Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry’s primary PR activity occurs through the construction of memo’s addressed to various department heads within his own purview. These memos, of course, wind up in the hands of specific local press outlets. Local outlets provide nice fluff pieces favoring Pima County in exchange for continued access and future reservations at Pima’s own PR staff’s trough after ad sales for these less than substantive reports hit the dumpster.
In his latest offering, Huckelberry seems to have outdone himself with the number of distortions, omissions, and factual errors. This latest memo is part of an exchange with the public as it learns about Pima County’s efforts to circumvent its own Election Integrity Commission to obtain a waiver from sorting early ballots by precinct. The following is retired NSA analyst Mickey Duniho’s correction of factual errors in Huckelberry’s memo:
(1) Mr. Huckelberry stated that “one member” of the Pima County Election Integrity Commission “has championed the concept of sorting early ballots by precinct,” implying that only one member of the Commission really cares about such matters. He omitted the fact that the October 26 EIC recommendation was approved by a 7-0 vote of the EIC members.
(2) In describing 300-400 staff hours to sort early ballots as an impossible task, Mr. Huckelberry omitted the fact that 300-400 hours of work by a dozen people could be accomplished in three days, and that the cost of 300-400 hours of work would be on the order of $2,000-$3,000. Mr. Huckelberry’s estimate of time required to sort the ballots also omitted any reference to F. Ann Rodriguez’s offer to provide lists of precincts represented in the various batches, which would enable workers to extract ballots for a few precincts rather than sort all precincts. After extracting ballots for the chosen precincts from a batch, workers could move on to the next batch of ballots. This could shorten the time and reduce the effort required to select a small number of precincts for hand counting. With Ms. Rodriguez’s assistance, the time required might be only two days, since the three-day estimate is based on sorting all 288 precincts instead of just selecting a few precincts for the audit.
(3) Mr. Huckelberry’s estimate of $256,137 for hiring Runbeck to sort the ballots is factually incorrect. First, he based his estimate on 261,364 ballots, the total number of early ballots received at the time he wrote his memo; the EIC recommendation only referred to less than 200,000 early ballots received and processed by Election Day. Second, Runbeck’s price of $.98 per ballot is 100 times what it should be; it would make no sense for Pima County to pay Runbeck $200,000 to do a job that can be done in-house for $2,000. For $200,000, Pima County could buy several sorting machines.
(4) Mr. Huckelberry’s estimate of $300,000-$500,000 to buy a sorting machine is a multiple at least five times too high. I asked Pitney Bowes about an earlier estimate of $125,000 given out by John Moffatt and was told that Pima County could buy a top-of-the-line Pitney Bowes sorting machine for “significantly less” than $125,000. The person I talked with, at Pitney Bowes Sales Headquarters, said the cost would depend on which features were included but that the cost would be on the order of $65,000.
(5) Mr. Huckelberry’s distinction of sorting ballots in the envelopes versus out of the envelopes is incorrect. The sorter can handle ballots either way with equal ease.
(6) Mr. Huckelberry disputed my report last week that the EIC members were not informed of the postponement of our proposal on the BOS agenda. He stated that we were notified on Nov 9. In fact, the EIC was informed only after we demanded an explanation of why the agenda published on Nov 8 did not contain the EIC recommendation. Mr. Huckelberry unilaterally postponed the recommendation without consulting or informing the Election Integrity Commission. This violated the Commission’s right to advise the Board of Supervisors without interference, and it also violated basic rules of courtesy.
(7) Mr. Huckelberry’s statement that sorting early ballots is “impossible” is incorrect. The task is not impossible, merely tedious to do by hand. Mr. Huckelberry gave six reasons (the second two were actually the same reason, restated in different words) for avoiding the sorting of early ballots. None of these reasons is actually a valid argument for rejecting the EIC recommendation.
a. The first reason: The fact that Pima County had already counted 100,000 ballots when the EIC made its recommendation is true but logically irrelevant to the current discussion.
b. Reasons two and three: The risk of handling ballots in the face of a possible recount is listed as a reason for not sorting ballots but is logically erroneous. At this point, we are reasonably certain there will be no recounts and no legal challenges. In any case, an accusation of mishandling ballots would not be allayed by the County claiming that it did not touch the ballots while in its custody. A charge could easily be made that County election personnel manipulated the ballots while they were “in storage.” Sorting the ballots and performing a hand count audit by precinct is the only way to positively demonstrate that the ballots were counted honestly and that no manipulation of votes took place while the ballots were in Election Department custody.
c. Reason four: That the audit should take place between the Hand Count Audit and the Canvass is true but logically irrelevant to your decision unless your decision is delayed until the date of your approving the Canvass, which it appears has been Mr. Huckelberry’s strategy all along.
d. Reason five: The difficulties encountered by counters in the Hand Count Audit are well-known but not logically relevant to this discussion; they are manageable problems.
e. Reason six: The difficulties of extracting early ballots for a precinct-based audit are real but manageable, and were considered manageable by the Election Integrity Commission before its recommendation was submitted to you.
(8) In describing the sequence of events leading up to Pima County’s obtaining a waiver from the state requirement to sort early ballots by precinct, Mr. Huckelberry omitted the fact that Brad Nelson neither consulted nor even informed the EIC of the requirement or the waiver. In addition, Mr. Nelson’s arguments in his letter to the state that sorting is impractical are factually erroneous. Mr. Nelson claimed he could do a better hand count audit by not sorting the ballots but, in fact, the early ballot audit as currently performed is worthless in terms of confirming a lack of fraud in vote counting. It is also noteworthy that the Secretary of State’s Elections Director granted the waiver BEFORE Mr. Nelson wrote his justification letter, suggesting an improper sequence of events.
(9) Mr. Huckelberry cited a successful hand count audit as proof that no further audit is needed, another distortion of fact. He touted the fact that Pima County counts four percent of polling place ballots; he omitted the fact that polling place ballots in this election made up only 27% of all the ballots cast; 70% of voters cast early ballots, and therefore a proper hand count audit of early ballots is needed to confirm the integrity of the overall election. Mr. Huckelberry also omitted the irrelevance of the current early ballot hand count audit to confirming a lack of fraud. [I might point out that the law requires an audit of 1% of all the early ballots issued (1% of 261,545 ballots would be 2,615 ballots) but Pima County only hand counted 1,985 early ballots. Not that it makes any difference, since the current early ballot hand count audit is useless for confirming an election’s honesty.]
(10) In his concluding recommendation:
a. Mr. Huckelberry said the election tabulation “is expected to continue for another 4 to 7 days.” In fact, processing of the ballots which your EIC recommended sorting and hand counting was completed by Election Day.
b. Mr. Huckelberry referred to the physical impossibility of accurately selecting, sorting into precincts and auditing nearly 200,000 early ballots. In fact, the EIC’s recommendation could be satisfied by selecting and auditing approximately 2,000 ballots.
c. Mr. Huckelberry reiterated the “risk of handling ballots when faced with possible recounts.” In fact, it appears there will be no recounts, and Pima County would be in a better position to defend itself against charges of malfeasance if it adopted a more transparent policy, following the state requirement to sort early ballots and audit by precinct instead of secretly obtaining a waiver from the state requirement.
d. Mr. Huckelberry claimed the positive outcome of the present hand counts as a reason to not adopt the EIC recommendation, but the EIC took that into account when it made the recommendation. The present early ballot audit is worthless in terms of certifying the election’s integrity.
How does a community allow an institution like Pima County’s government to display such arrogance with so many lies to the representatives?
Just to give you an idea of how absurdly simple it is to build a system that is far more verifiable than what we currently have, here is the ballot scanning presentation produced by CBS Miami: