State's Security Argument Is Without Merit
Anchorage The State of Alaska's argument that release of election records would jeopardize security and adversely impact upcoming elections is without merit, the Alaska Democratic Party said in court papers filed this week.
Whether the database containing the results of Alaska's 2004 elections should be released to the public under Alaska's public records law is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the Alaska Democratic Party in State Superior
Court after the Division of Elections refused to release the database.
Superior Court Judge Stephanie Joannides will hold a scheduling conference at 4 pm, Wednesday, August 2, at which time she is expected to set a date for a hearing in the case.
The Alaska Democratic Party has been trying since last year to get the public records about the 2004 general election results in order to find out why there are numerous errors and discrepancies in the state¹s reported
results. The Division of Elections' latest excuses for refusing to release the election information are that security risks would jeopardize the Division of Elections' ability to carry out the upcoming Primary and General Elections, and that the Party's request came too late.
In papers filed last week in the court suit, the State said release of the electronic database that contains the 2004 votes "will jeopardize the security of the division of elections' computer system, and the division's administration of the upcoming Primary and General Elections." The information the Democrats seek "is not a public record," the State said, because it is covered under a security exemption to the public records act.
In papers filed in reply, the Democratic Party said that that the voter records it seeks are public records that have nothing to do with a security exception in the public records law passed after 9/11. The Democratic Party said there is no security issue with releasing the database because its structure is already available on the Internet, and it is not requesting the passwords or secret phone numbers.
"Nothing we have asked for compromises security," said Alaska Democratic Party Chair Jake Metcalfe. "We are asking the court to release these public records so that the people of Alaska can be assured that their votes were
counted correctly. The Division of Elections says that all the errors have been explained, and we should just trust them, but the fact remains that the numbers posted on division's web site do not add up. We still don¹t know how
many votes each candidate got in each House district, and there is no way to reconcile the Division's official summary results with their district-by-district tallies."
The database should be released because citizens have a right to see the voting results, Metcalfe said. "Public access to the electronic voting records is fundamental to democracy and to ensure public confidence in the
election results," he said.
According to the Division of Elections' vote reports that were produced by the state's Diebold computer system and are posted on the Division's official web site, a far larger number of votes were cast than the official totals reported in the statewide summary. In the case of President George Bush's votes, the district-by-district totals add up to 292,267, but his official total was only 190,889, a difference of 101,378 votes. In the U.S. Senate race, Lisa Murkowski received 226,992 votes in the district-by-district totals, but her official total was only 149,446, a
difference of 77,546 votes.
In 20 of the 40 State House Districts, more ballots were cast than there are registered voters in the district, according to information on the state's web site. In 16 election districts, the voter turnout percentage shown is
The Alaska Democratic Party filed a formal public records request on Dec. 19, 2005, seeking the "central tabulator data file" taken from the Diebold-supplied computer used to run the "GEMS" (Global Election Management
Software) application. This is the electronic file containing all final vote tallies for the 2004 General Election.
Under the public records regulations, the Division was supposed to release the data file on Jan. 4. On Jan. 4 the Division extended the deadline until Jan. 19.
In a Jan. 19 letter, the Division asserted that the file was proprietary information belonging to its contractor, Diebold Elections Systems.
In a Feb. 3 letter, the Division advised the Democrats that Diebold had agreed to waive its proprietary rights to the GEMS database files, and said that the records would be provided if it determined that the integrity of the election system could be protected. In the Feb. 3 letter the Division asked for an additional 10-day extension until Feb. 13, and the Democrats agreed. On Feb. 13, the Division again extended the deadline to Feb. 27. In a letter dated Feb. 22, the Division denied the Democrats' public records request, citing "security risks." On April 18, the Democratic Party filed its lawsuit in Superior Court seeking release of the records.
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