Phoenix: Ballots Missing – Integrity and Confidence Also Missing

Update 4/22/2009: Attorney General says Original Result ‘Affirmed”, but questions remain <BradBlog>

However, when a reporter asked about that quote from our report last week, during today’s press conference, Goddard admitted they did not examine the tapes.

“The two things we wanted to hear, we didn’t,” J.T. Waldron, a documentary filmmaker who has been covering the years-long struggle for transparency in the RTA election, told us after the conference. “First, they admit they didn’t look at the poll tapes. Second, they admit that they didn’t do any forensic examination of the ballots” to see if they were legitimate. Critics have pointed out that Pima County has, since the 2006 election, purchased a ballot-on-demand printer and could have printed out ballots to match any ‘fixed’ ’06 ballot counts. The originals were printed by an offset printer, rather than ink-jet, as used in the ballot-on-demand system, and a forensic examination of a sample of ballots, with a microscope, might have revealed any such tampering.

“He said he didn’t have enough evidence to justify a forensic examination of the ballots,” Waldron noted.

Sad,  that with a bit more transparency, we might have confidence in the assessment.

Update 4/16/2009AP Article also quoted in BradBlog follow-up:

What may be of even greater concern is the voting machines in Pima County, which includes Tucson, are similar to those used in 12 of Arizona’s 15 counties and in hundreds of jurisdictions across the country.
If it turns out the election was rigged by manipulating Diebold Elections Systems (now Premier Election Solutions Inc.) computer election programs, as some fear, it will show weaknesses in electronic balloting that could endanger the democratic process.

We would emphasize that we should not “fear, it will show weaknesses in electronic balloting that could endanger the democratic process”.  We should welcome the information so we can take action.  And even if it turns out this particular election was not rigged and had no errors, we should be worried that the real risks and dangers to democracy are ignored.

**********Original Post

Two stories on the recount of a 2006 election in Arizona currently underway.  AZCentral has a good background article, Vote probe raises fears over ‘fix’ <read>

Under the scrutiny of criminal investigators, election workers in Phoenix have spent the past week in a painstaking recount of 120,821 ballots that were cast three years ago for a Pima County transit tax.

The primary objective is to determine whether someone rigged the election by tampering with the optical-scan polling machines in Pima County, transforming “no” votes into “yes” votes…

And, no matter what happens with the recount, state Attorney General Terry Goddard said he is convinced the equipment jeopardizes election integrity.

“These (Premier) systems are very, very bad,” Goddard said. “(They) are not state of the art in terms of security. They are not state of the art in terms of transparency.”

Chris Riggall, a spokesman for Premier, said his company uses the most advanced technology available and urges clients to establish security protocols. Although there are internal safety features to prevent and detect tampering, Riggall added, those must be supported by external controls over election workers who handle the equipment.

“You can manipulate any voting system devised by man,” he said, noting that even paper ballots are subject to fraud…

During an initial investigation, the Attorney General’s Office hired an independent company to analyze the machines. Experts at iBeta Software Quality Assurance found a number of “irregularities” and determined that the Premier system had “fundamental security flaws.”

They reported that a trained technician could have altered the vote and removed all evidence of the crime. However, they concluded that human error was a more likely culprit than fraud because evidence of tampering had not been erased.

The Attorney General’s Office dropped the case in 2007, but the Democratic and Libertarian parties continued private investigations and filed lawsuits for election record…

Former Pima County employee Zbigniew Osmolski filed an affidavit in July alleging that he was in a Tucson lounge when Crane admitted that he had “fixed the RTA election on the instructions of his bosses” and was fearful of indictment…

Risner noted that, according to sworn courtroom testimony, Crane routinely took voting data home during elections and had his office computer connected to the GEMS system. He also claimed that Crane purchased a hacking device before the election, one with “no other purpose than to illegally alter the programming of precinct voting machines.”

Now for the latest disturbing part from Brad Friedman, ‘Thousands of Ballots’ May be ‘Missing’ from AZ’s Criminal Investigation Ballot Count in Phoenix<read>

“If we are correct,” Risner wrote in his Monday letter to the Attorney General’s office, concerning the absence of as many as 19,000 paper ballots, as estimated by observers of the counting in Phoenix, “the question arises as to what happened to those ballots.” The latest mystery adds still more fuel to the already high-stakes, long-sought hand-count, and raises new questions in the nearly three-years long investigation into the 2006 election results.

If the ballots are indeed missing, did they ever actually exist? Was the Diebold electronic ballot box stuffed? Have ballots been surreptitiously removed by someone for some reason?

As we have said there is no reason to be confident that referendums are not subject to skull duggery: FAQ: Why Would Anyone Steal A Referendum?


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