Election Eve Nightmare

Can the Maricopa County Elections Department ensure the accuracy of early voting? Hell No!

So much for the much ballyhooed consistency of the IVC optical scanners.

And who knows if the "errant" marks Osborne repeatedly blamed for the increase in votes even accurately reflected voters' true intentions?

In some cases, the IVC scanners have detected tiny dots, smudge marks and even the body oil left behind by a fingerprint and registered them as votes when, upon physical inspection of the ballot, it is obvious the marks or smears were not intended to be votes.

Maricopa County elections boss Karen Osborne botched the District 20 recount.
Jackie Mercandetti
Maricopa County elections boss Karen Osborne botched the District 20 recount.

It's clear the IVC machines can't be relied on to provide an accurate count on early ballots equivalent to what is found in the booths at the polls until the public begins taking the utmost care to mark ballots with only black ink pens or pencils.

It's also clear that county recorder Helen Purcell needs to clip Osborne's wings for overstepping her legal authority and initiating steps for a manual recount in the District 20 race.

Osborne tells me she knew that a manual recount was against the law, but she wanted to do one anyway.

"I thought this was the most practical thing to do," she says.

Osborne says Orlich's four-vote margin of victory in the primary was the principle reason she felt a manual recount would provide a more certain result than a machine recount.

She also said a looming deadline for printing early ballots for the general election left her little time to determine who won the District 20 primary and that she needed to begin sorting the ballots before a court officially ordered a recount.

Osborne's unilateral decision to conduct a manual recount triggered a series of events that may have contributed to the sudden spike in votes that later showed up.

Preparing for a manual recount required 25 to 30 county and temporary employees to sort through more the 330,000 early ballots cast in Maricopa County in the primary election and pull out the 7,900 early ballots for District 20.

This sorting process could have inadvertently caused ink, pencil marks, smears and fingerprints to show up on the District 20 early ballots that may not have been there during the primary election.

Such marks caused by sorting could have been among the "errant" marks Osborne says were later detected in the recount.

The sorting process took place over about five days. The sheer handling of that many ballots, by so many people over an extended period of time, increases the possibility of tampering -- something Osborne says is extremely unlikely.

"In my heart of hearts I don't believe anyone tampered with these ballots at all," she tells me, though acknowledging "anything is possible."

Osborne finally backed down from her plan to do a manual recount after Secretary of State Brewer rejected the proposal.

Brewer was clearly upset that Osborne tried to circumvent state law and proceed with a manual recount.

"I would appreciate it if you would provide me an explanation why you felt the manual recount was necessary in the first place," Brewer wrote in her September 23 letter.

Osborne has not yet responded to Brewer's request.

Nor has Osborne provided the public with an adequate explanation for what happened in the District 20 recount. Unless there are immediate answers, the feds should step in and investigate.

Meantime, I just hope to hell that the presidential election doesn't come down to a recount in Maricopa County because it is painfully obvious that we are ill-prepared to handle such an important task.

E-mail john.dougherty@newtimes.com

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