County accused of ballot breach

County accused of ballot breach
County accused of ballot breach 

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 
of Elections.

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," 
he said.

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