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AZ Election Official Arrested for Flagging Tampered Ballots: Charged with Criminal Trespass

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During Saturday's audit of Pima County (Tuscan) ballots from Arizona's primary election, official observer John Brakey was forcibly removed by sheriffs when he raised questions about possible ballot tampering.  At least seven ballot bags arrived unlocked or lacked proper chain of custody documentation.  Elections Director Brad Nelson had Brakey arrested and charged with criminal trespass. 

"I was doing my job!" Brakey said, who represented the Democratic and Libertarian parties in an official capacity at the state-mandated audit.  "The first thing you do is check the seals.  Are the ballot bags locked?  Do the numbers on the seals match the seal number listed on the documentation inside of the bag?  This lets us know that the ballots were properly stored and sealed by election workers, and arrived with chain of custody intact."   

Pima County, AZ Election Observer John Brakey

Brakey's attorney, Bill Risner, called the noon arrest "outrageous."  He plans to enter his appearance on Monday and will seek a trial on this matter.  He wants Nelson and the sheriffs to explain, on record, their removal of an election official who questioned improperly received ballots.  Risner explained:

"It's a bad situation here.  We have an incompetent Elections Director who is working against the interests of our political parties.  Nelson is intentionally creating confusion and slowing things up to blame the Democrats for his own internal problems.

"I'd be surprised if the prosecution proceeds. The whole essence of the crime requires that he be shown to have been unlawfully present at the counting center."

Election Defense Alliance is covering the story and dug up this television news video of the incident from KGUN TV, Pima AZ. posted this lengthier video providing deeper coverage of the arrest.

Brakey noticed that seals on three ballot bags arrived broken.  He then asked nine counting teams if the documentation inside the bag, known as the "End of Day Certification Reports," were properly completed.  At least seven bags did not contain the legally required documentation.

"You can't count those ballots – there's no chain of custody," Brakey advised. When ballot bag seals are not properly affixed, anything could have happened to the ballots from the time they left the poll site on the 2nd.  A break in chain of custody, or lack of proper documentation of that custody, precludes any rational basis for confidence in ballots being audited.

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Brakey observed the opening of one bag by Director Nelson, who pulled out a scrap of paper with two signatures scrawled on it.  Brakey questioned this, but Nelson assured him he knew those election workers and deemed those signatures valid.  "How can he know them? You couldn't even read those signatures, and there are 3,000 poll workers in the county."

According to the Arizona Daily Star, Nelson estimates incongruities were found with only two or three of 18 bags, likely caused by poll-worker errors on election night. While Nelson admits that asking questions is appropriate, he added that inquiries should be directed to him and not to the ballot-counters.  "He refused to direct questions to me," Nelson said.

Brakey advised he only spoke with ballot counters who were chit-chatting, and did not interrupt them from work.  After ascertaining that a bag had not been properly sealed or documented, he "advised them to watch for discrepancies."

That's when Brakey was asked to leave the building.  But he refused to leave until Pima County Sheriffs handcuffed and physically removed him.  Witnesses were shocked at the rough treatment, imploring the officers to go easy.  "He's got a broken wrist.  Be careful!"  Brakey's cast was recently removed, but the wrist is still tender.  "I've got a little swelling there now, but it's fine," he said on Sunday.  "But I squealed in pain when the cuffs were squeezed."

Brakey is a co-founder of Arizona-based AUDIT-AZ, which stands for Americans United for Democracy, Integrity and Transparency in Elections.  He also helps coordinate the Investigations Unit of Election Defense Alliance.  Election observation is a critical task that advocates have long promoted.  Brakey agrees:  

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       "The problems we have with our elections are on the inside.  The solution is on the outside." 

Brad Friedman reports that Brakey is the “citizen hero (and yes, a community organizer!) who helped shepherd the landmark lawsuit recently brought by the Pima County Democratic Party resulting in the release of Diebold database files showing how voters actually voted in a 2006 election and earlier. The databases were sought after fraud was (and still is) suspected in a number of important elections and ballot issues.  Both Pima County and Diebold had opposed the release of information on how voters voted, citing security issues and Diebold's claim of ‘proprietary trade secrets.’

“The lawsuit was successful, as the judge ultimately disagreed with the County, leading to the largest release of such databases ever in this country.”  Attorney Bill Risner was lead counsel in that lawsuit.

Pima County, Arizona experienced a 24% turnout on September 2nd of 471,187 registered voters.  Two-thirds cast "early" ballots while the rest voted at the polls.  All the votes were counted on Diebold-Premier optical scanners.  Diebold-Premier recently admitted a flaw in its GEMS program that drops votes, which the company said could not be fixed before November's presidential election.  The flaw exists on all Diebold voting products sold in the last ten years.


In 2004, Rady Ananda joined the growing community of citizen journalists. Initially focused on elections, she investigated the 2004 Ohio election, organizing, training and leading several forays into counties to photograph the 2004 ballots. She officially served at three recounts, including the 2004 recount. She also organized and led the team that audited Franklin County Ohio's 2006 election, proving the number of voter signatures did not match official results. Her work appears in three books.

Her blogs also address religious, gender, sexual and racial equality, as well as environmental issues; and are sprinkled with book and film reviews on various topics. She spent most of her working life as a researcher or investigator for private lawyers, and five years as an editor.

She graduated from The Ohio State University's School of Agriculture in December 2003 with a B.S. in Natural Resources.

All material offered here is the property of Rady Ananda, copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009. Permission is granted to repost, with proper attribution including the original link.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." Tell the truth anyway.

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and he is willing to fight it. And officials there... by Joyce McCloy on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 12:22:23 AM
Have the elections been taken over, lock, stock, a... by muservin on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 2:27:25 AM
Just one humble suggestion: The pink backgrou... by Tom Degan on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 8:30:28 AM
the state of elections in this nation is an absolu... by Rady Ananda on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 7:14:20 AM
Brakey should get a medal for putting his life and... by Brent Turner on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 11:23:28 AM
Then they came for the election observers... ... by Dave Berman on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 12:51:04 AM
there can be no doubt the election is fraudulent.&... by Rady Ananda on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 7:18:08 AM
Of course he's got something to hide, Rady!&nb... by boomerang on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 7:35:07 AM
Elections officials don't like the public tres... by Mark E. Smith on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 1:38:57 AM
Given the nature of the times in which we live, wh... by Tom Degan on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 8:15:23 AM
More proof that our election process is a complete... by john riggs on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 11:50:53 AM
Fabulous coverage ...... by Meryl Ann Butler on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 11:54:18 AM
interesting that your article made no mention of t... by jeff Farias on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 12:32:21 PM
Why was there no mention of this on KGUN TV News?H... by David Griscom on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 1:01:47 PM
Searched the internet high-and-low to find a '... by Amanda Lang on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 7:49:28 PM
ok, I followed up.  this appears to be a nast... by Rady Ananda on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 8:59:41 PM
John Brakey doesn't have an Arizona concealed ... by Jim March on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 10:33:05 PM
I have to agree with Jim.  Jeff's apology... by SusanBA on Tuesday, Sep 9, 2008 at 1:09:44 AM
Jeff's wife is a senior permanent staffer at t... by Jim March on Tuesday, Sep 9, 2008 at 1:23:20 AM
Nothing much I can add but a little background.Joh... by David Griscom on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 12:45:56 PM
Thanks so much, David, for providing the links to ... by Rady Ananda on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 1:38:36 PM
Hi,Count ALL positions on all ballots at the preci... by Frank Henry on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 12:49:36 PM
Because ballots are under constant scrutiny at the... by Rady Ananda on Tuesday, Sep 9, 2008 at 10:56:37 AM
Comment from Ratings:   I guess I am get... by Gini GOLDIE on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 1:33:50 PM
and just where the hell are the Democratic and Lib... by Susan Nelsen on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 1:44:19 PM
“Fascism in America won’t come with ja... by ed in iowa on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 6:01:22 PM
Comment from Ratings:   Holy Crapola! I ... by szn46 on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 6:27:03 PM
And it is safe to say hundreds of thousands will r... by Stephen Fox on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 6:29:39 PM
and that was way cool of you to include my bio. ... by Rady Ananda on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 6:38:22 PM
The chain of custody of ballots is an important is... by SusanBA on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 7:24:55 PM
Seems like an obvious next step!... by Stephen Fox on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 7:48:55 PM
My sincerest apologies to Mr Brakey.I was misinfor... by jeff Farias on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 8:08:41 PM
This raises my esteem of you.Doesn't Arizona a... by Rady Ananda on Tuesday, Sep 9, 2008 at 11:02:45 AM
Arizona Action TeamMembers: 1136 Access: Public Cr... by Stephen Fox on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 8:36:42 PM
AT THE PRECINCT, on election night, before all who... by Rady Ananda on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 9:09:19 PM
I went back into the "den of iniquity" k... by Jim March on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 11:07:48 PM
This is a real crock, and the big guys in the medi... by Stephen Fox on Monday, Sep 8, 2008 at 11:58:34 PM
I am concerned. It seems like the hand count audit... by SusanBA on Tuesday, Sep 9, 2008 at 1:24:29 AM
Thanks, Jim.. please do post your follow up as a f... by Rady Ananda on Tuesday, Sep 9, 2008 at 7:22:05 AM
so hopefully, Arizonans calling will take some not... by Stephen Fox on Tuesday, Sep 9, 2008 at 10:26:05 AM
  John Brakey sounds like a decent American d... by Eliot Gould on Wednesday, Sep 10, 2008 at 10:57:53 AM