The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
Questions about ballot and election integrity have plagued Tucson and Pima County for years. But rarely, if ever, have there been such obvious flaws in an election mailing which could lead to the tainting of the vote.
The all-mail ballots in the current city of Tucson elections are the case in point. There are three opportunities, based on the way the ballots and the envelopes were designed, that represent significant chances, in our view as a party, for tampering. Democrats I’ve spoken with also expressed concern, one using the word, “outrageous.” And he’s right.
Here’s what’s going on: the envelope containing the ballots features a window which shows through to the inside print revealing the party registration (Democrat, Republican, Green, etc.) of the recipient. This could easily be a temptation to any of those who are processing the mail to tamper with those ballots for partisan purposes.
It would be a simple matter for someone favoring Ed Ackerley or Regina Romero, or for or against Proposition 205, or for or against any particular City Council nominee, if they thought an envelope contained a vote counter their preference, to make that ballot disappear.
The second questionable issue arises when the ballot envelope is opened at the city elections office. Election workers have signed affidavit envelopes with the party preference right in front of them. This is a second opportunity for tampering with or destroying the ballot based on possible levels of partisanship.
If the ballot survives both of these hurdles, there’s a third problem relating to the worker who’s tasked with the responsibility of verifying the signature, which has to be done to get the ballot authenticated as coming from the appropriate voter. That worker has to make a value judgment as to whether the signature matches the records maintained by the Pima County recorder, F. Ann Rodriguez. Signature verification in city elections is handled by the county recorder, as that office maintains the voter rolls and baseline signatures for all voters in Pima County. Signatures can and do vary over time. By and large, people vote in accordance with their party registration. So here is another opportunity for someone to handle that ballot inappropriately. Making an objective judgment on the validity of a signature with the knowledge of the voter’s party preference is, in my view, difficult, if not impossible. This makes the voting system in the city of Tucson look potentially rigged and liable for abuse.
These design, construction and procedural errors lower my confidence, and that of others I’ve spoken with, in the integrity of Tucson elections.
I’ve written to Randolph about these shortcomings. That letter puts the Republican Party on record as objecting to the envelopes and mailing system currently in use. Moreover, we asked that party preference be removed from future ballot packages and that an investigation into how this happened be undertaken. Finally, if we find sufficient reason to believe any of these errors have fostered vote suppression or fraud, we reserve the right to act to nullify this city of Tucson election.
A last anomaly is that, on the ballots I’ve personally seen, the ballot positions don’t all have the same party sequence. They’re not listed alphabetically either by name or party, and although second and third positions may vary, the candidates for mayor and council — Wards 1, 2 and 4, all have the Democrat listed first.
I leave you with one thought: Any notion that your ballot is secret in Tucson is pure fantasy.