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"Where the hell are our ballots?"

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A group of citizens showed up on Tuesday in Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard's office. They were wondering where the 2006 Pima County ballots, the subject of an election fraud investigation, are being kept.

One early report indicated the ballots were being stored by Maricopa County -- hardly a model of intact chain of custody itself. The Pima County ballots had been secretly removed from a secure storage facility about a week earlier.

Jim March, a member of the board of directors for Black Box Voting; John Brakey, of AuditAZ, and other Pima County citizens wanted to know where the ballots are now -- who has access, what are the security arrangements, how can their integrity be verified?

THE STORY SO FAR:

The Pima County May 2006 RTA election stinks. If it wasn't rigged, somebody went to a lot of trouble to make it LOOK crooked.

Last week Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard caught at least part of a clue and decided to step in. Wonderful.


NOT SO GREAT: He came and grabbed the ballots from the SECURE private facility where they were locked up (Iron Mountain Storage in Pima County; Iron Mountain is a firm that specializes in secure document storage and escrow) and hauled the ballots away to points unknown. This took place, in secret, some time around Feb. 24 this year.

CHAIN OF CUSTODY PERSPECTIVE: When cops of any rank come and grab ballots without oversight or cooperative security measures, it's a Bad Thing. It's how third world dictators behave. The most gracious possible explanation is that Mr. Goddard just didn't understand the implications or the significance of such an act.

Arizona citizens decided to tell him. 

MARICOPA'S SPOTTY CHAIN OF CUSTODY HISTORY

The most critical Maricopa County ballots, scheduled for a post-election hand count spot check during the 2008 general election were handed over to Sheriff Joe Arpaio for several days; one controversy on these ballots involved Sheriff Joe Arpaio's race.

More absurd: In Maricopa County, chain of custody is supposedly secured with numbered seals. Maricopa ordered 20 copies of each number; Ten were given to elections workers and the elections office kept 10 more.

Ordering even ONE duplicate numbered seal automatically breaks the chain of custody because it allows a person to replace a seal with another of the same number. Sending 10 with the poll workers lets them break in and replace the seals over and over, and giving 10 more to the elections office adds opportunity for insiders to swap ballots before handing them over for hand count spot checks.

DOES MARICOPA HAVE THE PIMA COUNTY BALLOTS?

Once they got to Maricopa County, the Pima County citizens started asking around. Was Maricopa County elections keeping the Pima County ballots?

No, said Assistant Director of Maricopa Elections office Rey Valenzuela. Maricopa doesn't have the ballots, but has been tasked with doing the hand recount for the Pima County RTA ballots.

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http://www.blackboxvoting.org

Bev Harris is executive director of Black Box Voting, Inc. an advocacy group committed to restoring citizen oversight to elections.
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