Very few things are more important to our democracy than election security and integrity.
That’s why it’s important to look closely at the testimony and arguments being made in a Pima County Superior Court trial this week in a lawsuit over county handling of vote tabulations.
Questions over how votes were handled in last year’s Regional Transportation Plan election were underscored in the trial Wednesday when the county elections director testified that the election computer tape came up missing and could not be produced for evidence.
Also in question is why the chief computer programmer for the county’s Elections Division allegedly removed elections data from tapes and took compact discs home.
No matter how this case ultimately is decided, the scrutiny given to our local elections system is most welcome.
The notorious “hanging chad” and other aspects of the 2000 presidential election left Americans with lingering suspicions about the security of our voting systems and the accuracy of election results.
Such doubts were heightened by a series of vote-counting mishaps since then across the country.
The sanctity of secure elections is the key element that sets our democratic form of government apart from dictatorships and monarchies.
Our right to vote is treasured as the tool that empowers our citizen majority to choose our leaders and thus establish our public policies.
Anything that taints that right, whether in Pima County or elsewhere in our nation, is a threat to the very freedoms that distinguish our society.
The local lawsuit isn’t likely to overturn the RTA vote of May 2006, but we believe it eventually will lead to improved accountability in Pima County’s elections system.
At issue is the integrity of our computerized vote-counting machines and of the tapes and discs created to facilitate recounts when needed.
Clearly, election computer tapes must not be lost, and election records cannot be taken home by one official.
Election records always must be maintained in secure settings, and Pima County does not appear to be ensuring those safeguards.
When the county refused to let Democrats review the election database, the lawsuit was filed.
Now even more concerns have been raised, along with additional questions about our voting system.
Pima County officials, starting with the Board of Supervisors, must take the issues seriously.
Apparent problems with the system must be reviewed, addressed and corrected, and safeguards must be created to ensure election integrity.
Ultimately it will be the voters who decide if they feel secure in casting their ballots and being counted as having spoken in the democracy.
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