**********Jerry Nabours & Jeff Oravits to host Flag Mornings Election Day, November 6th and 7th from 7:00AM-9:00AM. 93.5FM or online.**********
Coconino County Election Security In Doubt.
‘Concerns have recently been voiced by several citizens and candidates in Coconino County who have produced examples of what they see as holes in the security of the vote counting process’
My official campaign observer created a report which listed alleged violations at the Coconino County Elections Office. Here is a link to the report and an article.
Productive Trip to Phoenix
On Monday, Mayor Nabours and I went to Phoenix. We met with Phoenix Councilman Sal Diciccio, Mexican Consul General Trevino and Colonel Strickland of the Arizona Veterans Affairs Office.
The AZ VA is working on getting a veterans home and cemetery outside of Flagstaff in the Bellemont area. There are currently only two VA homes and cemetery’s in all of Arizona. Col Strickland informed us that a grant is waiting for AZ to complete this project but the AZ Legislature needs to allocate $10,000,000 for Arizona’s portion with the Federal VA kicking in the rest of the funds. I plan on speaking to various members of the Legislature to push hard for this project to get the necessary funds.
Picture Canyon Purchased by City.
Council voted 7-0 to preserve 380 acres of land off of East Route 66 including Picture Canyon and the area around it. This is a culmination of citizens and city officials for nearly 30 years. Read more here.
Mr. Wilsons Report.
At your request, I acted as your official observer at the Coconino County vote counting facility during the Consolidated Elections, May 15, 2012. During several hours on 14 and 15 May, 2012, I witnessed several different processes including opening of ballots, verification of ballots, ballot counting and processing of ballots rejected by the electronic counting machines.
Background: The City of Flagstaff contracts with Coconino County to conduct elections on its behalf. The Coconino County Recorder, Ms. Candace Owens, is in charge of all elections activities and Ms. Patty Hansen is the Elections Administrator, working for Ms. Owens. The May 2012 election was an all mail in ballot election, no polling places were used. Ballots are mailed to registered voters approximately 30 days prior to the election. Completed ballots are returned to Coconino County Recorders office. As ballots are received, the Recorders Office staff use information printed on the outside of the ballots to validate them against the registered voter list, bundles the ballots into groups and then transports the still sealed ballots to the Election Warehouse located at 1186 W. University, Suite C and D. At the Election Warehouse, ballots were opened, processed and then stored in a locked cage awaiting counting. Ballot counting began on 14 May 2012. Processed Ballots were removed from a locked cage and fed through electronic scanning vote counting machines by member of the Counting Board.
Observations: At the Elections Warehouse on 14 May 2012, I was provided a briefing on the vote counting process and the rules regarding my activities as an observer. At that time, I asked the county employee, Mr. Donald Grassmuck for a copy of any rules, regulations or any county level documents that defined how the vote counting process was conducted so that
I could compare what I was observing with the requirements. I was informed by Mr. Grassmuck that no such documentation existed and he referred me to Ms. Owens. Ms. Owens stated that the entire elections process is conducted in accordance with the Department of State, Office of the Secretary of State, Election Services Division Publication, Election Procedures Manual, Copper Edition 2012, Dated October 2011, to conduct elections. Later that day, a printed copy of the Elections Procedures Manual was provided for my reference
(apparently there was not a copy of this document in the Elections Warehouse). I have now(apparently there was not a copy of this document in the Elections Warehouse). I have now compared what I observed with the requirements in the Election Procedures Manual and have identified numerous instances where the events taking place seemed in conflict with the requirements of the Election Procedures Manual. I have listed these conflicts below in the order in which the requirement is listed in the Election Procedures Manual:
Page 107, Political Party Observer Guidelines, Paragraph 4, states:
“Political party observers may take notes at a polling place, central counting place or sample hand count but must use a writing implement of a color designated by the office in charge of the election or procedure”.
During the in briefing, this requirement was not identified. Numerous observers were present with a variety of writing implements which could have been used to mark a ballot.
Page 108, Political Party Observer Guidelines, Paragraph 5, states: “At a central counting place, all political party observers must check in with the
county recorder or officer in charge of elections prior to being admitted as a political party observer, and log in and out of the facility each time they enter or leave.”
None of the observers were required to log in or out of the facility.
Page 151, Central Counting Place Security, third bullet states:
“Access must be controlled, and only those people properly identified by badge will be allowed in the work area.”
None of the observers and most of the workers did not have badges.
4. Page 152, Live Video of Ballot Tabulation, first paragraph states:
“The live video recording shall include date and time indicators and shall be linked to the Secretary of State’s website.”
The time indicator on the video was incorrect by approximately 4 minutes. Note: The quality and refresh rate of the streamed video is so poor that it does not meet the intent of providing online monitoring of the vote counting process.
Page 152, Ballot Transfer Container Seal Log, first sentence states:
“The officer in charge of elections shall keep a log of all seals, which shall show: the serial numbers of each ballot transfer container seal, and the number of the precinct to which it was issued.
This log shall be: compared against the receiving board log, and
No such log was seen or used. Seals on boxes of opened ballots were not serialized. (Note: Boxes of open ballots were sealed with two seals, both installed across the top of the box flaps. This left the bottom of the box unsealed and therefore the ballots could have been accessed without anyone’s knowledge.
When I pointed this out, Mr. Grassmuck directed the works counting ballots to change the process and begin applying one seal on the top and one on the bottom.)
Page 153, County Recorder, second paragraph, second bullet states:
“…if the signatures appear to have been made by the same person, mark them in a manner to indicate that they match, [ARS § 16-550]”
No such marks appeared have been made on the affidavits.
Page 153, Early Ballot Board, first paragraph states:
• retained for auditing purposes.”
“If the County Recorder or other officer in charge of elections who is making the signature comparison makes the initial determination that the signatures on the early ballot affidavit and the voter’s registration were not made by the same person, the County Recorder shall furnish a copy of the voter’s voter registration form to the early ballot board. The early ballot board, if time permits, may attempt to contact the voter to ascertain whether the voter actually voted the early ballot and any reasons why the signatures may not match.”
Ms. Owens informed me that she personally and others on her staff research inconsistencies of signatures and make the determination to include or not include the ballot in counting, not the early ballot board.
8. Page 154, Early Ballot Board, first paragraph states: “The early ballot board shall make the determination whether:
• the voter’s affidavit is sufficient, and, if sufficient, • whether the voter’s name appears on the precinct register.
The vote shall be allowed, if: • the affidavit is determined to be sufficient, and • the registrant is a qualified elector of the voting precinct.
The vote shall not be allowed, if:
• the signatures on the early ballot affidavit and the voter registration do not appear to have been made by the same person, unless the board receives and accepts an explanation from the voter that he or she did vote the ballot and can explain why the signatures do not match, or
• the affidavit is determined to be insufficient, or • the registrant is not a qualified elector of the voting precinct.”
Ms. Owens stated that the above determinations are made by herself and other members of her staff, not the early ballot board.
9. Page 156, Damaged Ballots, first paragraph states: “Inspect ballots in designated stack for damage. If damaged ballots are found:
• collect all damaged ballots from this batch, • place them with any other “to duplication” ballots for this batch, • complete transmittal slip(s) labeled “to duplication” for each damaged ballot,
• set the stack aside, and • stamp damaged ballot.”
Damaged ballots were sent to the central counting station instead of to duplication. 10. Page 156, Ballot Transportation, first paragraph states;
“After the processing has been completed, ballots shall be transported by two election officials (not of the same political party)”.
I witnessed boxes of open processed ballots being transported by a single individual from the Early Ballot Board spaces to the Counting Board Spaces.
11. A Ballot from the previous election was passed by the Early Ballot Board opening and examining ballots to the Counting Board. This ballot should have been caught and stopped in the process two steps earlier. It was only when it was rejected by the counting machine that it was identified as an invalid Ballot.
12. Ms. Owens stated that during polling place elections, she has specifically authorized a single individual to transport Ballots from a remote polling place to the Election Warehouse in violation of State Law. She stated that this is done as a cost savings measure.
113. While there is a video camera streaming events occurring in the counting process, there is not a camera in the Early Ballot Board area where Ballots are opened.
14. Although there is an installed security system that consists of motion sensors and switches on doors, it is easily defeated to gain access to the locked Ballot storage cage.
As a result, the security of open ballots prior to counting is suspect.
15. On several occasions when questions were raised by observers, Early Ballot Board and Counting Board members, answers were either unable to be provided or appeared to be someone’s best guess. As an example, when a Ballot was rejected by the counting machine, no one seemed clear on who should examine the Ballot, what criteria should be used to determine its validity and how to document that decision.
16. Both Ms. Owens and Mr. Grassmuck explained to me that although they knew that a
16. Both Ms. Owens and Mr. Grassmuck explained to me that although they knew that a USB Memory Stick was not part of the State of Arizona certified computer hardware, they were none the less going to continue using it for the sake of convenience. While using this device may save a few moments of time, it is also possible to completely corrupt the system or introduce a virus by doing so.
Summary: I did not witness what I believe was any deliberate attempt to affect the outcome of the election. I believe that due to a failure to establish and follow procedures, there was opportunity for fraud to occur. The fact that I, an individual not previously familiar with the vote counting process, observed the number of issues I did in a few short hours suggests there may be many more. Those in charge of this process, Ms. Owens and Ms. Hansen displayed a lack of concern for strictly following the rules and regulations identified by the State of Arizona. There seemed to be a “let’s just get this done” attitude. In my opinion, a thorough review of the entire elections process by a qualified independent examiner should be conducted prior to the next election. Additionally, a detailed set of instructions based on the State of Arizona Election Procedures Manual should be developed and implemented. These instructions should provide detailed step by step instructions and requirements for each of the elections processes. In my opinion, the elections process should be conducted in a manner that is above reproach and that assures accuracy. I would be happy to further discuss these issues and the potential consequences of them at your convenience.
15 August 2012