-- Brad Friedman, A BRAD BLOG Special Report
In a letter written to the Arizona Attorney General's office on Monday, as obtained by The BRAD BLOG, the attorney for the Pima County (Tucson) Democratic Party has expressed a concern that thousands of ballots from a disputed 2006 special election, which should be in the AG's possession, may instead be "missing".
"Many thousands of ballots that should be in the ballot boxes in your possession don't exist," attorney Bill Risner writes in the 3-page letter [PDF] to Donald E. Conrad, Chief Counsel of the Criminal Division at the office of state Attorney General Terry Goddard. The alarming allegations come as the second week of an extraordinary hand-count of paper ballots, part of a criminal investigation into the '06 election, continued in Phoenix on Monday.
A spokesperson from the Attorney General's office says she believes the count will be concluded on Wednesday, though that could change. It was originally scheduled to conclude last week.
The AG is conducting a criminal investigation into allegations that that election may have been electronically manipulated by election official insiders. The special election created Tucson's Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) in May of 2006, and funded it with a joint bond measure to the tune of $2 billion over ten years. The Pima Democratic Party had endorsed the two RTA ballots questions in the election, but they now question the legitimate success of the measures. They've been bringing court cases to access ballot materials, and have been demanding a hand-count of the ballots for a number of years. Similar RTA initiatives had failed in four previous elections before they were finally passed in 2006.
"If we are correct," Risner wrote in his Monday letter to the Attorney General's office, concerning the absence of as many as 19,000 paper ballots, as estimated by observers of the counting in Phoenix, "the question arises as to what happened to those ballots." The latest mystery adds still more fuel to the already high-stakes, long-sought hand-count, and raises new questions in the nearly three-years long investigation into the 2006 election results.
If the ballots are indeed missing, did they ever actually exist? Was the Diebold electronic ballot box stuffed? Have ballots been surreptitiously removed by someone for some reason? Or have observers miscalculated the number of ballots being examined? The AG's Press Secretary Anne Titus Hilby tells The BRAD BLOG she's aware of the allegations of missing ballots but could not speak to that point in any more detail "until the examination is concluded"...