by David Safier
I just got word from John Brakey that the ballots from the disputed RTA election are supposed to be counted April 6.
If true, this is big news. The count/don't count controversy has been raging for quite awhile now — and the word "raging" is no exaggeration. If a definitive answer about the outcome of the election comes from counting the ballots (Amazingly, they have never been hand counted. The results we have came out of a computer that tallies the scanned ballots using a program that everyone admits can be easily manipulated to give false results), it would bring this controversy toward its conclusion. Either the vote count was rigged and the ballot measure was actually defeated as many people in the election integrity community believe, or the count was legit.
But Brakey and others waging the election integrity battle are concerned about the process. A court proceeding about the fate of the ballots ended abruptly when Attorney General Terry Goddard said he would take charge of the ballots. Days later, he carted them off from the Pima County Treasurer's office to Maricopa County.
With so much suspicion surrounding the ballots, the question is, why didn't Goddard involve members of the political parties in moving the ballots? It would have been easy to have the entire process monitored by Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians so all three parties were satisfied that the chain of custody was intact and the ballots were stored securely. But he didn't.
He could have left the ballots where they were in Pima County and conducted the hand count here, where there are plenty of trained counters and observers from the three parties who count ballots from selected precincts after each election. But he didn't.
Brakey and others who have been looking into this have no idea where the ballots are stored or who will be involved in the counting. They say they can't get any answers from the AG's office. Why Goddard has opted against transparency is beyond me. His actions have increased suspicion among those who have fought for this moment long and hard and want everything to be done in a way that is above suspicion.
As I said in an earlier post, I'm an agnostic about the RTA election. There are lots of indicators that could point to election fraud, but there is nothing like definitive proof. But I'm a true believer in transparent election processes that make it nearly impossible for bad actors to cook election results that go against the will of the voters. I don't understand why Goddard isn't trying to earn the trust and cooperation of those who have worked on this for years, to assure them this last phase of the process is being conducted with the greatest possible care and transparency.
UPDATE: An email from someone who has been following this whole thing closely urged me to be cautious about casting suspicion on Goddard's actions. This person says that the same source who told the election integrity folks that the ballots would be counted April 6 also said the hand count would be done in the presence of party observers. This person also wrote, "The AG is documenting chain of custody, as it is required to do, to preserve the admissibility of the evidence in any subsequent criminal proceeding."
I admit my ignorance about legal issues and how criminal proceedings are handled. My only concern here is with getting out the information and presenting my concerns.
The whole RTA controversy operates on at least two levels: reality — whether the RTA count was fair or rigged — and perception — whether people feel the investigation is being conducted fairly and the conclusions reached in the investigation are valid. Before the AG stepped in, perception was on the side of the election integrity folks. The papers and the Pima County Supes were calling for the ballots to be counted. Now that the AG has stepped in and a conclusion to this affair seems to be in sight, the perception has shifted. The election integrity folks are looking to many like conspiracy theorists who believe everyone in a position of power is in on the plot to bury the truth about the election. I want to see as much transparency as is legally permissible so the conclusions that come out of the investigation, whatever they may be, can be accepted as valid.