Sunday, August 8, 2010

When It Comes To Election Integrity In Arizona There’s Nothing Like Having An “Elephant in the Room” Or At Least A "Big Donkey".

By John R Brakey.
     Sometimes I have to remind myself that the work for election integrity is not about the right or left: it’s about right, wrong, greed and corruption. 
     I’ve learned over the last 9 years that there are basically three types of oversight of election in our country; one is Candidate, the 2nd is Party and the 3rd is Public oversight. I’ve learned that the first two suck, because the issue becomes political and partisan. It's got to be about Truth and Justice over Politics!  Not that "our candidate is better then their candidates for Governor".

     After all, this wasn't the first time the "Big Donkey" Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard cleared Pima County of wrong doing by a joint investigation by his office and the suspects or secretly confiscating the ballots and other evidence, breaking the chain of custody. See Letter Of July 14, 2008 To Terry Goddard With Exhibits From Attorney Bill Risner
      NOTE: this is not an exhaustive list of problems with elections in Pima County or the RTA race specifically. There are many more issues and it will one day take a book to outline everything.
    In the case of elections, complexity, specialization, corruption, and marginalization techniques are enemies of the people. Modern computerized elections operate through systematic secrecy that robs citizens of access to information, full participation, and transparency in the counting process. As a result we are blind to election irregularities and fraud.
  A year ago, April 21, 2009 our Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard held a press conference in Tucson to announce the completion of the RTA ballot hand count examination by his office. I was present to hear his pronouncement that he could “find no evidence that there was tampering with the election.” At first I wanted to believe Terry Goddard, and so I thanked him - you can see that on video. Fortunately Mari Herreras of the Tucson Weekly was there and filed a records request practically on the spot.  After receiving the requested documents we learned that “the devil was in the details.”  Furthermore, the details of what we found alarmed us so much that we decided that the Attorney General’s finding must be reviewed and audited.  That’s why we went to well known election expert Ellen Theisen of Voters Unite. org. Her report can be found at this link: Significant Discrepancies In Comparison Of RTA Results
    My complete review of the video of AG Goddard's press conference statement has prompted me to explain in some detail why his investigation, despite its theatrical aspects, was critically incomplete.

     It is important to examine the two-billion-dollar Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) ballot initiative investigation by the Attorney General for what it teaches us about election security in the future. The conclusion we have learned is that every effort must be made to make sure that election cheating cannot occur in the first place. Once an election is rigged, the political system unites to prevent examination or challenge.
    The key defect and the glaring omission of the Goddard examination was his office's absolute refusal either to examine the ballots themselves to determine if they were the original ballots or to permit the political parties to conduct a simple, quick and non-destructive examination.
    At the April 21st press conference Jim March, the Libertarian Party designated observer at the RTA hand count, asked this question:
Jim March: “Was any attempt made to determine the authenticity of the paper ballots in your possession? In other words, did you check to see if they were printed on a Runbeck offset printer as opposed to a more modern laser printer, which both Pima and Maricopa County have in their possession?”
Terry Goddard: “No. Our criminal investigation can only focus on those items for which we believe we have reasonable suspicion and the substitution of thousands of ballots is not an item that had been raised that we felt came to that level. I've not seen any credible evidence that anybody is out to testify that there might have been a substitution of ballots. You can't go through a forensic analysis for something for which you have no reasonable suspicion that it might have happened.
I don't mean to belittle any possible suspicion, but in the context of a criminal investigation, we don't start by eliminating every possibility, we start by taking evidence and focusing on that for which we have probable cause or reasonable suspicion: in this case, that a crime might have been committed.
Raising a criminal suspicion is something we do only with a strong showing that we have something to go on. We did not have the opportunity to do the forensic discussion that was just described. Maybe in a perfect world, we would try to eliminate every possibility of tampering that could ever be out there, but that's not the world of criminal investigation. We have to start with the suspicion that we believe is justified before we go to the expense of the public to do what we have done today.”

     The Pima County Democratic Party first asked for the Attorney General's office to examine the RTA ballots in 2007. They refused to do so. As Attorney General Goddard explained at his press conference, “it took a while for me to get to that point in this investigation.” (SEE TIME LINE OF EVENTS BELOW)  While Goddard was getting to that point, the ballots sat in storage controlled by Pima County officials. If, as all of many threads of evidence suggest, the Pima County election computer operator rigged the RTA election at the request of his superiors, then County officials’ motive to substitute ballots would have been of the highest order.
    Could Pima County have printed new ballots? (Video of how it could have been done) Yes, and quite easily. Pima County owns a ballot printing machine. It is known as “ballot-on-demand” system. That machine can immediately print any ballot for any precinct of the RTA election, last fall's primary or general election or any other recent election.  It can do so because the “GEMS” election computer database retains the printing instructions known as “ballot definition files.”
    The original ballots were printed on an offset press by Runbeck Election Services in Glendale, Arizona. (click on pictures to enlarge and you can see how easy it is to tell the differences between offset or laser printed .)
    The unused RTA ballots were reportedly destroyed by Runbeck in June of 2006. If Pima County wanted to print new ballots, they could most easily print them using their own ballot printing machine. Pima County's machine uses a laser printer. That printer is simply a computer with GEMS instructions connected to an Okidata laser printer.
    In a personal experiment, Jim March used a microscope and noted that the offset printed ballots from Runbeck had “clean” margins on the printed material while laser printed material had observable “toner spray” on the margins. He showed, therefore, that by simply putting a ballot under a microscope one can determine if it was printed on an offset press or a laser printer.
    Jim March photographed samples of each and sent to the Attorney General's office copies of the photographs and a description of what to look for on March 31, 2009 . He requested that they look at the ballots as he had demonstrated. Jim brought a microscope with him to Phoenix and kept it available for such an examination in the observation room on the other side of the glass window to the counting area.
    The Pima County Democratic Party Chairman spoke on the telephone with Attorney General Goddard and asked for our observer to be able to use a hand lens. Goddard agreed, but his personnel at the scene refused.
    Bill Risner. attorney for the Pima County Democratic Party, made a written request that the Attorney General's investigators conduct a forensic examination of the ballots themselves or permit us to do so.  In a highly unusual and significant vote, the entire Executive Committee of the Pima County Democratic Party requested the Attorney General's office to conduct such an examination or permit us to use the microscope ourselves.
    The Attorney General refused in a letter from Criminal Division Chief Counsel Donald Conrad, the lawyer in charge of the investigation, to Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Jeffrey Rogers, dated April 10, 2009.
    Three days later, in a letter faxed on April 13, 2009, Bill Risner responded to Mr. Conrad on various matters including the requested ballot examination.
Bill Risner wrote to Donald Conrad:  Your April 10 letter contains a paragraph concerning examination of the ballots that I do not understand. It appears that we may not have made ourselves clear. You state that “several people have brought to our attention their concerns that false ballots were printed and included in the final count of votes in the RTA election.” You then conclude that your office won't examine the ballots unless proof is first provided that such a fraud did occur. In other words, you won't ask the questions unless the answer is first assured. That approach is backward to any investigative technique that I am familiar with.
More importantly, your answer relates to an allegation that we did not make. No one, to our knowledge, has suggested that false ballots were printed and included in the final count of the RTA election. As your office has learned, it is very easy for Pima County to cheat using either the GEMS computer system or the “cropscanner” memory card programming device that they purchased. If those easy methods were used for the RTA, the question arises as to the validity of the contents of the ballot boxes. (Video link to how cropscanner hack works)
     We know the Pima County Elections Department owns a ballot printing machine. We do not know the security of those ballots at Iron Mountain. Therefore, we made the elemental suggestion that a noninvasive and non-destructive examination of a sample of the ballots could be done using a microscope. Jim March, the Libertarian Party's named observer, had such a microscope at your facility all last week. From our viewpoint, such an examination would have been both simple and elemental.”
    Mr. Goddard's statement at the press conference that his office “did not have the opportunity to do the forensic discussion that was just described” is simply wrong. The opportunity was present during the entire ballot counting process. Likewise, the issue of “expense” to the public is non-existent since such an examination in their presence or by them would be at no cost. Mr. Goddard began his press conference by explaining that the ballots in the possession of his office were always under the supervision of two or more police officers and at least two different security devices. He explained that those precautions were necessary “if in fact we determined that a major difference was found between the hand count and the previously reported count, that we would be able to proceed to trial without damaging the evidence involved.”
    As the hand count demonstrated, there were only small differences between the reported count and the hand count. Therefore, his investigators knew from the first day that there would not be a major difference and that those precautions were unlikely to be necessary.
    The Democratic and Libertarian parties wanted a sample of the ballots examined under a microscope so that the public could be assured that the ballots cast were the ballots counted. It was a goal that the Attorney General shared in words if not deed.  As Mr. Goddard explained, it was “important to have as much transparency as we could, and I want to emphasize this, consistent with a thorough criminal investigation.”
    Mr. Goddard described the criminal investigation process as requiring “probable cause or reasonable suspicion” before any single piece of evidence in their possession could be examined. It's the same formulation as his chief criminal deputy who wouldn't examine the ballots unless proof was first provided that such a fraudulent substitution had occurred.
    The Attorney General wanted a witness to testify before they would look. He said “I've not seen any credible evidence that anybody is out to testify that there might have been a substitution of ballots.”
    YES, it is truly astonishing that the Attorney General would ignore a request from the Executive Committee of the largest political party in Pima County for his office to simply put a sample of the ballots under a microscope. If his office felt that they had enough suspicion in the first place for the investigation, they should have examined the ballots sufficiently to put these matters to rest.
    The existence of motive, opportunity and means to accomplish a ballot switch was irrelevant to his office without an eye witness or confession first.
    This quite intentional avoidance of basic forensic examination brings to mind the first examination by the Attorney General of the regular printing of actual vote tallies days or weeks in advance of election day by the Pima County Election Department. The Attorney General accepted the explanation of Bryan Crane that he printed those tallies in order to confirm that the “heads” that optically read the ballots were operating properly.
    That explanation contradicted his earlier sworn testimony that he had printed the tallies in order to write down a “cards cast number” and within “seconds” would shred the tallies on an office shredder. That “explanation” further contradicted the testimony of his assistant, Robbie Evans, Jr., see video.
    Prior to their interview of Mr. Crane, the Attorney General's office had been given the name of Mr. Crane's assistant of four years, Robbie Evans Jr., and were informed that he would explain that such tallies were regularly printed so that the election department would know who was losing and who was winning. The Attorney General's investigators chose not to speak to Mr. Evans.
    At the “database” trial, Mr. Evans testified under oath that the Pima County Election Division printed pre-election tallies so regularly that Pima County paid for a rubber stamp to be made to stamp them as “unofficial tallies.” He further testified that the Pima County Election Director regularly came in to obtain his own copy to take back to his office. Other copies were kept at a table in the computer room. His testimony cannot be reconciled with the unexamined explanation accepted by the Attorney General.
    The conclusion that we draw from our experience with the Attorney General's office is that they will go to extra-ordinary lengths not to effectively investigate and not to prosecute.

    A Superior Court judge ruled that the court “had no jurisdiction” to consider election fraud in the RTA even if it was accepted as a fact that it had been rigged. Of course, the Pima County Attorney's office has spent years and hundreds of attorney hours attempting to prevent election transparency.

    Arizona’s election director, Joseph Kanefield, testified in the database case that the fundamental security flaws that make the Diebold/GEMS data impossible to validate were “known by not only our office but election officers all over the country.”
    What has been proven to my satisfaction is that no election can be challenged after the fact.  At least no election that involves a lot of money, such as the $2 billion RTA road plan and tax increase.
    In view of the agreed-upon fact that our elections can easily be rigged using the secret computer software, we must make changes before an election to prevent fraud in the first place.
    We now know the only reason Goddard took the ballots is because Bill Risner had made a deal with Beth Ford attorney to get the Poll tapes and Risner  asked Goddard to send an agent to protect the Chain of Custody, very soon after the Ballot disappeared with an “Secret Order from a Secret Judge”. We have it on film.
From Page 8 and 9 - Conclusion
Comparing the number of ballots hand counted and the number canvassed revealed severe discrepancies that require further investigation. The extent of the discrepancies indicates that:
  •   The attorney general’s report contains significant errors, 
  •   The county’s canvass report and transmittal sheets contain significant errors, 
  •   And/or the ballots hand counted were not the same ballots that were canvassed.
The questions raised by these discrepancies could be answered by examining the election-night precinct poll tapes and poll worker reports from the RTA election. These documents are still available in the boxes in which the ballots are stored.
A precinct poll tape is printed by each optical scanner at the end of election day. It shows the number of ballots cast and the results for each contest on the ballot.
A poll worker report (informally known as a “yellow sheet”) is completed by poll workers in each precinct at the end of election day. It shows the number of voters who signed in and an accounting of the ballots.
A sample poll worker report and the top portion of a corresponding precinct poll tape are shown on the following page. (see report)
The attorney general did not examine poll tapes or poll worker reports as part of his criminal investigation, and as yet the Pima County Democratic Party has been unable to obtain them through open records requests.
Examining the poll tapes and poll worker reports would answer these questions:
  • How many ballots were scanned by each machine in each precinct?
  • How many “yes” selections, “no” selections, undervotes, and overvotes were recorded by each machine in each precinct? 
  • Did the number of ballots cast in each precinct match the number of voters that signed in?
Without definitive answers to these questions – answers that the poll tapes and poll worker reports could provide -- the discrepancies revealed in this report cannot be resolved.
In his April 21, 2009 press conference Attorney General Goddard said of the ballots: “We had to preserve this situation so that if, in fact, we were to determine that a major difference was found between the hand count and the previously reported count, that we’d be able to proceed to trial without damaging the evidence involved.”
This report establishes a “major difference” that requires an examination of the poll tapes and poll worker reports. Especially in light of the irregularities that convinced Attorney General Goddard that “there was reasonable suspicion that a crime might have been committed,” the possibility of ballot tampering remains an open issue.  End of excerpt.

Note:  Since the release of the Voters Unite . Org  report we were able to get  from the City of Tucson general election of November 2nd 2009 all the poll tapes and poll workers end of day reports for a total cost of $14.50. Meanwhile Pima County has spent additional $150,000 keeping us from the RTA poll tapes and the end of day poll worker reports. The current estimate is that the county has spent about 1.2 million dollars and counting, blocking us from getting to the bottom of all this.  This in itself is outrageous and points to their hiding something.  To know more about this go to “SEEKING JUSTICE - AUDITAZ” and read about what going on with the poll tapes now.

  • 2/13/09 A must read: AZ Daily Star “Goddard: Recount for 'curiosity' not allowed”  Goddard stated: "If they can bring us viable information we would continue to investigate it. They haven't. They've brought us what I can only describe as a wild story".
  • 2/18/09 Bill Risner informed the AG in a letter that he had reached agreement to finally get the Poll tapes.  “The Democratic Party expects to be able to access the poll tapes in the coming weeks. We, of course, need to get these before Beth Ford, the Pima County Treasurer, destroys the ballots. We are concerned about the retrieval process itself, however, because we want to make sure that the evidence is not contaminated. Since your office is conducting your own investigation, we invite you to participate in the poll tape retrieval. Your participation would serve to preserve the integrity of that evidence, should it ultimately be needed.” 
  • 2/19/09 the next day after sending letter to Terry Goddard Bill Risner is told by Attorney for the Treasurer’s office John Richardson that the AG Office is now interested and is going to seize the ballots.
  • 2/20/09 By Andrea Kelly Arizona Daily Star AG asks for Pima County's transportation election ballots” 
  • 2/23/09 Bill Risner Letter to AG Terry Goddard regard the secret order.pdf 
  • 2/23/09 in court AG office presents a secret court order to take the ballots. Link to video.
  • 2/25/09 the ballots are moved from a secure facility “Iron Mountain’ by AG office to a secret location. Video: Where are the Ballots?
  • 3/31/09 Bill Risner sent Jim March report to AG office on a simple way to verify the ballots and check them to be the original.   
  • 4/06/09 we can see at the hand count that the AG Office compromised chain of custody; the ballots were not securely handled; boxes were not secrecy-taped; the AG gave no accounting for the location of the ballots from 2/25/09 until they arrived at Maricopa Election Department about May 1st.  Bill Risner, Jeff Rogers and the Executive Committee’s Resolution of Pima DEMs asked to have polltapes separated and have ballots checked for being original 2006 ballots – this did not happen. Transparency requires that the public be advised of the ballot chain of custody, where the ballots during that time. After ballots are counted their packed back in the boxes, sealed, signed, proper chains of custody is done and that what should have been done when they took the ballots out of Iron Mountain a secure storage facility. 
  • 04/10/09 AG Goddard Office to PCDP Chair Jeff Rogers No Evidence to check- Bull .pdf 
  • 04/13/09 Bill Risner faxed letter to Donald Conrad of AG office that clearly spells out the problems. 
  • 04/17/09  Bill Risner letter to Donald Conrad about poll tapes, Pima Treasure "Beth Ford" says its OK to separate into one box.
  • 04/21/09 AG Terry Goddard hold a press conference basically said we did such a good job that we found 67 extra ballots. While this is imposable when in fact we learned later that he was missing four precincts worth of ballots.  See Ellen Theisen of Voters United . org Report
    This Is Not The First Time Terry Goddard Cleared Pima County of Wrong Doing - See Letter Of July 14, 2008 To Terry Goddard With Exhibits From Attorney Bill Risner.
    The databases pointed us to the need to inspect poll tapes. From that examination of the databases for the 2006 special election, we learned that 85 separate precinct memory cards were at least loaded once to as many as 6 times starting at 10:15 pm election night. No backup of the database was made election night Tuesday May 16th as always had been done. In fact no backup was made until Friday May 19th at 5:01 pm. Why you may ask? Well, that is simple: they didn’t want to leave any evidence of wrongdoing. To have a flip, then you have to have a flop, no backup made, no evidence of misdeeds, except the database shows the time when the reloads were done and how many times it was done.

    Importantly, the poll tapes will have date and time on them, how many votes were cast and are signed by the poll workers at the precinct – they are a solid record of election day results that is difficult to tamper with after the fact.
  • Will they match what's in the final database?
  • Will they have evidence of the “cropscanner” being used? 
  • Will they still be there? 
  • Have the poll tapes already been destroyed? 
  • Why has the county worked and spent so much money keeping this out of the public view? 
  • Why does the County agree to give us the poll tapes next August?
    Again, what are they hiding?
    Bill Risner and Jody Gibbs in this video explain what many don’t want to believe, but the facts are saying it too. Link to Video.
When AG office took boxes they did nothing to protect the “chain-of-custody”.
Transparency requires that the public be advised of the ballot “chain-of-custody”, where the ballots were during the 5 weeks be for the hand count. And should be sealed properly with “security tape” and signed by the AG's agents and that wasn't done. 
However the Chain-of Custody is not done correctly only after the AG hand count is done.
Boxes of ballots are also signed by all who handled them.
Placing the AG evidence seal on boxes after the fact – not at the time of pickup.
After ballots are counted they are packed back in the boxes, sealed, signed, proper chains of custody is done and that what should have been done when they took the ballots out of Iron Mountain a secure storage facility.
 Thomas Jefferson’s Powerful Words:
"It would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is every where the parent of despotism: (tyranny) free government is founded in jealousy and not in confidence; it is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited Constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power: that our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which and no further our confidence may go."