"I've been an activist all my life . . . but I've never done anything more important than what I've done now" (John Brakey)
"Every data point assured that the election was rigged" (Bill Risner)
"This is a third-world standard of justice" (Jim March)
J. T. Waldron's 2009 documentary Fatally Flawed: The Problems Are Inside, The Solutions Are Outside is (I can't say it better) "not only a character driven cinema verite but a moving journey of triumph and heartache in the face of monolithic government opposition." Ultimately, the Democrats succeeded in gaining the release of all of the election 2006 databases--the largest release of such files in U.S. history up until that time. But unfortunately this is hardly the end of the story.
Set in Pima County, Arizona, it begins innocuously enough with a situation posited for a primary election referendum: In Tucson, Grant Road, a six-lane highway, narrows down to a four-lane highway, causing a bottleneck. The six-lane width needs to continue beyond this point to improve traffic flow, from Swann Road to Oracle Road. This process will involve gutting homes and businesses. At least one nearby neighborhood association is understandably worried. There is no thought about their plight as the project moves forward; it's "Get them out of the way and then we'll make it better," says one local resident.
Why encourage urban sprawl, which is already such a problem? say other opponents; more traffic will encourage more development.
Urban sprawl is mentioned because this expansion is but one of fifty-one projects planned for the county, dependent on voters' willingness to contribute. At an anticipated cost of $164 million, it is the largest one. Altogether, all units of the project will cost $2.1 billion. If Internet information is correct, this first segment of the project , lasting from 2007 to 2011, ended up costing $7 million (www.grantroad.info/pdf/project-phases-map_042414.pdf).
In a May 16, 2006, primary, voters decided by a healthy margin that they would pay the $.05 sales tax to enable the highway expansion. Or so it seemed. In the past they had a record of rejecting RTA (Regional Transit Authority) initiatives for the area. What's being attempted now is a "regional approach" encompassing projects at the periphery of the county.
The Republicans, pro-business and development, were ecstatic at the election results. The Democrats smelled a rat.
On their behalf, John Brakey, co-founder of AUDIT-AZ (Americans United for Democracy, Integrity, and Transparency in Elections, Arizona [and a co-producer of the film along with Alissa Johnson]), and Jim March, a board member of Blackbox Voting, asked the Pima County Elections Division to see the database files from the county election computer, a public record, and were refused by the county board of supervisors. Democrats on that board refused to become involved in any way. They permitted the county administrator, the chuckling Chuck Huckelberry, to make all of the decisions
What happens thereafter is scenes from one session of the resulting lawsuit to others as controversy heats up and circumvention and double talk build up; in friendly activist venues information is shared. What is remarkable is the collusion among the various levels of government all the way up to and through Arizona's attorney general. Finally, the appellate court rules in favor of the plaintiffs: "[T]he courts have jurisdiction to protect against rigged elections." That took a year and a half, but more roadblocks are on the horizon as the Democrats go to collect their disk drive and are led on another wild-goose chase, exposing yet more corruption on the part of those already labeled as "suspects," the county board of supervisors specifically and other related officials above them.
A crime has been committed. A million hard-earned dollars have been spent. Arizona's attorney general, Terry Goddard, listens to Democratic attorney and AUDIT-AZ activist Bill Risner with a straight face if not a grinding smile as the unflappable attorney, who never once blows his cool in the face of the consistent skullduggery, patiently explains to him what he is obliged to do as attorney general as Goddard double talks back at him.
National expert Michael Shamos is consulted; he advocates for a recount of the paper ballots. This advice is taken after more shuffling around of papers and taxpayer money. The ballots are transported to the neighboring Maricopa County, location of the state capital, Phoenix. Pima County Republicans have joined the Democrats in their quest for accurate counting of votes.
A witnessed recount is permitted, excluding the outspoken digital expert Jim March and passionate activist John Brakey. But no testing of the authenticity of the ballots was performed, nor have the ballots been sorted by precinct to assure that the votes of those closest to the scene of the county road-expanding project reflect the expected results.
Is prospective relief granted? I don't think so. From the Internet it is clear that numerous municipal infrastructure projects are in the works. The ultimate solution, for there is one, turns to Humboldt County, California, home of the Humboldt Transparency Project and Mitch Trachtenberg's "Ballot Browser," an open-source vote-counting program.