Vote Fraud and Do-overs: The LD 25 Election Controversy
By E. Paul Whetten
(Reposted from the Adams & Jefferson blog)
To the PCs of LD 25 and any other interested parties:
A lot of rumors, half-truths and whispered accusations have been swirling around the LD 25 officer/state committeemen elections since our meeting on November 29th. As someone who is directly affected by this controversy and as a participant in the ensuing investigation I would like to clear the air on this issue. The facts that I will be stating here have come from either my own firsthand observation/participation in the events described, or by my conversation with individuals who have firsthand knowledge of the events.
Before I launch into this, I would like to clarify a very important point: The candidates who ran for offices in our election were divided into two slates. The slate that I ran with did substantially better than the opposing slate, winning all but two of the officer races and winning roughly two-thirds of the State Committeemen positions. I bring this up because the allegations of fraud cast the longest shadow over me and the individuals who ran on my slate. As you will see in the rest of this letter, this is unwarranted and unfair to the good people who ran with me. I also want to be clear that I am not casting blame or suspicion on the good people on the other slate that ran in the election. We simply do not know who perpetrated the fraud that set this whole thing off. Any guesses about who did this are just that, guesses.
Without further ado, my statement of the facts regarding the LD 25 elections on November 29, 2012 (please see footnotes for additional clarifications):
- An unknown person or persons signed nominating questionnaires for five Precinct Committeemen in the Apache Wells precinct to run as State Committeemen. These individuals did not wish to be nominated. Their names were fraudulently submitted for inclusion on the ballot.
- This was brought to the attention of both the LD25 and MCRC Chairman by Barbara Parker, who had obtained sworn affidavits from the five affected PCs stating they had not signed the five documents in question.
- Before the vote on State Committeemen was taken, the names of these five PCs were taken off of the State Committeemen ballot.
- While we were waiting for the new ballots to arrive at our meeting, Chairman Haney revealed what had happened and directed that if anyone’s name appeared on the ballot without their authorization they were to contact Chairman Haney immediately, as they may also be the victims of some type of voter fraud.
- Between 15 and 30 people (to my knowledge the exact number has never been specified) approached Chairman Haney and claimed that they had not asked to be included on the ballot.
- A solution was proposed that anyone whose name appeared on the ballot but who did not wish to run for the office have their name written on the large whiteboard at the front of the room so that they wouldn’t be voted for. A small handful of people wrote their names on the board, and none of them were elected as State Committeemen.
- The results of the officer elections were announced during the balloting for State Committeemen.[i] I was elected as the new Chairman of LD 25 by a comfortable margin.
- The Credentials and Tally reports and all proxy forms, which should have immediately been turned over to me as the new Chairman, were improperly taken home by the chairman of the C&T committee for this election.
- At the end of the night manual recounts were done for both a third vice-chairman spot as well as the corresponding secretary. A tie was discovered in each race and cards were drawn to determine the winners. This was done with the affected parties being present via phone call and with their consent to proceed.
- Once this was concluded (around 1am) Tyler Godfrey, the newly elected Treasurer and I, the newly elected Chairman, were sworn in to office[ii]. All other newly elected officers had gone home earlier that evening.
- The state committee ballots were tallied and the remaining officials present determined that 108 votes were the minimum number of votes needed to be elected as a state committeeman. It was determined that 10 individuals had tied for last place.
- The ballots were turned over to me as the new Chairman and the meeting was adjourned.
- On Saturday, December 1st, at the behest of MCRC Chairman Rob Haney, an email was sent to all LD 25 PCs by Ian Murray stating that there was a possibility that the entire election would be thrown out due to fraud.
- Chairman Haney created an investigative team[iii] to review all of the paperwork involved in the election to determine if there had been any additional fraud. The team was convened and met on Wednesday, December 5th, Thursday, December 6th and Friday, December 7th at AZ GOP Headquarters inPhoenix.
- On Monday, December 3rd, I formally requested via email to Rob Haney, Ian Murray and Pat Oldroyd (as well as by phone call to Chairman Haney) that, as the duly elected chairman of LD 25, I be given custody of the C&T Reports, the nominating questionnaires and all other materials regarding this election. This request was denied by Chairman Haney who argued that he wanted as few hands as possible on these materials between then and the time when they could be turned over to him as part of the investigation. I did not push the issue any further.
- On Tuesday, December 4th, Brent Ellsworth, newly elected Recording Secretary of LD 25 submitted a formal challenge to the State Committeeman election on the basis that Chairman Haney’s comments before the SC voting on November 29thhad irreparably compromised the integrity of the election.
- On Wednesday, December 5th, Brent Ellsworth came to AZ GOP Headquarters at my request, but without Chairman Haney’s prior knowledge or consent, to observe the investigation. He was told by Chairman Haney he could not stay and he promptly left [iv].
- When the committee convened, the major points of this issue were recounted for the benefit of those members of the committee who were not from LD 25 and were not acquainted with the history involved. Chairman Haney then explained that, because so many people came forward stating they had not requested to be on the ballot, we needed to determine if the fraud was limited to the original 5 PCs already mentioned or if the problem was more widespread. To determine this we set out to collect the following data:
Who was on the ballot?
How did they get on the ballot?
- Were nominating questionnaires submitted, as required by the Bylaws?
- Were they signed, as required by the Bylaws?
- Were they included on the Mandatory Precinct Meeting report?
- In the case of signed forms – did the signatures on the documents match the signatures on file with the County Recorder’s office?
- Were the proxy forms properly filled out?
- Did the signatures on the proxy forms match the signatures on file at the County Recorder’s office?
- Was there any way to determine who perpetrated the original fraud involving the five nomination questionnaires from Apache Wells precinct?
- The committee was divided into two teams:
- One team went to the Recorder’s Office to compare all signatures received with the signatures on file with the County Recorder. If a signature looked questionable, a certified copy of the signature was obtained from the Recorder so the entire committee could compare it to the nominating questionnaire and determine if it was indeed questionable.
- The other team reviewed all the forms to capture the pertinent data: Who had a form, had they intended to run, were the forms signed, were they included on the Mandatory Precinct Meeting form and where did they appear on the ballot (i.e. on the At-large or the Precinct Nominated sections of the ballot).
- During the course of our investigation we uncovered the following:
- The vast majority of the LD 25 PCs were on the State Committeeman ballot. At least 40 (and probably more) of these looked like they were arbitrarily put on the ballot without the submission of any form whatsoever. We could not come to any certain conclusion as to why this happened. Our speculation was that these names were added by those managing the election out of a sincere desire that nobody be left off who wanted to run, even though such action was a clear violation of the Bylaws. The Bylaws state that to qualify to be on the ballot, a PC must submit a signed nomination questionnaire by a certain date. Many of those who appeared on the ballot did not submit the required signed nomination questionnaires.
- At least one individual asked to run as a State Committeeman but was left off the ballot.
- One individual who was on the ballot had moved out of the district and was no longer eligible to serve.
- Two entire precincts[v] and a large portion of another[vi] submitted non-standard nominating questionnaires that did not include a signature line, as required by the Bylaws, for the individual to personally attest to their intention to serve if elected. Based on the handwriting it appeared that a single individual in two of the precincts had filled out all of the nominating questionnaires.
- Numerous individuals, including 9 prominent members of LD 25 who were elected as State Committeemen[vii], had not filled out or signed the Nomination Questionnaire as required by our Bylaws[viii]. For some of these individuals[ix] the only documentation was the Precinct Meeting Report[x], which, according to the Bylaws, is not enough to qualify to be on the ballot.
- Five proxy forms should have been rejected by the C&T Committee due to crossed out names, missing signatures, notary omissions or other irregularities.[xi] The committee was highly critical of the C&T procedures that did not prevent these types of errors but recognized that, on election night, the C&T committee is the final judge on what is accepted or rejected.
- About 40 nominating questionnaires had signatures that the first team deemed questionable. Upon review by the entire committee this number was pared down to between 15 and 20 signatures that were deemed different enough from the signatures on file with the Recorder as to bring their authenticity into doubt. Of these 15-20 signatures there was only unanimous agreement on about 3 of the forms that they were indeed questionable. Every other signature had between two or three people who saw enough similarities between the signatures to say that they were probably signed by the same person.
- At no time did the committee ever say that this conclusively proved that fraud had occurred in the election. It was also said, several times during the course of the investigation, that none of us were handwriting experts and that we were thus not competent to state with ANY certainty whether or not fraud had actually occurred.
- It was agreed (upon the recommendation of Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery) that the five documents that were known to be fraudulent (due to the sworn affidavits) as well as the few nomination questionnaires with questionable signatures would be turned over to Mesa PD for further investigation.
- It was suggested that the controversy concerning the questionable signatures could be resolved by calling the individuals and asking them if they had signed the form. During the course of this discussion several different ways of asking the PC about the document were proposed in an effort to see if the PC could remember what they signed, what they requested and who they had given the forms to. It was pointed out that this line of questioning would probably not resolve the doubt, because many of these people were “paper PCs” and likely would not remember what they had signed or to whom they had given their proxies. It was also said that this might taint an investigation by Mesa PD and it would be best to leave it alone.[xii]
- The conclusions of the investigation were:
- There were enough irregularities in the way that PCs were placed on the State Committeemen ballot to clearly warrant a redo of that election. The committee decided that in the new election the nomination questionnaires from the November 29th election should be disregarded and the ballot could include even PCs who did not comply with the requirements of the Bylaws in the November 29th election.
- The five proxies that should have been rejected by the C&T committee could have had a material impact on the two tied elections for board positions. It was decided, by consensus – not by an actual vote, that the board election should also be vacated and redone.
- A long discussion was held throughout the three days we met on who should be allowed on the ballot of the new election if we held one. One position was that only those who had clearly complied with the Bylaws by previously submitting a nominating questionnaire be allowed on the ballot [xiii]. Another position was that those who filled out the nominating questionnaire as well as those whose names were listed on the Precinct Meeting reports be allowed on the ballot, even though that would permit individuals to appear on the ballot who had not complied with the Bylaws. In the end it was to start over again and have a new election and allow everyone to submit new nominating questionnaires.
- It was decided that the interim board resume their positions to handle the dissemination of this information as well as to call and make arrangements for the new election to take place.
All of the above was agreed to by consensus without an actual vote taken on accepting these recommendations. The formal notice of this action was given when Ian, at Chairman Haney’s direction, sent out his letter to the district informing everyone of the outcome of the investigation.
The committee investigated the officer election on its own initiative, as no formal challenge to that election was filed. In my opinion, the invalidation of the officer election is highly unusual, as that election was certified on the night of the election and any irregularities in that election were probably equivalent to irregularities that would appear in any election.
Once the formal announcement was made I returned all passwords I had been given to Ian Murray and directed those who had won the officer elections on November 29th to return any materials and/or passwords to the previous board. Because I ostensibly have no official position I have not communicated with the district in any official capacity.
Some final thoughts on the whole affair – I was on the committee that decided to start over and redo the election. At the time, I agreed with this decision because I wanted to dispel the cloud of doubt surrounding the election. I have now had some time to think about this and feel that we are establishing a very dangerous precedent. A group that does not have clear authority to do so has decided that the certified results of an official election are null and void based on allegations of fraud THAT WERE NOT PROVED IN THE INVESTIGATION. The only fraud that was proved was the fraud that was caught and dealt with BEFORE THE ELECTION. Since when do we just arbitrarily throw out the results of an election? We do not know who perpetrated the original fraud and anyone who claims that they know who did it is engaging in pure speculation. Each faction in LD 25 is absolutely sure that the other faction is responsible, but the only thing we absolutely know is that WE ABSOLUTELY DO NOT KNOW WHO DID THIS, any claims to the contrary notwithstanding.
Regardless of who wins in the upcoming redo of this election, there will always be some who will believe that the entire election was stolen by one side or the other. If this was the intention of the person who submitted the fraudulent nominating questionnaires then they have certainly succeeded in their quest.