Thursday, March 15, 2007

It's "Archive" Time on the Cuyahoga. Or Is It?

Retention of election records (actually of any governmental records) in original forms that citizens can access and perceive without need for any non-thoroughly understood "translating" machine, is a little thought about but very serious issue. Especially now as investigations roil nationwide for months and years about lost votes, vote-switching machines, completely non-sensical results with huge percentages voting but supposedly not voting for the most hotly contested races, and controversy continues as citizens are forcing states to move away from their wrong HAVA interpretations and newly acquired "free" (with federal tax monies), dangerous, hackable, riggable, unverifiable, electronic voting machines - back to verifiable paper ballots.

It's been recognized for years that citizens must have open access to records, and those records must be kept for later investigation. There are very specific laws about it. In Ohio our election records retention schedules, permissions, oversight and rules are NOT made by the elections board, (thank goodness!) Retention of all Ohio governmental records are under the authority of the Ohio Historical Society, with each county supposedly having a county Records Commission working with the Society.

In Ohio it's the head of the County Commissioners,(now Jimmy Dimora here) or his/her designate that leads the local effort.

Trouble is, as stated above, the retention of election records is so little thought about. It had not been closely attended to, nor oversighted for some years.

And what really got my attention can be seen in my 11/22/06 post about what the CCBOE did with our election data/our votes from last May.
It's shocking. It's questionable how much even landed on those CD's of also questionable quality via insecure personal laptops. To go back now to find out is both a job far too time consuming for any volunteer (something the CCBOE has banked on for years to perpetuate covering their concerted decisions and incompetence, coupled withholding of public records.) and it's impossible. Those original cards were wiped off, and re-used in November.
They held such vital election records as "digital signatures" that Diebold claims is security, and proves that a certain card went with a matching machine and it's "redundant" internal archive, but which cannot be transferred to CD. (It was, according to Diebold's story, these "security feature" "digital signatures" that caused cards that were supposed to match, to be mysteriously spit back out of machines in the ESI study - a huge question with dangerous implications that the board wanted left alone until "after November" - when everyone would forget, and no answers could be had.) The original cards also had labels on them. Yet another question left from the ESI study was did the board create special cards for ESI for their taxpayer-paid audit (as in counting and swapping ballots ahead of time for a fake recount.) And with over 5,000 little cards, did they really do all of them? (With the "organization" I saw in paper ballot scanning, I know it is highly unlikely.)
And when asked about their process, the board lied about it.

So last November, I pressed for a meeting of the Cuyahoga Public Records Commission, for schedules, rules, new definitions, etc. and got great, and highly competent cooperation from Dr. Judith Cetina, its head.

This is the memo she wrote to all in attendance at that first meeting, and to all parties needing to know. There click on the public Records Commission link.

Luckily, Jane Platten, now truly runnng double time and trying to do the right thing, called to inform me that the CCBOE had worked with the IT person from the Secretary of State's office, and they set up a much more secure system for archiving than having people bring in personal laptops with internet games on them to also receive our votes. And that they were going to begin testing the system, to then begin "archiving' our election data to prepare for May's primary.
Unfortunately I had to tell her that though I was pleased there would be better security in the process, I thought that that would be now be against the law, since November '06 had a federal election on it, they must keep those original memory cards for 6 years.

I advised her to speak with the Reno Oradini, the Assistant County Prosecutor, who was also at that Records meeting and who understood what was occurring. (All this election and computer mumbo jumbo regarding records retention is difficult for even the brightest to comprehend at first.)

Fortunately for us, Platten is following through. She's checking into it, and expressed a willingness to buy more memory cards if necessary. Unfortunately for us, Dieobld sells these special puny 128K PCMCIA cards for $130/per for over 5000 of them - which one could probably find at $15 retail now.

This is not a statement against the absolute need to retain the original memory cards. It is a statement of yet another reason to NOT have Diebold DRE machines in our voting system. Printed ballots and pencils would cost far less.

Yes, as May's primary approaches, "archiving time" - wiping off "the evidence" and our votes, as suggested by Mr. Blackwell in '05, may feel near for many BOE's.

This is a statewide and possibly a national issue for election integrity advocates to monitor. I've informed the Ohio Secretary of State's office.
Let's now see how "archiving"our votes is made to proceed here in Cuyahoga.

Hope Reigns on the Cuyahoga
Jane Platten just called. She listened! She called! She had a meeting with the prosecutor's office. They are going to follow the law, and preserve our original records from November! They are not going to try, as usual to NOT follow the law and cover it up!
Hope reigns on the Cuyhaoga!

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