From AZcentral.com, by Scott Wong
Maricopa County officials’ decision to exclude the Libertarian Party from participating in verifying ballots after the Nov. 4 election has undermined voters’ confidence in the electoral process, a party attorney told a Maricopa County Superior Court judge Thursday.
“There are quite a number of people including many Libertarians, who feel the process in Maricopa County in terms of counting the votes is not an honest process, that there is not sufficient transparency,” attorney Michael Kielsky said in court Thursday.
The county Libertarian Party is suing election officials over their decision to bar the party from hand counting ballots, a process used to ensure that electronic machines tabulate votes correctly. Representatives from the Democratic and Republican parties were allowed to physically inspect ballots.
But county Elections Director Karen Osborne said Libertarians were left out because they didn’t fill out paperwork correctly, failing to designate on forms the names of party participants.
Osborne added that while Libertarians were not able to help randomly select which precincts and races would be scrutinized or handle ballots, they were able to observe the hand counting process.
“Had the Libertarian Party provided people, we would have welcomed them,” Osborne told The Arizona Republic. “We know that we did a good job. We know that we did a proper job.”
The party is requesting that Judge Edward Burke invalidate the recent hand count and order that a new count be undertaken that includes Libertarians. Testimony was expected to continue Thursday afternoon.
State elections law requires ballots from 2 percent of county precincts in at least four contested races to be hand checked against computer tabulations.
Kielsky said the Libertarians’ exclusion from that process was part of a systemic breakdown in election security.
He pointed out that the hand count began before 10 county precincts had reported their results. Hand counting did not take place at the Elections Department’s video-monitored tabulating center, but instead at a county sheriff’s building. And bags containing ballots appeared to have been tampered with.
But Burke seemed disturbed by the allegations in the case, pointedly asking Kielsky: “You’re not saying the Maricopa County Elections Department cheated?” Not satisfied by Kielsky’s answer, the judge followed up: “Are you saying that (Maricopa County Recorder Helen) Purcell, Ms. Osborne and their employees were dishonest in conducting this hand count?”
Colleen Conner, an attorney for the county Elections Department, said the intent of the Libertarians was to disrupt the electoral process. She compared the legal challenge to a recent case where political parties pressured Pima County to adopt new policies requiring ballots and election data to be transported by vehicles due to security concerns.
“This certainly was an honest and very transparent hand count process,” Conner said.
Out of Maricopa County’s 1.7 million registered voters, 10,500 identify themselves as Libertarians.
By the way, I registered some of those self identified Libertarians, and left in March with the assurance that I would be welcome to return. However, Sean Haugh and/or other LP National employees (Kohlhaas, Kraus) have prevailed upon the Arizona LP not to hire petitioners/vote registrars that LPHQ does not green light, even though the AZ LP is using its own money, not national’s.
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