Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Metro Security Breach Starts to Mire in Partisan Party Fight

Rather than sitting back and waiting for investigation results of the Christmas Eve break-in and theft of Election Commission laptops, some Republicans are pointing fingers of blame at Democrats. Meanwhile, the Commission employee, Kathy Charlton-Deshotels, who has been identified as the person whose desk the laptops were under on Dec. 24 is already lawyered up for what looks like a defense.

So, are we going to lose the chance to find out the facts that would allow Metro to plug the security holes due to Republican and Democratic Party fisticuffs? If only the partisans could just back off and shut their pie holes for a while and let the facts about this episode come to light. This is more than just political brinkmanship. It involves the security of 337,000 people.

UPDATE: The Tennessean's Michael Cass has details on hours worked by General Services managed security at Howard:
The Metro Office Building on Second Avenue South has had one guard on duty 12 hours a day on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays for about 10 years.
Don't forget or be informed: there is no alarm system in the building, either. So, for 24 hours during weekends and for 12 hours on holidays (I guess 2-day holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas would be 24 hours) there was no form of security at the Howard Office Building since the late '90s. That just seems incredible to me. I also have got to ask, where were the mainstream media watchdogs during the past decade? Why wasn't any local news source asking questions about overnight security in significant public buildings like Howard?

UPDATE: Local columnist Gail Kerr concurs about the partisans shutting their pie holes. And I can think of a couple of partisans who would do well to do so. Here is a local State Republican Party hack who has been constantly stirring the partisan pot from day one of this disturbing story. But the Party pays him to headhunt and spin muck for Republican gain; it's not like he has to believe genuinely in reforming the system, especially if reform costs his bosses some of their power. The whole voter ID argument is a distraction until General Services and the Election Commission get to the bottom of the causes of the security breach.

Back to Kerr's column: she says that the Metro Election Commission is appointed by the county party delegations from the General Assembly. Contrast that to what the State Division of Elections says:
The State Election Commission is responsible for appointing five county election commissioners for every county in the state. This is done on the first Monday in April in every odd-numbered year. After making such appointments, the state commissioners then monitor the activities and performance of the county election commissioners.
Instead, it is the State Election Commission that is directly tied to the General Assembly:
The State Election Commission is composed of five members, three from the political party holding a majority of seats in the General Assembly and two from the minority party. These individuals are elected for a term of four years. This is the only commission in Tennessee state government which is elected wholly by the General Assembly.
Is that a distinction without a difference or did Ms. Kerr get the appointment process wrong?


  1. You say, "The whole voter ID argument is a distraction until General Services and the Election Commission get to the bottom of the causes of the security breach."

    Not really.

    If the law required election commissions to issue a voter photo ID, there would be no need to have such critical identifying info as Social Security numbers on laptops at polling places. Which would mean the stolen laptop wouldn't have had that info on it.

    As for partisanship, it was not I but the Tennessean and now you that bring up the fact that Democrats run the show at the election commission. To the extent that the organization's leadership left sensitive personal data on an easily stolen and unguarded laptop and had no policies in place to keep such data ultra-secure, it IS a Democrat failure because, well, because Democrats run the office.

  2. I went to early vote on a Saturday in August at the Election Commission. Walked right in, wandered around for a few minutes, poked my head into the open office doors. I assumed that someone must have just stepped away from his or her desk, because it was SO open... when no one came back, I drove away. I was pretty surprised (to say the least) when I returned during the week to vote and they told me that the office was closed on Saturdays.

    Government agencies seem not to know the difference between CLOSED and inaccessible. And crime happens as a result. Fancy that.

  3. Metro Nashville is doing too little to compensate the registered voters after losing their personal identifying information. fraud alerts are a bare minimum. Someone should ask their contractor Debix what happens if you are a victim of identity theft. what can they do to help?