Bev here, bringing you a first-hand report from one of our founding board members, Jim March, who is at the hand count live now.
RTA Hand Count Situation Report
aka: The Official Chronicles Of The Bored To Tears
By Jim March
The total hand count of what are alleged to be the 2006 Pima County Regional Transportation Authority bond measure ballots are being counted right now in Maricopa County, Arizona. Eight teams of three people each (all Maricopa Elections Division employees) are doing the "sort and stack" method to pile ballots into three piles for each question.
In broad strokes, the preliminary counts are being reported to match the official final totals from 2006. Ballot forensics are going to be a factor here, and the chain of custody of these ballots (read: are they even the original ballots?) is open to question.
A number of things about the RTA race raise eyebrows. The audit logs look funky, similar measures failed repeatedly in years past, records show that elections officials had cheat-peeked at absentee ballot totals a week before the polls closed, the head system operator was spotted referring to a Microsoft Access advanced programmer's manual while using the Microsoft Access-based Diebold central tabulator (1), and ballot chain of custody is as muddy as the Nueces River.
AZ Attorney General Terry Goddard finally took a serious role into investigating this election, resulting in the current hand-count. But the way he handled it violated every standard possible in election transparency, and continues to do so.
Goddard will tell you that he doesn't need to be transparent at all, because this isn't an election-related hand count. He's partially right: This hand count is connected to a criminal investigation aimed at the people who run elections in Pima County. But the problem is, Goddard's methodology in this investigation caused him to take personal control over the very public engine of Democracy.
No one person can ever be allowed to take that control with zero oversight or observation. It leads to dark places. When a single government official takes control over election information, even as part of an investigation, it's a step that imperils our right to self-government.
WHAT STEPS HAS ATTORNEY GENERAL GODDARD TAKEN?
1) Over a month ago Goddard seized control over the ballots, storing them with zero oversight from political parties or citizen observers and, as far as we know, no oversight from any other government body. We still don't know where the RTA ballots vacationed while awaiting this hand count.
2) The ballots are now being counted by the Maricopa elections office in conditions designed to prevent observation – most particularly preventing any independent counts of the vote totals.
OBSERVATION [NOT] RULES INCLUDE:
a) The AG's office told political parties to offer up three names for prospective observers to the hand count. From this pool of three possible candidates, the AG's office would select one participant per party. These Pima County observers would be required to travel each day for one week to Maricopa County -- over 120 miles away.