Arizona Election Integrity Advocate Arrested While Observing Hand-Count


Tucson’s John Brakey ‘Frog Marched’ Out of Counting Room After Noticing Ballot Bags With Missing Security Seals

Incident Latest in String of Embarrassments for Pima County’s Disgraceful Election Director Brad Nelson…

Brad Friedman
BradBlog.com
September 9, 2008

Pima County (Tucson), Arizona Election Integrity advocate and expert John Brakey was arrested last night while performing his job as an election supervisor, on behalf of both the Democratic and Libertarian parties, during a post-election hand-count audit of ballots.

Brakey becomes the latest in a growing string of EI advocates to be arrested and/or barred from observing (Brakey was lucky enough to merit both “honors” apparently) while attempting to assure accuracy, fairness, and transparency in voting and in the reporting of election results on behalf of citizens.

The problem erupted after Brakey had noticed a number of ballot bags being counted in the post-election audit were missing their proper security seals. He began to ask questions about those bags, which eventually led to his arrest at the demand of Pima County’s Brad “Election Director Gone Wild” Nelson, a man with whom Brakey has had a number of unfortunate (for Nelson) run-ins over the years.

After news of his arrest, “the county elections building was swarming with television news crews,” according to a report by Election Defense Alliance (EDA), of which Brakey is a member. Indeed, KGUN’s video report on the incident is very good, as the Tucson media — given Brakey’s success in lawsuits and legislation over the years on behalf of voters — has come to see him as a reliable source on such matters…

EDA reports the events this way today:

While monitoring a handcount of ballots from the September 3rd Arizona primary, in his capacity as an official election observer for the Democratic and Libertarian parties, EDA Investigations Co-Coordinator John Brakey was arrested and ejected from the Pima County election headquarters on orders of Pima County Elections Director Brad Nelson.

Brakey had noticed that several of the incoming bags containing ballots from the precincts had unsecured or missing seals. The seal failures appeared to be the result of pollworkers not knowing how to properly lock them.

Brakey then wondered whether the serial numbers on the bag seals matched the serial numbers recorded by the precinct pollworkers when they sealed the ballots. One question led to another, and Brakey ended up in handcuffs.

Here is television news video of the incident from KGUN TV, Pima AZ:

See EDA’s report for more specifics on the matter.

Brakey is the citizen hero (and yes, a community organizer!) who helped shepherd the landmark lawsuit recently brought by the Pima County Democratic Party resulting in the release of Diebold database files showing how voters actually voted in a 2006 election and earlier. The databases were sought after fraud was (and still is) suspected in a number of important elections and ballot issues. Both Pima County and Diebold had opposed the release of information on how voters voted, citing security issues and Diebold’s claim of “proprietary trade secrets.”

The lawsuit was successful, as the judge ultimately disagreed with the County, leading to the largest release of such databases ever in this country.

You’ll note in the KGUN video that Brad Nelson admits the ballot bags that Brakey was concerned about were, indeed, unsealed.

“All of these bags have been under 24 hour video surveillance, as well as a deputy sherrif have been watching these bags since they’ve come in on election night. So we have protected the bags,” Nelson is quoted as saying.

He then adds: “So if a seal is missing, I feel fairly confident that the ballots inside are just as sound as when they left the polling place.”

Really, Brad? Then, if that’s the case, what’s the point of using the seals at all? This guy is a disgrace to Tucson, Pima, Arizona, and Election Officials in general.

Nelson is the hot-tempered embarrassment of an Election Director seen “going wild” in a video tape we posted at The BRAD BLOG in early 2006. In the video, reposted at right, Nelson goes into a tirade after our man Brakey asked him a simple question about the county’s plan to purchase untested, hackable, error-prone Diebold touch screen systems.

Ironically enough, it was due, in no small part, to Brakey’s own earlier efforts in bi-partisan lobbying of the state legislature which resulted in Arizona instituting the law requiring post-election audit. It was one of those audits which was being carried out when when he was arrested yesterday.

Election Integrity in Arizona has become no small concern, and the ’08 election will be no exception, even with “favorite son” John McCain on the ballot. It was, after all, AZ Sec. of State Jan Brewer herself, who proudly cast the RNC delegate votes last week at the Republican National Convention, on behalf of the state which gave McCain the nomination.

Why she would so publicly give up all pretense of objectivity is beyond us. But from the woman who once described Election Integrity advocates as “anarchists” to AP, we’re hardly surprised. So much for “fair and impartial” state oversight in AZ for the upcoming Presidential election.

On a personal note, we’ve come to know Brakey over the years and have found him to be one of the most unflagging, indefatigable champions of democracy, among a coterie of similarly heroic rag-tag citizen patriots, otherwise known as Election Integrity advocates, that we’ve had the honored to get to know.

In the KGUN video posted above, he notes his “Five C’s,” which he’s quoted to us before. “I work with five principles,” he tells KGUN, “My five C’s: character, capacity, credibility, civility, and I own my citizenship.” We’ve found him to live up to every one of the C’s in the years we’ve had the privilege of making his acquaintance.

Brakey joins a growing list of Election Integrity advocates who have recently been either arrested and/or barred from observing while attempting to represent citizen ownership of elections. Among them: Show Me The Vote’s Phil Lindsey (arrested while voting in MO), Black Box Voting’s Jim March (arrested while observing in San Diego, and recently barred from a counting room in Monterey, CA) and Ellen Brodsky, an independent candidate for Broward County, FL, Supervisor of Elections (barred from observing recounts of the recent Primary election in Broward.)

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