Tuesday was election-integrity activist John Brakey's birthday, and while we hope he got a chance to spend it with his wife, children and grandchildren (who he is fond of talking about when he's not talking about election-integrity issues), I'm certain he wasn't thrilled with Attorney General Terry Goddard's announcement that day (at the press conference I attended) that nope, the AG's examination of the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority ballots has determined there was no flip, no fraud, no criminal activity—despite the evidence gathered (flimsy or circumstantial - depending on your POV) by activists including Pima County Democratic Party attorney Bill Risner.
However, Goddard did tip a hat to the activists by saying that without the information they provided to the AG's office—he never would have examined the ballots.
In this week's Skinny, we mention one good thing that's happened to Brakey this month: The trespassing charge from his arrest while observing an election audit on Sept. 6, 2008 was dismissed. Brakey told me he felt like a big weight had been lifted from his shoulders, and a good plateful of justice has been served.
See video below of the before and after with Justice of the Peace Jose Luis Castillo dismissing the charges:
A statement released with Brakey's good news from Risner, who represented him in front of Castillo:
Justice of the Peace Jose Luis Castillo entered a judgment of acquittal on the trespassing criminal charges against John Brakey yesterday afternoon. No defense witnesses were necessary as the case was dismissed at the end of the prosecution case. The judge specifically noted that Mr. Brakey's efforts were helpful to improving ballot auditing procedures. Importantly he found that Brad Nelson had "overreached" in ordering Brakey arrested.
John Brakey was a Democratic Party observer when arrested. I am proud that he stood his ground against the bully Brad Nelson. Here is what happened, according to Brad Nelson's testimony.
Brakey had been an observer on two prior occasions and was able to ask questions of party auditors.
Nelson had conducted an orientation session of party auditors during which Brakey was "confrontational" when he raised his hand and asked if they could count a county race.
Nelson did not mention to the auditors during the orientation that auditors should look at the seal numbers on the yellow sheets or the bags.
Noting those seal numbers is important.
Brakey asked some auditors to check and note whether the yellow sheet seal record matched the bag seals.
Brakey's question was helpful and pertinent.
The information Brakey requested resulted in changes in the procedures in the future which was beneficial.
Brakey had informed Nelson of the benefit of recording that information prior to speaking to the individuals but Nelson did not say anything to any auditors.
Nelson had a personal rule that a party observer could not ask any questions of any auditors. It was not in any writing of his nor in the Secretary of State manual.
A statute allowed Nelson to kick out anyone who "disrupted" the count.
When Brakey spoke to party auditors no ballots were on any table.
Nelson concluded that Brakey was disrupting "the process" because as soon as the auditors were sworn in the process had begun, and especially when the bags were brought into the room, even though they were just sitting on the tables.
Nelson was responding to a "complaint" of Republican Party chair Judy White that Brakey had asked a question without Nelsons approval.
My conclusion is stronger than the judge's measured conclusion that Nelson had "overreached." He needs to be fired. He is not merely a serial liar. He has serious personality control problems that disqualify him from working with political parties. He is simply a power mad lunatic, at a minimum.
— Bill Risner
It feels great to have the arrest put behind me and having my name cleared...
My “7 Cs” are important to me!! I try hard to maintain my CHARACTER, CAPACITY, CREDIBILITY, CIVILITY, with pride in my CITIZENSHIP and love of COUNTRY. At times a little COURAGE to stand up and do the right thing is needed when necessary. On September 6th 2008 at the hand recount I closed my eyes for a moment and reflected on these 7 Cs and what I did was necessary. (Bill Risner explains below and please see video)
These are the things I believe in and taught my 2 sons and daughter. And they fill my heart with pride as to the people they’ve turned out to be! They have given me and my wife Marisela (30 years married) 3 beautiful grandchildren.
At the RTA ballot-examination press conference, Goddard opened by addressing concerns made by activists regarding chain-of-custody issues on the ballots' security taken from the secure Pima County storage facility to Maricopa County. Goddard said the ballots were treated like evidence in any criminal investigation. The 105 boxes were placed in evidence storage guarded by two police, and when transporated to Maricopa Elections they continued to be locked and guarded. The count, he said, was videotaped.
The examination count, he said, produced 67 more ballots than what was originally counted by the county. Other than that, nothing seemed unusual in the count, and this is the kind of difference to expect when comparing a machine count with a hand count. The numbers are always slightly different.
Election-integrity activists at the conference, including Brakey (who thanked Goddard for his time and examing the ballots) weren't 100 percent satisfied. They still want Goddard to do a few things, such as a forensic analysis of the ballots, and to take a closer look at the poll tapes to how they compare to the vote came out, especially by precinct.
Goddard, however, made it pretty clear that from his perspective ,this investgation is over, although he said he's still open to hearing what the election activists have to say.
What's the cliche: "It's not over till the fat lady sings"? She must be hiding out.