By Andrea Kelly
Arizona Daily Star
The Arizona secretary of state says Pima County has been allowing a
"fundamental security breach" by letting party officials take home
ballots during required testing before elections.
Recent testimony at the Legislature from Libertarian and Democratic
party representatives indicated ballots were taken "off-site" by the
parties during "logic and accuracy" testing of vote-counting machines,
Secretary of State Jan Brewer, told Pima County Board of Supervisors
Chairman Richard Elas in a letter Monday.
"That Pima County would allow such a massive election security breach is
itself a shocking development, especially given the recent high-profile
efforts by your county to increase voting security," she said in the
The person who testified as a representative of the Democratic Party was
not there on behalf of the Pima County Democratic Party, said Vince
Rabago, county Democratic Party chairman.
The problem stems from ballots distributed to the parties, which fill
them out and return them to be run through the machines tabulating votes
as a test to ensure the machine counted the right number of votes, and
recorded them correctly.
Numerous local officials said the test ballots are stamped in a way that
prevents them from being counted later as a regular vote.
"They are ballots that are printed and look very much the same except
for bright red letters no less than inch and perhaps two inches high
that say 'test,'" said Brad Nelson, director of the Pima County Division
Republican and Democratic party officials confirmed the ballots are
clearly marked as "test" ballots, and even in the unlikely event one
made it into the ballot box on Election Day, it would stand out.
"I guess it would be like cashing a check with VOID written on it," said
Judi White, chairwoman of the Pima County Republican Party. But it comes
down to a security breach no other Arizona county shares, said Kevin
Tyne, deputy secretary of state.
"The process of actually allowing partisan party representatives to
leave the premises with ballots is a concern," Tyne said. The main issue
is if a precinct recorded more votes than it had voters, it would be
very difficult to tell which ones were false, Tyne said.
But even making it into the ballot box would be tough, others say.
The county provides the parties with a specific number of test ballots,
for a specific number of voting precincts, Nelson said. They take the
test ballots and fill in votes. The test ballots are counted when
they're retuned to ensure the same number are received. Then the test
ballots, along with test ballots the county has prepared, are run
through the voting machines to make sure the machines are accurate.
After the testing is complete, the test ballots are sealed and securely
stored, Nelson said.
This is done according to Pima County election procedure, Elas said.
This has been the way the county has conducted the logic and accuracy
tests for as many as 25 years, through changing technologies, Nelson
said. It's a way for the parties to independently assure the machines
are counting correctly, not just taking the election officials' words
for it, he said.
Officials with local political parties say election security is very
important to them but didn't think this particular issue is worth such a
"That was the process," White said of the testing. "I think everything
worked fine in that process, but we're all for making the process
Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll said he is in favor of additional
scrutiny of the county elections division. "I would welcome hearings,
investigations, probes to discuss all of the (election security) issues
that have been so well publicized and documented here in Pima County,"
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