Ballot Boxing

GOP honchos keep hiding the truth about election foul-ups, as it's learned that local ballots may be stored illegally

Bennett, meanwhile, forced Harper to find private funding to pay for Jones' trip to Phoenix to examine and test Maricopa County's voting machines. New Times volunteered to cover Jones' expenses up to $3,000 to conduct his research. This is something the Senate should have paid for but refused to. It seems obvious that Bennett doesn't want the public to know about the serious problems inside the county elections department.

Secretary of State Jan Brewer has participated in the cover-up by failing to conduct a thorough investigation of the county elections department after learning about the inexplicable appearance of the votes during the recount. Brewer is making idiotic statements that everything is fine while ignoring her duty to make sure the county conducts fair and accurate elections.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas has taken extraordinary steps to hide the underlying causes of the District 20 fiasco. Thomas conducted a "preliminary" investigation into District 20 last spring at the request of Maricopa County Republican party leaders. His investigators discovered extremely damaging evidence of problems inside the county elections department. They found that the county's voting machines may have failed during the 2004 primary, andthey discovered evidence of witness tampering ("All Bark and No Bite," July 14).

What did Thomas do with such evidence of voting machine failure and interference in a court proceeding by public employees?

He sanctioned the member of his own office who was involved, but he closed his investigation.

Since that date, Thomas has been particularly hostile to Harper's efforts to obtain the ballots to determine what happened.

His office is now attacking the credibility of Douglas Jones' examination of the voting machines involved, as well as publicly ridiculing Harper.

In an incredible affront to the public's fundamental right to fair elections, Thomas is now saying he will oppose all efforts to inspect the District 20 ballots.

At the center of the cover-up sits Maricopa County elections director Karen Osborne. I have documented a long list of clever deceptions that have spewed from her mouth over the last 16 months.

Suffice it to say here that Osborne bent the truth to the county Board of Supervisors on September 22, 2004, when the board voted 3-1 to certify the District 20 recount.

Osborne told the supervisors that the reason all the votes suddenly appeared during the recount was that ballots were counted on the "more sensitive" Optech 4-C machines during the recount, as opposed to the "less sensitive" Eagle machines during the primary.

The truth is, nearly all of the 489 new votes came from early, mail-in ballots. And all early ballots were counted by the Optech 4-C machines in the primary as well as the recount. The Eagle voting machines are used to tabulate votes cast on election day at individual precincts.

Osborne made a bogus comparison of two different makes of voting machines to provide some sort of plausible explanation to the supervisors. If she had told them that the Optech 4-C machine in the primary failed to detect votes that were later discovered by an identical Optech 4-C in the recount, the supervisors would have realized that there were huge problems in the elections department.

It gets even worse.

The next day, Osborne misled Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Eddward Ballinger when she changed her story about where all the votes came from. This time, she said the voting machines have an extremely difficult time reading early votes cast by black felt-tip pens and glitter pens.

We now know, thanks to Jones' examination of the county's voting machines, that this isn't true. Jones found that the Optech 4-C machines can detect even a dot made by black felt-tip pens as a vote and that glitter pens performed better than any other writing instrument he tested.

It's way past time for the Legislature to support Harper's effort to gain immediate access to the District 20 ballots so that an independent audit can be conducted.

The District 20 ballots that are apparently being illegally stored outside the treasurer's vault had better be in excellent condition, or hell is likely to break loose from voting-rights groups that are closely monitoring the issue.

Perhaps that's why Republican leaders are so intent on blocking access to the ballots.

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