Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce Robocalls Reported on by ABC15, Channel 5 Reports on Olivia Cortes Confusion

Hat tip to ABC 15 for picking up on the story I filed Saturday about deceptive robocalls targeting Democratic and Latino voters in Legislative District 18 from the right-wing Safeguard Arizona's Workers PAC, chaired by local Tea Partier Ron Ludders.

Ludders, who is pro-Pearce, claims the robocalls are "educational." Actually, they are mis-informational. The calls, some of which feature a Ricardo Montalban-sounding kinda guy, encourage people to write-in a candidate as a protest vote.

But, as Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne pointed out to me on Saturday, and as Arizona Secretary of State spokesman Matt Roberts confirmed to me today, no one has registered in LD18 as a write-in candidate.

"Since no write-in's filed, [no write-in votes] will be tabulated," Roberts explained.

Translation: you can write-in a name, but it will count for nothing. In doing so, an elector would be throwing away his or her vote. 

Which I'm sure is exactly what Ludders and his pal state Senate President Russell Pearce want folks to do, if they are inclined to vote for Pearce-foe Jerry Lewis.

Roberts says the SOS' office has not yet determined whether or not an investigation of the robocalls is merited.

I've got a call into the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Arizona, to see if they're going to look into the robocalls, or anything to do with the sham candidacy of Olivia Cortes, for that matter. Will update if I receive a reply.

FYI: You can find the USAO's citizen complaint form, here

To be fair, I do not know if federal laws would be triggered by these robocalls, which are deceptive, but may not violate any statutes, state or federal. Also, I don't really trust the feds to look into anything. 

(Evidence the federal probe into Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which is at 1,057 days and counting with zero action.)

Plus, if you outlawed deception in political advertising, there'd be no political advertising, practically.

On another front, Channel 5 has done a solid piece about an LD18 elector who threw away her vote on Olivia Cortes before learning that Cortes was a sham who'd pulled out of the race.

I can tell you, there is some confusion out there. I went out with volunteers for the pro-recall group Citizens for a Better Arizona yesterday, which is separate from the Promise Arizona group Channel 5 reported on.

One Hispanic lady explained to us that she had initially voted for Cortes, but after she found out that Cortes was a sham, she "spoiled" her ballot and now plans to vote via provisional ballot on Tuesday.

Other CBA volunteers had similar stories, but fortunately, the people they were encountering have received the info that Cortes is a sham and are acting on that info.

Once someone has mailed or dropped off an early ballot, the vote is cast, and there's no going back. But if you've already marked your ballot, you can indicate it's "spoiled" by checking off a box on the ballot, and then vote via a provisional ballot.

CBA and other groups are doing a great job of getting the word out by going door-to-door and phone-banking. However, the CBS 5 story and the tales of near-misses I'm hearing reveal that Cortes' cynical candidacy has had some impact, despite attorney Tom Ryan's lawsuit and the the resulting media frenzy.

As I said in my last column, Cortes, the East Valley Tea Party, Pearce and all of his followers and highly paid campaign consultants better be praying Lewis wins, as I've predicted he will. Otherwise, Ryan's going to drag them all into court post-election, and it won't be pretty.

Just received a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division stating that the DOJ will be sending elections monitors to Alameda County, California; Springfield, Massachussetts; Humphreys, Leflore, Panola and Wilkinson Counties, Mississippi; Lorain County, Ohio; and Jasper, Texas.

Sadly, Mesa, Arizona is not included. This is a big disappointment, and makes it even more important that poll watchers and the media monitor election day activities at all poll locations in LD18 to make sure there is no intimidation of voters or other hanky-panky.

The pro-Pearce camp has shown, over and over again, that it will do anything to win, even if it's possibly illegal, as may be the case with the Cortes affair.

They are a nasty bunch, prone to deception, threats, and various scofflaw shenanigans. Thus, vigilance is the watchword for November 8. 

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons