By Michael Shelby
Despite significantly flawed election reform legislation with a built in "failsure" requirement designed to prevent an audit from ever happening, despite numerous obstacles and obfuscations, despite objections and maneuverings by Arizona's exceedingly partisan Republican Secretary of State, and despite insufficient Republican Party auditors that could have triggered an end to the audit; Arizona's first official and legal audit of a general election will begin Thursday, August 9, 2006.
Arizona election reform bill, SB 1557 mandates, with strict adherence to the law, that 72 members from each major party, a minimum of 144 auditors, be present or an audit cannot be conducted. No amount of common sense or accommodation can be made by law, no exceptions, no wiggle room, non-negotiable. In an earlier post on Op Ed News, Designed to Fail...Auditing Elections In Arizona, I described this prohibitive maneuver in detail. At the beginning of today's audit we started 18 short of the necessary quorum.
Eighty D's made themselves available by the 1:00 PM start time. However, only 46 R's, 26 short of the minimum, made the deadline. With just 126 of the necessary 144 present the audit was in serious danger of being cancelled. If not for the integrity of Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne acting as a true public servant, extending the deadline one hour, conducting the audit didn't stand a chance. Director Osborne negotiated with the two major party chairs in attendance for the D's and R's to accept members from either party and the Libertarian Party to fill the vacancies. People fired up their cell phones and "beat the bushes" for bodies. Some late comers began straggling in causing those of us in the seats to count them off enthusiastically one by one, "136...137...138!" To which they responded with quizzical stares for bestowing instant celebrity on them for just coming through the door. For a moment it appeared as if the operatives from both parties had trolled the local public golf courses for retirees. Then the entire staff of "20 and 30 something's" from the AZ Democratic Party Headquarters paraded in as if recruited from a scene in, Animal House. Add to that some mothers with sleeping infants in their carriers, a college freshman here or there, some more late comers, and a wonderful lady whose first vote was probably cast for FDR and VOILA! In less than an hour, working together, in a spirit of cooperation with the people's desire to make this important check on the cornerstone of our democracy a success, we pulled together a total of 160 people, 16 more than the minimum and 34 more than we started with, for tomorrow's comparison of the ballots against the machines.
There is much suspicion surrounding election reform in Arizona. Clearly, much of the suspicion around the sincerity and veracity of the AZ Secretary of State, partisan legislators Hell-bent on at least marginalizing if not destroying election reform, and elections officials not wanting work added to their already overburdened responsibilities to enact bona fide election reform has come from this author and others who have been intimately involved in the election integrity movement in Arizona for several years. However, those gathered together today unmistakably realize that election integrity is not about right or left, but about right or wrong. They take their civic responsibility to assure that every ballot is counted as cast, accurately and honestly, seriously and beyond petty party politics. The patriots in the room this day realize that election integrity is not a partisan issue . . . election integrity is a civic responsibility.
I'll fill you in on the genuine auditing tomorrow.