not. Actually, you really just rise to my diminished expectations on a near-daily basis, and today is no exception. While Sheriff Joe's alleged corruption spills onto the front pages, the back page carries

Oh, Arizona, how you do disappoint. Or not. Actually, you really just rise to my diminished expectations on a near-daily basis, and today is no exception. While Sheriff Joe's alleged corruption spills onto the front pages, the back page carries news of how Arizona courts fail to protect election integrity.

Recently I wrote about how Jan Brewer permitted Maricopa County -- the most populous county in Arizona and home to the worlds' most evil sheriff -- to break their own election laws in order to rush-report the vote counts to eagerly awaiting media outlets and viewers across the nation.

The whole hot mess went to court, and the result wasn't pretty. As Denis notes on TruthOut, when the laws in place are allowed to be broken with only an after-the-fact trial, it's unlikely to yield a result worthy of note. Part of this is the technology itself, but it also relates to the lack of technological understanding in the judiciary.

Voters rely on the courts to help set the verdict right and interpret how voting technology can or should be used. The same technology- challenged judges and lawyers render opinions from that lack of understanding. The lower courts feed appeals up to the US Supreme Court - run by a Chief Justice who eschews technology and writes his opinions in longhand.

Three weeks after the election took place, the court heard arguments brought by those standing in opposition to Arizona's corrupt election procedures. What they got was a pyrrhic victory:

The biggest win is a reform of how Maricopa County conducts post-election hand-count audits. Until now they have insisted on picking which precincts to count before telling anybody what the precinct detail results are. This allowed them to game the audit: they could cheat however they want, and then once precincts were picked “un-cheat” those selected precincts. The races would always look right despite rampant alteration of results.

[...]

Whether or not they are in fact cheating is not even at issue in court – but the degree to which they’ve insisted on having that ability in this and many other areas (unsigned results tapes, failure to seal away a results tapes copy from their own ready access, telling pollworkers to keep precinct results secret on election night and many more) should cause concern among all voters of all political stripes.

There were other smaller wins, but the one they lost on was the Big Kahuna Elephant on the Election Table: Banning internet connections in precincts. This is huge, because the whole exploit of these Diebold machines is that results can actually be diverted and altered on their way to the Secretary of State.

We asked the court to outlaw internet connections, and the county claimed there were none. We introduced a witness who worked for the agency as “troubleshooter” (supervising several precincts) from 2005-2008. As a Democratic Party Observer in 2008 General Election, he examined a laptop used to transmit election results from one of the 22 regional collection stations. Installed on the laptops was a program called "Axcess" which is the software needed to function with a cellular modem on the Alltel network “Axcess” which in turn is a straight shot to the internet. The county claimed they don’t do that; the judge believed them over our guy.

Outrageous. If they don't need an internet connection, there is absolutely no need -- NONE -- for precinct laptops to have software with which to access the internet via cellular modem. None, zero, zip, nada. The fact that such a program was installed on not one but several laptops should serve as evidence that someone has a purpose for allowing these laptops to have a way to access the internet. By the way, Blackberries and Android phones tether to laptops easily. In fact, Sprint has a plan which makes Android phones a wireless hotspot...perfect for a laptop with appropriate connection software.

The other big loss was on the Sequoia unapproved software that has the ability to re-route election results to a "middleman machine", where results can be altered to change outcomes easily. Combine this with unsigned poll tapes and there's absolutely no paper trail to audit voting.

Bottom line: This judge had very little understanding of how simple the technology is to alter election outcomes, and evidently didn't really care to investigate. But this should really put Arizonans on alert:

There’s no way around it: in key areas the judge either ignored the law, introduced his own incorrect technical “knowledge” or made outright policy decisions contrary to the law as written.

The scary part: this is the chief civil court judge in the Arizona Superior court, Maricopa County branch. However, he made us feel like we all did something good, he thanked us and then said too bad there weren’t any school children here watching and learning how democracy works.

I am completely grateful no schoolchildren were there learning how easily democracy is corrupted. To see how deeply it's corrupted in Arizona in detail, have a look at this. (PDF)

Mandatory tech education for judges? Or maybe just get rid of these godforsaken election-stealing voting machines.

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