Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Election-integrity activists proved this week that when you want to know something, you get in a van and haul ass to Phoenix.
What they wanted to know was the exact location of the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority ballots that were transported from a secure storage facility in Tucson to Phoenix on Tuesday, Feb. 24, after being released to the Arizona Attorney General's office following a sealed court order issued by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge. And while they suspected the ballots were going to Maricopa County Election Department, the activists also wanted to know the exact procedures that would take place to make sure chain of custody of the ballots was protected and how AG Terry Goddard will go about counting the ballots. They wanted all political parties in the counting process and as recount observers.
On Monday, Jim March and John Brakey from Audit AZ went up with a van of other activists and paid a visit to the Maricopa County Election Department. They were told the ballots are not there by election department employee Ray Valenzuela. The exchange was caught on film as part of JT Waldron's documentary Fatally Flawed, on the Pima County elections-integrity travails.
The big news garned from the interchange: The AG has the ballots, the AG has contracted with the elections department up in heathenville (i.e. Phoenix) to prepare and do a hand count, and all of it is expected to take place in April. See a clip from Monday's visit HERE.
Imagine that ... the mystery of the RTA election--if it was flipped as the Pima County Democratic Party and election integrity activists have come to suspect--could be resolved by spring.
The activists ended their Monday road trip at the AG's office, where they hoped to talk with Don Conrad regarding the ballots. They wanted to ask if a security seal could be placed on the ballots boxes and find out if the ballots are indeed there. They stuck around for an hour waiting, and were told no one was there to meet with them, so they headed outside to protest.
Via e-mail from Brakey: "Truly the AG office doesn’t get it! As we know election security is a cooperative process between elections officials and the political parties, per Arizona law. Historically, when law enforcement or ANY other agency seizes sole control of critical ballots, it's a sign that either the agency does not understand chain-of-custody election laws--or it is their intent to commit election fraud. Without approved witnesses appointed by the major political parties, the public can NEVER be certain that ballots secretly sequestered by ANY agency are EVER counted correctly."
For this week's Weekly, The Skinny talked to AG Press Secretary Anne Hilby, who confirmed the ballots are in possession of the AG’s office and are being treated as evidence as part of their ongoing criminal investigation into allegations that the RTA election was flipped-- although Hilby couldn’t confirm or deny they may indeed be at the Maricopa County elections office.
The Skinny requested a copy of the court order, but Hilby said the document is sealed in court and is not considered a public record. Hilby said an examination protocol has yet to be decided, but once it is, it will be made public before any counting or examination takes place. Of course, Hilby and her boss probably didn't expect Brakey and company to drive up and ask for themselves.
“I can confirm the Attorney General’s office has taken ballots… The ballots are treated as evidence in a criminal investigation… We understand the significance of this issue, especially to particular organizations in Pima County,” Hilby said.
Come April, I'd like to have a front row seat in Maricopa County. I want to watch this count take place, and like everyone involved--from activists, to Pima County politicians and bureaucrats, the RTA folks, our own elections department and even Terry Goddard--I'm looking forward to an ending to what has often seemed like a never-ending story.
Before we can call it close to quits, we need the AG's office to do this right, and that means talking to the Pima County Democratic Party, following chain-of-custody and other security measures as suggested, and making sure everyone is on board with the final procedures before that first hand touches that ballots. If not, it never ends.