Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Arizona Primary -- ongoing ballot counting

Pursuant to ARS § 16-602, the Maricopa County Elections Department today conducted a hand count audit of results from Tuesday's primary. I served as a judge in the audit.

Each "board" at the audit, which was conducted at the County Sheriff's training facility, consisted of two judges and an inspector. There were also "auditors" who compared the counts we obtained with the unofficial machine count totals for the batches we counted by hand. The two judges were from different political parties, so I was paired with a Republican who had participated in the process for several election cycles. All told there were about 45 boards.

The procedure is basically as spelled out in the statute.
At least two per cent of the precincts in that county, or two precincts, whichever is greater, shall be selected at random from a pool consisting of every precinct in that county. The county political party chairman for each political party that is entitled to continued representation on the state ballot or the chairman's designee shall conduct the selection of the precincts to be hand counted. The precincts shall be selected by lot without the use of a computer, and the order of selection by the county political party chairmen shall also be by lot. The selection of the precincts shall not begin until all ballots voted in the precinct polling places have been delivered to the central counting center. The unofficial vote totals from all precincts shall be made public before selecting the precincts to be hand counted.
And for Early Ballots,
After the electronic tabulation of early ballots and at one or more times selected by the chairman of the political parties entitled to continued representation on the ballot or the chairman's designee, the chairmen or the chairmen's designees shall randomly select one or more batches of early ballots that have been tabulated to include at least one batch from each machine used for tabulating early ballots and those ballots shall be securely sequestered by the county recorder or officer in charge of elections along with their unofficial tally reports for a postelection manual audit. The chairmen or the chairmen's designees shall randomly select from those sequestered early ballots a number equal to one per cent of the total number of early ballots cast or five thousand early ballots, whichever is less. From those randomly selected early ballots, the county officer in charge of elections shall conduct a manual audit of the same races that are being hand counted pursuant to subsection B of this section.
I was assigned, with 15 or so other boards, to audit Early Ballots. This is significant because of a semi-pervasive myth that provisional ballots are only counted if a particular race is close enough to matter. Prior to election day, I participated in an online discussion where one person seemed to be convinced of the veracity of that myth. I can tell you that is simply not a true myth. Every vote gets counted.

Nevertheless, because election systems and processes are very complicated, the myth persists along with a general skepticism about the integrity of the processes and systems. Because Maricopa County is the fourth most populous county in the entire country, and because taxpayers hate paying taxes, the complexity is compounded. We have to deal with old, somewhat outdated equipment. But procedures are adjusted (and hopefully improved) with every election cycle.

Two notable examples of problems in Maricopa County's not too distant history include,
  • A 2010 lawsuit against Maricopa County elections for, among other things, selecting the precincts to be audited by hand prior to publication of the unofficial results of the vote totals for EVERY precinct (there are more than a thousand in our county).
  • A notorious 2004 election in which a recount produced a substantially different total than the original tabulation (McComish vs Orlich in LD20, which is now LD18).



Because I learned of the 2010 lawsuit after coming home to write about the hand count audit, I had to figure out how the lawsuit was resolved before I felt comfortable continuing. Maricopa County settled one of the most significant claims in the suit just prior to the start of the trial. Specifically, about publishing the unofficial vote totals for all precincts in the country BEFORE the political party chairs select the precincts to be audited. The video above explains more about why that's important. As I understand it, the 2014 primary election unofficial vote totals by precinct were published prior to selection of the precincts to audit.

Earlier in 2010, the Arizona Democratic Party passed a resolution written by attorney Bill Risner on the subject of election integrity that is relevant to this subject.

When all was said and done today regarding the hand count audit in Maricopa County, I had more confidence in the integrity of the system. A major factor today is that all of the Democratic and Republican volunteers were all intent on doing their utmost to ensure the integrity of what they were doing.

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As of 5pm or so this evening, the latest results in some close legislative primaries, updated from last night's tallies, show:
  • Martin Quezada now trails Lydia Hernandez (LD29 Dem Senate) by 30 votes
  • Shawna Bolick now leads Mary Hamway (LD28 Rep House) by 182 votes
  • David Burnell Smith now leads incumbent John Allen (LD15 Rep House) by 19 votes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Arizona Primary reflections; Redistricting

Brief update on last night's post of the SCOTUS appeal brief filed by the Harris plaintiffs. The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission has 30 days to respond to the brief, aka the Jurisdictional Statement, unless the AIRC requests an extension which would make it 60 days. After the AIRC files its reply brief, the plaintiffs then have 14 days, as I currently understand it, to respond to that, which would then be the final item filed by the parties in this lawsuit.

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As to last night's election results, my first order of business is to congratulate and rejoice in some key victories for the good guys. In Tempe, visionary community leaders Lauren Kuby and David Schapira garnered enough votes -- in the 7-way primary for three seats -- to win outright. In other words, the next step is swearing in rather than appearing on the November ballot for a run off. The winner of the remaining seat will be determined in November.

Tempe voters also amended the city charter to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Ken Clark also won his LD24 House Democratic primary and will head to the general election along with incumbent Lela Alston to face off against Republican Lei Lani Cortez. LD24 leans strongly Democratic. Clark handily defeated former firefighter Richard Bauer.

Clark's victory demonstrates the concept that organized people present a formidable foe against organized money, illustrated below.



Alas, not all key races turned out as well as they should have. Right now it looks like Catherine Miranda, clearly a tool for Arizona Public Service and Dominionist Cathi Herrod, defeated Aaron Marquez. Marquez would not be nearly as encumbered by obligation to special interests as Miranda.

Too close to call, the LD29 senate primary between Martin Quezada and Lydia Hernandez appears headed for an automatic recount as they are now separated by only 36 votes.

Another ray of sunshine, sort of, comes from the fact that each of the Republican candidates this year who voted in favor of the Medicaid restoration bill in 2013 staved off more conservative (Tea Party) candidates they faced yesterday. I say "sort of" because one of them is state Rep. Jeff Dial (running this year for senate in LD18). Dial is pretty close to the top of the list when it comes to being bought off by lobbyists.

Bottom line is that we've made some progress, but there's still plenty that needs to be done to rid Arizona of the influence of Big (and Dark) Money.

Also in the category of EVERY VOTE COUNTS, right now Republican primaries in LD15 and LD28 are extremely close. In LD15, Rep. Heather Carter won re-election to the House convincingly (no Democratic candidates ran in that district, so the primary decides who will serve in the 52nd Legislature) but fellow incumbent John Allen holds a 9-vote lead over birther David Burnell Smith.

In LD28, former Paradise Valley Councilwoman Mary Hamway holds a mere 7-vote lead over Shawna Bolick (wife of Goldwater Institute lawyer Clint Bolick). Bolick is a strong advocate for undermining public education (she characterizes it as "parental choice").

All of these races have and will impact the tone and flavor at the legislature in 2015. Some other key races will not be decided until after the November election.

More to come in the next few days as we learn how the primary will officially shake out. Hopefully, the shakedown dance between lobbyists and lawmakers will not be the dominant theme in 2015.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Redistricting -- SCOTUS brief filed in Harris case

It's been a very LONGGGG day. I spent it all, from before opening to after closing at the polling place in my home precinct. In person turnout was awfully low. We had only 50 or so voters come in all day.

However, I received a copy of the Jurisdictional Statement filed by Harris et.al. (represented by David Cantelme, Mike Liburdi along with attorneys in DC and LA) with the Supreme Court of the United States to appeal the district court ruling handed down in April this year in favor of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. I wanted to post it this evening for your reading enjoyment (j/k).

I'll try to write more about this situation tomorrow. In the meantime, consider that the Shelby County ruling invalidating Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (the preclearance formula provision) was a consideration in the district court decision. A highlight of Shelby County was Scalia and friends declaring that racial discrimination in America is not the issue it was in the 1960s (when the VRA was first passed by Congress). But Ferguson, Missouri has demonstrated that SCOTUS wasn't necessarily correct in that assessment.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Citizen files complaint against Catherine Miranda

This morning, August 25, Ms. Frances Mendoza, a citizen residing in LD27, filed a complaint with the Arizona Secretary of State alleging state Rep. Catherine Miranda committed campaign finance violations including but not limited to illegal coordination with Independent Expenditure/Dark Money operator Mario Diaz and his supposedly IRS designated 501 (c) 4 non-profit, Friends of Arizona.




Mendoza also asks, if Miranda did not spend anything on her campaign, who paid for signs and mailers plainly marked "Paid for by Miranda for Senate 2014?"






Polls open on Election Day in less than 16 hours from now.

More than anything, we need integrity in our elected officials. Catherine Miranda is not such a person.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How does Catherine Miranda campaign all summer and NOT spend even one thin dime?

Anti-choice candidate Catherine Miranda, competing for the Democratic nomination for the LD27 senate seat against Army Reserve Capt. Aaron Marquez, collected $15,730.00 this summer, mainly from lobbyists and PACs, according to her latest campaign finance report, but spent not even a dime.

There ARE plenty of her campaign signs along major streets in LD27, and there have been plenty of pro-Miranda mailers sent to voters, but Catherine apparently has not had to spend any of her remaining $37,671.95 war chest on any of them.



How does that happen?

First, I'm not convinced it did happen. She might have made inadvertent or intentional mistakes on her report.

Second, we know that APS, Cathi Herrod and Mario Diaz have been spending generously on campaign signs and mailers on her behalf. So, even though it's extremely unlikely Miranda actually did not incur any campaign expenses, she still has had others spending generously. We also know that Miranda is a good and loyal soldier for our state's largest investor owned utility (APS) and for Dominionists like Cathi Herrod. So, we shouldn't be surprised that those whose interests she actually represents in the legislature are willing to return the favor.

By the way, Miranda's largest campaign contributions this summer have come from chambers of commerce PACs ($3,000.00), an out-of-state lawyer ($1,000.00) and something called Cactus PAC ($1,000.00). Cactus PAC gave Miranda a thousand dollars and a Phoenix, Arizona address. But Cactus PAC does not appear to show up as registered with the Arizona Secretary of State as a political action committee.

So many questions about one sell out candidate, so few answers.

What good are newspaper or interest group endorsements?

Back when I worked with the John Dougherty 2010 campaign for the Democratic nomination for US Senate, I began to recognize a very frustrating game that interest groups (and newspapers) play regarding endorsements.

Striking in my mind that year was the fact that the Sierra Club declined to endorse the only candidate in that four way race who had a clear track record favorable to that club's authentic interest. Dougherty had, for years written about environmental issues. He knew them inside and out and had clearly exposed the nefarious and sinister actions (and failures to act) by government officials.

So, WHY would the Sierra Club not endorse such a candidate? There must be other factors at play (work) in endorsements that rarely, if ever, are even acknowledged, let alone explained.

The local daily newspaper, the Arizona Republic, is a classic example. If any institution should be forthcoming about the criteria used and factors considered in making endorsements, one would expect a news enterprise to be among them. Several of the Republic's endorsements this primary election season give rise to cognitive dissonance. They just don't seem quite right, on the surface.

To really understand, we would have to go beneath the surface. But that information is not always available.

Most poignantly the Republic's endorsement of State Treasurer "Scoop" Ducey this summer in the GOP gubernatorial primary raises such red flags. So much so that they acknowledged readers' concern over it. But as eloquent as the news enterprise tries to be in justifying the endorsement, so many people recognize that there must have been considerations not disclosed in making that decision.

With that in mind, it is no wonder that voters often select someone other than who the Republic annoints.

Notably problematic, several Democratic legislative primary races expose obvious cognitive dissonance when looking at choices made by the Arizona Education Association and various groups affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

Retired firefighter Richard Bauer, running to be the lowest paid lobbyist for the Firefighters' union, clearly wants to make big time deals with Republican office holders. If he wins the primary, keep a close eye on him because he almost certainly will sell out Democratic interests.

 The Arizona Education Association's list of endorsed candidates shows at least a couple of questionable selections. In contested primary election races, AEA shows favoritism toward incumbents who might not be the best candidate. For example, AEA chose APS and CAP sell out Catherine Miranda over Aaron Marquez and Lupe Contreras over astrophysicist Angela Cotera.

The bottom line is that taking these interest group and newspaper endorsements at face value without checking further can lead to problems when the wrong person gets into the legislature.

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The Navajo Times ran a story on Friday about the race between state Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai and appointed (not elected) Sen. Carlyle Begay in the Democratic primary for election to the LD7 senate seat.
So why is she making a run at the state senate seat now occupied by Carlyle Begay?
"He's a nice young man," Peshlakai said of the current senator. "He's super-bright and really charismatic. But as the days at the legislature dwindled down, it just became unacceptable that he would go unchallenged in the primary."
The reason, Peshlakai said, is the number of "disconcerting votes" Begay was casting: siding with Republicans on campaign finance laws, for example, and supporting legislation that would allow payday lenders to up their fees.
"Who does that?" asked Peshlakai. [...]
Peshlakai refrained from calling Begay a Republican plant, as have some liberal political bloggers like Steve Muratore. But she did say "he definitely does not represent the people of District 7," a relatively poor, rural district which tends to be more left-leaning than the rest of the state. 

Technically, I only raised the question of whether Begay is a Republican plant. But the evidence appears substantial at this point.

The tone of public policy and lawmaking at the Arizona Capitol can change in 2015. But for that to happen, it needs to start with voters making the right decisions on Tuesday this week. Among the issues and concerns, if Democrats pick up 3 senate seats (or more) in November, Andy Biggshot be ousted from the senate presidency.

Right now, Republicans hold a 17-13 edge in that chamber. With at least five Republicans being highly vulnerable because of their record in the legislature (both on divisive legislation and pandering to lobbyists), it is conceivable that the edge could swing all the way over to a 17-13 Democratic majority.

Of course, there's no virtue or advantage to counting one's chickens before they hatch, but a 15-15 tie is well within the realm of possibility. In such a scenario, it's extremely likely that Biggshot would first go after Begay (if he wins) to offer inducements to defect. An offer of a committee chairmanship is easily foreseeable.

Remember, elections matter. If you haven't already cast your ballot, make sure you get to the polls on Tuesday. And make considered, informed decisions on for whom to cast your vote.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Why does Catherine Miranda have to have volunteers misrepresent her policy positions?

A source told me he had been hearing for some time during the primary election campaign that door-to-door canvassers for state Rep. Catherine Miranda have been telling voters that the candidate, locked in a primary race with Army Reserve Capt. Aaron Marquez, is "pro-choice" on the hot button issue of abortion.

Miranda's record in the legislature and public statements would immediately call such claims into question. 

From Cathi Herrod's Center for Arizona Policy website,
Rep. Catherine Miranda,the only Democrat to support HB 2036 [2012], said:
“I feel all life is sacred.  I firmly believe that how we legislate on abortion reflects the moral values of society, respect for life and dignity of all human beings is a core value of my beliefs.  All of us have to answer to our constituent s every two years when we faced with getting re-elected, but as I have previously stated on the floor, after we leave this legislature, all of us must answer to a higher authority, and with that I vote yes.
In the 2014 legislative session, the GOP majority passed HB2284, which authorizes government harassment of abortion providers/clinics. Again, Miranda was the ONLY member of the House Democratic Caucus to vote with the Republicans.




So, imagine my surprise when I found out a volunteer, in a campaign office supporting Miranda, Mary Rose Wilcox and Norma Mu├▒oz told a prospective voter that Miranda, on the question of abortion is "pro-choice." Well, given that Ms. Miranda has consistently blurred the line between her legitimate constituents and those who she sells her votes to, I guess I'm not really surprised.

Why would there be any uncertainty or ambiguity in a candidate's campaign about such an important topic/issue?

For MORE about Ms. Miranda, and her questionable representation for citizens in the district she's supposed to represent, consult Arizona Eagletarian posts here and here.

In the meantime, as righteous as Miranda's quote (from the CAP website, posted above) might sound, Cathi Herrod and Catherine Miranda are clearly AGAINST freedom. For lawmakers to vote to remove the right for a woman to make her own decisions about her own body is to invalidate that woman's sovereignty (self-determination) over her own life.

Is self-determination a sacred principle in American democracy or isn't it?