Re: FOIA tutorial for Kathy

From: Kathy Dopp <kathy_at_directell_dot_com>
Date: Thu Nov 11 2004 - 00:18:13 CST

Jim March said:

> Right, where do we start?
> OK. The Federal Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) *ONLY* covers Federal
> documents. It's a way of asking for any document the government has
> NOW, and cannot be used to force the gov't to create documents.
> Each state has their own local "clone" of the FOIA in state law,
> covering that state's documents. In California, it's the Public Records
> Act (PRA), so a request under the PRA is called a PRAR where the last
> "R" stands for "Request". In Maryland it's the "Public Information
> Act". It varies all over the map.
> If you make a "FOIA request" to a state like California that uses a
> different term, you'll be signalling the agency that you're trying to
> query that you're a clueless newbie and your odds of a reasonable (or
> quick) response drops...sometimes right into the toilet.
> In most states, including California and Florida, you can make requests
> for electronic records. Which is a very good thing where voting-related
> FOIAs/PRAR/etc are concerned - we can go after the vote-tally databases
> such as the Diebold GEMS data files readable in MS-Access. Which
> *might* have forensic traces of tampering in them, depends a lot on the
> way the tampering was done.
> For examples of California PRARs, see also:
> Under most public records laws, you pay copying costs. In some states
> you can also be charges fees for preparing the documents - not
> California though.
> In at least one state I know of (Tennessee) you have to be a state
> resident to make a request. This is a rare weirdness though.
> VOTES (the actual ballot of record where it exists in an optical scan or
> punchcard system) are a special type of document not subject to plain
> old public records requests, at least not in most states. They can't
> be, because first they're a logistical nightmare to mass-copy due to
> quantity and odd paper sizes. And if there's chad around, they're
> particularly delicate - even when ink-marked, they can be deliberately
> spoiled by tampering. So there has to be bitchin' security when
> accessing them for recounts. That's why there are all sorts of special
> laws concerning recount processes, and why when your intent is to
> trigger a recount, you need specialty a election lawyer...or a small
> army of same.

FYI, Our group includes a statistician who specializes in testifying in
election cases I believe but we do not plan ANY requests for docs
ourselves, just to provide the statistical evidence to help others trigger
ballot recounts.

Thank you so much for taking the time to explain.

> Upshot: find out your target state's FOIA variant, at least glance at
> the name of the sucker, and then understand what sort of material you
> can go after. Audit trail records, internal EMails, electronic vote
> tally copies, they're all juicy targets...the actual paper votes though
> are another ball of earwax entirely.

Our group will provide the statistical evidence to pinpoint certain
counties election results as being suspect, provide statistical evidence
you can take to court and leave the rest to you other experts.

It's actually a huge project our group is undertaking but I believe we can
do it and that our methods will work.

Thank you for explaining it.



= The content of this message, with the exception of any external
= quotations under fair use, are released to the Public Domain
Received on Tue Nov 30 23:17:26 2004

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Nov 30 2004 - 23:17:44 CST