Thursday, June 22, 2006

Significant Win for Election Integrity in Arizona Legislature

This in today from the Progressive Democrats. If you want more info about the problems we are having with election integrity, I recommend starting at

The following memo from PDA Member and AZ
House Representative Ted Downing:

SB1557 passed the House of Representatives with a 51-0 vote! Then, it immediately passed the Senate 25 to 3! It is now on its way to our Good Governor’s desk. As planned, it includes the Paton Amendment that I helped draft (see Star description below). Karen Osborn, the Maricopa County Election’s Director calls this one of the most significant election reform bills in decades.

This bill is an emergency measure establishing a process for hand counting and auditing certain ballots and the development of procedures to reduce voter wait time at the polls. It establishes the Vote Count verification Committee to determine a designated margin of error for the hand counts.

This election reform bill is the result of three years of working with the Pima County Democratic Party and the great work of Dr. Tom Ryan, Bill Risner, Esq., our current and former Pima County Democratic Party Chairs, and many, many more dedicated individuals. I want to specially thank each and every one of you for your dedication, your hard work ,and your support in working for election integrity.

Now focus on the Governor to make certain that she signs it right away. I am confident she will. It will become law upon her signature, since it contains an emergency provision. We still must await Department of Justice approval….which should be expedited because of the emergency provision. At that point, hand counts will no longer be illegal and we will have a first-level audit of the election system. This is, however, just the beginning.

Politics is a team effort. As hard as it may be for many to accept, the East-Mesa Republican Senator Karen Johnson merits “thank you” emails,, as does Karen Osborne,
(602) 506-7960, and yes, Brad Nelson, (520) 631-3939. Even Rep. Russell Pearce should be thanked…yes, that’s right and I know its hard, but he fought to assure that our elections are fair. We will continue to disagree on almost every other issue, but he wants a fair count.

I hope each PC will take the time next year to come up to visit the
Legislature and witness your legislature at work. Those of you who have tell me that it is not what they imagined.

You are true patriots…protecting our system of government just as those brave men and women did at the founding of this great nation. Thank you and bless you.

Ted Downing
State Representative

Capitol 602-926-5108
Toll free 800-352-8494 ext 6-5108
Capitol fax 602-417-3128

Legislative profile:

Professional profile:

Published: 06.20.2006

Hand-count vote bill may get hearing
Plan responds to
concerns about touch-screen tallies

By Daniel Scarpinato


Coming on the heels of local concerns about election accuracy and Pima County's purchase of $2 million in touch-screen voting machines, a proposal likely to be considered by the Legislature this week could help ease those fears.

The measure would subject Arizona elections to automatic hand-counted audits — something currently illegal in the state.
The bill — which Rep. Ted Downing, a Tucson Democrat, has been instrumental in drafting — also would require areas of rapid population growth to have an adequate number of voting booths and workers.

Requiring hand recounts could help pacify local activists who are worried that the county's new touch-screen voting machines could be easily rigged or hacked into, Downing said, because recounts would pressure programmers to ensure that the machines tally votes correctly. A proposed amendment to the original bill also would require that the machines provide "a durable paper document," since some of the machines use ATM-style paper that could fade.

"It's a step in the right direction, but we have a long way to go," said John Brakey, co-founder of AUDIT, a Tucson group that is raising concerns over the machines.

If approved, the law would take effect this year, but the date would depend on the approval margin. It needs to pass by a two-thirds majority — garnering 40 votes in the House and 20 in the Senate — to take effect for the September primary elections, when several tight legislative and congressional races could be decided. Otherwise, the changes wouldn't take effect until the general election.

The bill also would need approval from the U.S. Justice Department.

Sen. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa, the primary sponsor, said the current tallying process — done strictly by computers — isn't enough to ensure accuracy.

"We cannot trust computers; that's the main purpose of this,"
Johnson said. "You hope everything will be great, but we've already
had problems."

Part of the anxiety about the current system stems from the results of a 2004 Republican legislative primary race in the Phoenix area. One candidate's four-vote victory there triggered an automatic recount, giving a 13-vote victory to another candidate and uncovering nearly 500 additional votes.

The law's provisions:

● In every election, each county would have to hand-count votes from at least 2 percent of precincts chosen at random. In Pima County, that is about 10 precincts.

● At least four races, also chosen at random, would be counted.

● If the hand-count deviates significantly from the machine
tabulation, a second hand count would be done.

● If there is still a discrepancy, another recount using twice as many precincts would be done.

● If the discrepancy still exists, the entire jurisdiction would be recounted.

Although Pima County election officials could not be reached for comment Monday, Johnson said Brad Nelson, Pima's elections director, and officials from rural counties had been involved in drafting the legislation.

The bill has been bouncing around the Legislature since February. "This has been the bill that has had the most problems of any bill I've worked on in my life," Johnson said. "My hope is that leadership will let it go through." Downing and Johnson say getting the bill up for a
vote has been difficult because it is opposed by Secretary of State Jan
Brewer, a Republican running for re-election.

But Kevin
Tyne, deputy secretary of state, said the office has expressed some
concerns but has otherwise been neutral on the bill. "I think
they're giving the secretary of state a lot more credit than maybe she
deserves," Tyne said.

Contact reporter Daniel Scarpinato at 807-7789 or

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