Recently I wrote about my discovery that someone erased evidence on an election computer in Cumberland County, NJ. After something went wrong in a Primary Election in June 2011, the Superior Court (the Hon. David E. Krell) had ordered the County Board of Elections to make the computer available for me (the Plaintiffs’ expert) to examine.
When I examined the computer on August 17, among those watching me were the County Administrator of Elections (Lizbeth Hernandez), the Director of the New Jersey Division of Elections (Robert Giles), and a Deputy Attorney General of the State of New Jersey (George Cohen). This is quite a lot of firepower for reviewing a rather small election (43 votes cast in total).
In my examination of the computer, I noticed that files and logs were erased on the day before. I notified the Court, and within a few days an IT specialist employed by the county wrote, in an affidavit, that he had been asked by the County Administrator of Elections to examine the computer the day before my own examination, and at that time he erased the files and cleared the logs.
We do not know exactly what motivated Ms. Hernandez to ask the IT specialist to fiddle with the computer. The IT specialist himself says “I was asked by Lizbeth Hernandez to determine the date the hardening process was applied to the laptop.” Why is this date important? Back in 2010, a different judge of the Superior Court (the Hon. Linda R. Feinberg) had ordered the State to secure the computers used in conduction elections by applying these “hardening guidelines.” Mr. Giles was the one responsible for making sure the State (and all its Counties) complied with this order, more than a year ago. In August 2011, did Mr. Giles ask Ms. Hernandez whether the “hardening guidelines” had been applied? Perhaps these election officials were concerned that I might discover something about late compliance, or noncompliance, with Judge Feinberg’s order.
That is, the IT specialist’s affidavit points to concern about whether Mr. Giles had effectively brought New Jersey (including Cumberland County) into compliance; by erasing the logs and temporary files, he erased evidence about compliance or noncompliance.
Judge Krell, down in Cumberland County, does not like people tampering with evidence in the cases that come before him. On September 9 he referred the possible evidence-tampering to the prosecutor, that is, to the NJ Attorney General’s office. As I described in “Will the NJ Attorney General Investigate the NJ Attorney General,” the Plaintiffs doubted that the AG would do a real investigation.
Judge Krell’s referral was directed to Christine Hoffman, Chief of the Corruption Bureau of the Office of the Attorney General. On September 20, 2011, Ms. Hoffman wrote in an official letter, “the Division of Criminal Justice will not pursue criminal charges at this time. This matter is being forwarded to your office for your review and whatever action you deem appropriate.”
And to whom is this letter addressed? To Mr. Robert Giles, Director, Division of Elections. This is like asking the fox to investigate whether proper security measures have been installed at the henhouse. Does this instill confidence in the integrity of elections in New Jersey?
Plaintiffs have asked that Judge Krell assign a special master to investigate all irregularities associated with the June 8, 2011 primary election, including the erasure of the information concerning hardening guidelines. The recent turn of events shows why an independent investigation should take place in Cumberland County.