Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pima County Circumvents It's Own Election Integrity Commission to Get a Waiver that Removes Proper Audit of County Elections

J.T. Waldron

A key document has surfaced in a recent lawsuit in Pima County, Arizona, that suggests much more activity affecting the reliability of elections took place in secret meetings with Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. When the 2011 revision of the state elections manual added a sentence requiring presorting of early ballots by precinct, the County secretly went to the Secretary of State and got a waiver, without any disclosure to their own Election Integrity Commission. This activity certainly falls within the purview of the Commission and presorting had been frequently discussed by the Commission.

Although Bennett is familiar with Pima County's Election Integrity Commission, he may or may not be aware that the meetings took place without the knowledge of the other Commission members. Pima County employee John Moffatt and staunch county supporter Benny White were the two members of Pima County's Election Integrity Commission (EIC) that sought changes to the Secretary of State’s Election Procedures manual. One key substantive auditing provision, to sort early ballots by precinct, was removed without the knowledge of the rest of the EIC.

The letter from the Secretary of State, dated June 29th of 2012, acknowledges the request made by Pima County Elections Director Brad Nelson to avoid presorting early ballots by precincts and grants an exemption for the upcoming Fall election. At no point was this change mentioned at any of the commission meetings. Retired NSA analyst Mickey Duniho, Computer expert Tom Ryan, and Black Box Voting member Jim March are among the members of Pima County's EIC that strongly recommended presorting the early returns by precinct.

The process for revising the Secretary of State’s Election Procedures manual begun in 2011 when Ken Bennett formed a commission consisting of Pima County employee John Moffatt and Benny White. Although Brad Nelson is the recipient of the exemption, it is unknown whether he participated in that committee. During the time in 2011 when that committee was meeting, John Moffatt and Benny White regularly reported to the Pima County Election Integrity Committee about the changes that were being recommended. At no time did they mention the Secretary of State's intention of requiring presorting of early ballots by precinct. At almost every EIC meeting, however, Mickey Duniho and other members frequently discussed with the board the importance of presorting early ballots by precinct before conducting the hand count audit.

Citizens filed a lawsuit against Pima County and held a hearing earlier this week over presorting early ballots along with other auditing procedures provided by Arizona Statutes. They filed this lawsuit absent any knowledge that this provision was added by the Secretary of State and later exempted at the request of Pima County. Had it not been for the current lawsuit to get Pima County to follow existing election laws, we would have never discovered this activity taking place behind the backs of the rest of the Election Integrity Commission. Such trickery seems to involve far more work and effort than actually negotiating the logistics of presorting early ballots by precinct.

It appears that County Attorney Chris Straub has reported this change and the accompanying waiver to the court in this recent trial. This disclosure is likely required to avoid potential sanctions, even possible disbarment, for withholding information from the court that is pertinent to the case.

Those who knew that the Election Integrity Commission was being circumvented are obviously Benny White and John Moffatt. Brad Nelson and Chuck Huckelberry would also have a difficult time claiming ignorance over withholding information and secretly obtaining a waiver from Ken Bennett to avoid compliance with the new rule. Every EIC meeting has transcripts and are sufficient to show that Moffatt and White were falsely representing what took place with the Secretary of State.

Was Benny White's role in working with the Secretary of State to enhance the impression of the EIC's participation in the revision of the Secretary of State’s Election Procedures manual? Pima County has no doubts over Benny White's loyalty to those currently entrenched in Pima County's bureaucracy. In 2008, he provided false testimony and slandered John Brakey to the Pima County Board of Supervisors when Brakey was falsely arrested while serving as an elections observer (see below). Brakey has so far refrained from suing Pima County over his false arrest, which was requested by Brad Nelson. Despite what we had previously predicted, Benny White indeed testified in the hearing earlier this week. You could see the difficulty in getting a direct answer out of him as he's asked his position over presorting early ballots by precinct.

Discovery of this "runaround" by the county sheds new light on the dynamics of last week's emergency meeting proposed by Mickey Duniho. Here they are spending hours discussing the importance of presorting the early ballots. Benny White left early because he claims to have a conflict of interest with the upcoming court case. Absence makes withholding information a lot easier. Brad Nelson has the easy excuse of being busy during the election season (It's also the excuse Pima County uses for not complying with state election laws). Pima County employee John Moffatt is left to sit through the whole meeting discussing a subject that he knows has been "managed" behind their backs. It's his job.

Here is Benny White lying to the Pima County Board of Supervisors:

With all the scurrying behind the scenes, one has to wonder what part of the election do they plan to alter?

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