Santa Cruz Fulfills Data Request With an Altered Audit Log

Citizens Against Rigged Elections (AUDITAZ) in Santa Cruz County, Arizona

J.T. Waldron

After months of delays and legal costs to taxpayers, the elections department in the small border county of Santa Cruz, Arizona, finally parted with a portion of their elections records. Santa Cruz’s audit logs for last August’s election are missing a portion of the entries and it appears they were deleted sometime before presenting them to Sergio Arellano, Chairman of Legislative District 2 and AUDITAZ, a coalition of Arizona citizens concerned about election integrity. Back in 2007, election computer files in Arizona were determined to be public records during a heated suit between Pima County and the Pima County Democratic Party. This case established that all elections data are public records subject to Arizona Revised Statute 39-121: Inspection of Public Records.

Santa Cruz has ignored this precedent and delayed the production of requested documents for over two months.  On September 24th, Santa Cruz Elections Director Melinda Meek testified in court that the decision to withhold information was ultimately made by the Board of Supervisors.

“We were concerned that the integrity of the election process could potentially be compromised if this information were released,” Meek recalls in her testimony.  Apparently Meek and the whole board of supervisors have a form of collective amnesia over what was established in neighboring Pima County.  None of the electronic elections data were found to compromise election integrity and that court case culminated into the largest release of elections data in U.S. history.

Santa Cruz’s alleged detachment from events in nearby Pima County seems superficial, especially when both counties’ officials share the same habit of portraying those seeking public records as nefarious jackals intent on compromising the elections process. It’s been over seven years since the records lawsuit in Pima County yet the need to distinguish application files from document files persists to this day.  It’s as if the use of the word ‘audit’ wipes their brains clean of all knowledge of computers, applications and data familiar to practically every individual in the country on a day to day basis.  At least, that’s what those in charge of Santa Cruz’s elections would like you to believe.

They conjure Pima County’s phantasm of “mayhem and chaos” by claiming that electronic elections data would somehow enable someone to hack into their central tabulator to alter an election.   With electronic elections, transparency is essential to remove the opportunity for everyone to cheat.

There seems to be a bit of communication between the two counties.  Pima County altered their elections database files but forgot to cover their tracks by altering the accompanying audit log.   The snail’s pace of Arizona’s bureaucratic crime culture led Santa Cruz to finally cut some of the more incriminating blips in their audit log.  Unfortunately for Meek and Company, clumsy disjointed audit logs can be even more incriminating than the erasures and overwrites of Pima County’s RTA election.

Below is the portion of the audit logs in question:

John Brakey (pictured on the left above), once a resident of Santa Cruz himself, has been recently working in conjunction with Arellano who is also the Chairman of the Santa Cruz County Elections Integrity Committee (SCCEIC). This committee is made up of citizens from all sides residing in Santa Cruz County. Both Brakey and the SCCEIC are currently serving under the organization, AUDITAZ, which was founded during the years of scrutinizing elections processes in Pima and Maricopa voting districts. Brakey has provided the illustration below to indicate what should be found in the audit log.

During the court trial, AUDITAZ brought computer expert Chris Gniady to explain the purpose of audit logs in an election:

“The purpose of the audit log is so somebody at a later time can come in and check if there were any properties of the system any violation with the way the system should be used… have been used…detect potential malicious software, malicious files that have been modified. General verification of the system. That’s why audit logs are used.”

In Gniady’s statement we find a better explanation for Santa Cruz’s reason for denying the release of the audit logs.  They would prefer to avoid the public scrutiny especially when logs reveal the generation of a summary report on election day at 9:51 AM.   This is a class 6 felony under A.R.S. Sec. 16-551 (C).

Late last week, Santa Cruz released only half of what was requested on July 9th of this year.  Information they did release contradicts the testimony of Santa Cruz Elections Director Melinda Meek about the construction of ballots and databases.  First on the list of the records request was the contract with the “vendor who programs the central count election computers and the AccuVote memory cards”.  Below you can see Meek telling her lawyer that there is no contract “because I do that myself. It’s done in-house”.

Near the bottom of the audit log you can see what’s commonly called a ‘fork in the database’ where various versions are recorded as back-ups.  The illustration below is snapshot of that section of the audit log that reveals names (in red) of various counties including Apache, Gila, Greenlee, La Paz and Mohave.  This sequence indicates that whoever is constructing this database is also making files for these other various voting districts.  This is obviously the work of someone providing database files to other counties.  If Meek were to be programming her own database, it’s doubtful she is moonlighting with her programming skills for numerous Arizona voting districts.  Somebody else is creating the database that ultimately generates the ballot.

Among the scraps of data thrown at AUDITAZ was this one invoice from William E. Doyle, a person who assists with elections in many of the voting districts in Arizona.  Working under the handle of Elections Operations Services, Doyle presumably provides consulting and elections expertise in such an expansive, lucrative fashion, it will take the next few articles to adequately cover this clandestine vendor.

It’s been seven years and counting since Pima County’s electronic data transfer in 2007 and we have yet to see a cluster of villainous citizens rig an election from outside the tabulation room.  Maybe the real risk is the warranted erosion of public trust in the elections process itself.  Public outcry could change the current power structure and, for a while, give the majority of the population a more authentic elections process.  It’s this fear of an informed citizenry that causes the defendants in this case to grope for every conceivable means, legal or not, to evade scrutiny.

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