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THE TRIBAL COUNCIL HAS SPOKEN

To no one's great surprise, Democrats Regina Romero and Rodney Glassman handily won their respective primaries on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

In the race to replace retiring Councilpunk Jose Ibarra in westside Ward 1, Romero crushed Ken Green, winning 80 percent of the vote. There's no Republican in the race, but Green candidate Beryl Baker did land enough write-in votes to make the general-election ballot, so we'll be hearing more about the 10 key values between now and Election Day.

In Ward 2, where Councilwoman Carol West is retiring after two terms, Glassman beat Robert Reus with more than 83 percent of the vote. That sets up a battle between Glassman and Republican Lori Oien in November.

The Ward 2 race will be where Republicans focus their efforts. Oien, a longtime activist in the fight against drunk driving and a leader in her Bear Canyon Neighborhood Association, is assembling an aggressive campaign, although she hasn't had as much luck in the fundraising department as Glassman has.

The deck is stacked against Oien. Democrats have that overwhelming voter-registration advantage over Republicans in the city limits, and the political zeitgeist doesn't exactly favor the GOP these days.

The recent formula for GOP victory in Tucson involves a middle-of-the-road Republican running against a Democrat who is perceived by voters as far-left. Those aren't the conditions this year; whatever else you want to say about Rodney--like, for example, that he insists on side-stepping any question if the answer might upset someone--he's not from the party's left wing.

We keep hearing that the Republicans have assembled quite a book on Glassman, but we're still waiting for someone to leak a copy to us. Rodney is undoubtedly preparing himself for the hits, especially since Reus told us that he gave Glassman an early draft of the profile after it was sent to him.

Since no Democrat challenged Mayor Bob Walkup, he'll only be facing longshot Green Dave Croteau. For some reason, the Greens have deluded themselves into believing that they've got a real shot at winning, even though they're disdaining the unpleasant work of raising money to get a message out about their candidate. Croteau is a nice enough guy, but he's going to get clobbered on Election Day.

The other race in the general election will pit incumbent Councilwoman Shirley Scott against GOP challenger Dan Spahr. Spahr, a financial planner, is full of enthusiasm in his first run for office, but he's not getting a ton of support out there.

Both Oien and Spahr announced after the primary that they had respectable voter support within their wards and suggested that would translate into support for their campaigns in the general election. Nice spin, but that's comparing apples to oranges, especially since one reason they had such high turnout in uncontested races was because City Clerk Kathy Detrick sent out postcards inviting every voter in the city to request an early ballot.

Thanks to that push, the city set a new record in early voting. In both Ward 1 and Ward 2, more than three out of four Democrats voted early.

Despite the big early-vote push, most voters just didn't care about Tuesday's primary. In Ward 1, about one in five Democrats voted, with Romero getting just more than 3,300 votes and Green getting just less than 800. In Ward 2, about 28 percent of Democrats voted. Glassman got about 4,300 votes; Reus got about 800.


TABULATION CONSTERNATION

Attorney General Terry Goddard released a long-awaited report last week on whether the Regional Transportation Authority vote was flipped by unscrupulous, road-loving schemers in the Pima County Elections Division.

Attorney Bill Risner, representing the Pima County Democratic Party, had alleged that vote-flipping in the May 2006 election, in which 58 percent of Pima County voters approved a half-cent sales tax for transportation projects, may have occurred because security was so lax in the vote-counting process.

Goddard said there was no evidence that any sort of vote-flipping took place, but the firm that analyzed the results did determine there were serious security concerns that should be addressed.

Essentially, the report--from Colorado firm iBeta--determined that there was no evidence that the outcome had been manipulated. The report notes that it would have been easy to eliminate any traces of evidence that the vote had been rigged, but concluded that if someone was going to go through the trouble of getting rid of all that evidence, they probably wouldn't have been stupid enough to leave behind the logs that raised the attention of Democrats in the first place.

The Democrats' concerns arose when their election-integrity team noticed that someone within the elections department had printed unauthorized reports of vote totals in several elections.

The employee in question, Bryan Crane, said that he'd run the reports to make sure the machines were counting votes properly, not to flip the outcome of the election.

The iBeta report also concluded that the Diebold GEMS vote-counting software used by the county (as well as other jurisdictions across the state) has some significant security flaws that should be addressed.

Brad Nelson, Pima County's election director, said he was still reviewing the report with his tech guys, but he said he agreed that no one in his office should have been running unauthorized early reports.

Nelson says that the county is taking other steps to safeguard the vote-counting process. For instance, it will take two staff members with separate passwords to access vote-counting software in the future "so no one person will be able to get into the machine from here on out," says Nelson.

Jeff Rogers, an attorney with the Democratic Party, says the AG's report shows the party's concerns about election integrity were well-founded.

So is this the end of the story? Not according to Rogers, who says that a copy of the election division's hard drive turned over to the Democrats earlier in the court fight may differ from the hard drive analyzed by the iBeta.

"It appears there may have been some further manipulation of the database sometime between December of 2006, when we first got our mirrored copy of the hard drive, and when it was turned over to the iBeta company," Rogers says.

Earlier this week, Rogers was in court arguing for the release of more data from Pima County that could help resolve the remaining questions. As of press time, the judge in the case had not issued a ruling.

Another complaint raised by election watchdogs is the lack of a verifiable paper trail with touch-screen machines that are now in each polling place, ostensibly to help handicapped voters cast ballots. The machines do print a receipt of each voter's picks on a roll of paper, but critics complain that could easily be manipulated.

Rogers says the best way to safeguard the election, besides ensuring that the software isn't vulnerable to hacking, is to have everyone fill out a bubble ballot that can be recounted if there's any question about an election outcome.

"I think touch-screens are dying a very timely death nationwide," Rogers says. "They're going down in flames everywhere."

Nelson says there are no plans to do away with Pima County's touch-screen machines. He notes that out of the roughly 350,000 ballots that were cast in 2006 general election, roughly 500 voters used touch-screen machines.

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