RTA Big Reveal: The Boondocks Affair

After spending much of yesterday talking to lawyers, we think we have a better understanding of the fight to preserve the ballots from the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority election, which Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford has said she is ready to destroy.

We’ll get to the part about how secrets may or may not have been spilled at the Boondocks Lounge in a second, but here’s a bit of background for those who came in late: In May 2006, Pima County voters approved a half-cent sales tax to fund an estimated $2.1 billion in transportation projects over two decades.

Attorney Bill Risner, who has successfully sued Pima County to gain access to electronic databases related to ballot tabulation, suggested last year that the RTA election might have been flipped—that county election officials rigged the computers to show the RTA propositions passed even though voters actually rejected it.

Since then, we’ve had an investigation by Attorney General Terry Goddard (which critics have dismissed as a “sham”) and lots of legal jousting by Risner and the Pima County Attorney’s Office, which reached a climax when the Pima County Board of Supervisors agreed to give up an appeal of the case and turned over the databases to Risner. Or, more accurately, offered to turn them over to Risner, who has been too busy to pick them since winning the case

You’re probably wondering: Why not just recount the ballots? Because state law prohibits the county from doing a recount without a judge’s order.

We’re almost to the part about the Boondocks, so stay with us.

But before we get to that: Jim March, the tech guy with the election integrity crew, says he’s been working on developing a program that might (or might not) detect any signs of fraud in the RTA database he got from the county back in January. He said yesterday that he hoped to have some results by November.

March made his comments at Risner’s press conference, where the scrappy attorney alerted the public that Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford was planning to destroy the ballots Continue reading

Advertisements

UPDATE: Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford: There Is A Plan To Destroy RTA Ballots

Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford says she sent notice to the political parties last month that she would be destroying the 2006 RTA ballots unless she heard an objection by Friday, July 11.

Ford says she has held off on following the state law that requires the destruction of ballots six months after an election because the ballots were considered evidence in a lawsuit filed by the Pima County Democratic Party regarding whether electronic databases were public record.

“Now I’m stuck in a position where, ‘What do I do with the ballots?'” Ford says. “Now I’m violating state law because I didn’t destroy them. So I’m stuck in catch-22.”

Ford said that after consulting with the County Attorney’s Office, she sent notice to the political parties on June 27 that she planned to destroy the RTA ballots, which are now in storage. She gave the political parties until Friday, July 11, to raise an objection.

“If I receive an objection, then I can go to the courts so the courts can tell me what I’m supposed to do,” Ford says.

Ford says she did not consult with Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry about destroying the ballots.

She says she has no position on whether the ballots should be destroyed.

“It’s fine with me if we keep them,” she says. “It’s fine with me if we destroy them.”

UPDATE: Chuck Huckelberry: No Plans To Destroy RTA Ballots

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says he’s unaware of any plans to destroy the ballots from the 2006 RTA election, as alleged by attorney Bill Risner in a press release yesterday.

“I have said, ‘Do not destroy them under any circumstances,'” Huckelberry says. “My instructions to the county attorney were to go to court if necessary to prevent those ballots from being destroyed.”

Huckelberry says he’ll be sending out a memo today to request that the County Attorney’s Office prevent County Treasurer Beth Ford from destroying the ballots.

Huckelberry says he’d be delighted to recount the ballots but the law prevents the county from doing so.

“We could have saved $250,000, $300,000 in attorney’s fees and all the aggravation we’ve gone through over the last two years if we would have been just allowed to recount the ballots,” says Huckelberry, who points out that under state law, the ballots should have been destroyed already, had it not been for the county’s decision to hang onto them. “It demonstrates how archaic election law in Arizona is.”

Huckelberry quotes Charles Dickens: “The law is an ass.”